woman on xanaxWhen a person is trying to manage withdrawal from an addictive substance, it can be important to understand how the drug works in the body and how long it takes for the drug to be completely eliminated from the system.

Xanax, the brand name form of the anti-anxiety medication alprazolam, is one of the most frequently prescribed drugs in the US. It is also potentially a highly addictive substance, and withdrawal from the drug can be uncomfortable and even dangerous.

When considering withdrawal and detox from Xanax, it can be helpful to understand how long the drug stays in the body after stopping intake, because this will affect the duration of withdrawal symptoms and, in some cases, the administration of other treatments for recovery from addiction.

Half-Life of Xanax

The amount of time that it takes a drug to travel through the body, have its effect, and then be eliminated from the body is defined by the drug’s elimination half-life – that is, how long it takes for the drug’s concentration in the body to be reduced by half.

The Federal Drug Administration’s drug information sheet for Xanax shows that the drug’s elimination half-life for a healthy adult ranges between 6.3 and 26.9 hours, with an average of about 11.2 hours.

Half-life varies depending on a number of factors, including the user’s age, health, and other specifics. For example, compared to the 11.2-hour half-life for healthy adults, clinical studies showed the half-life for elderly people averaged 16.3 hours, while for people who were obese, it averaged more than 21 hours.

Factors that affect the half-life of Xanax are:

  • Age (elderly subjects were tested; children were not)
  • Weight
  • State of health or disease (people with alcoholic liver disease were tested)
  • Race (half-life was 15-25 percent higher in Asian people as compared to Caucasians)
  • Smoking (this affects the concentration of alprazolam in the body)

In addition, the effects of other drugs in the system can affect both Xanax concentration in the body and the rate at which it can be eliminated. People with compromised liver and kidney function may have trouble processing Xanax, so the half-life is generally longer when dealing with these conditions.

xanax withdrawal timeline

Timeline for Xanax to Completely Leave System

Because Xanax is such a fast-acting drug, it clears the system fairly quickly compared to other benzodiazepines and other drugs.

According to the Comprehensive Handbook of Drug and Alcohol Addiction, it generally takes 1-4 days for Xanax to completely clear the system. Of course, based on the above information, that can vary depending on the factors that affect the drug’s elimination half-life.

Withdrawal symptoms, however, take significantly longer to subside. Generally, withdrawal from Xanax can last up to a month, with some symptoms potentially lasting up to a year, and rare cases of some symptoms lasting indefinitely.

The complete generalized timeline is as follows. Of course, elements may be longer or shorter based on the above factors for a given individual:

  • 1-4 days: Xanax clears the system and withdrawal symptoms begin.
  • 14 days: Symptoms of withdrawal generally peak at about two weeks, returning to pre-withdrawal levels after this point.
  • 5-28 days: Because of the wide range of rates of elimination, the completion of the acute withdrawal phase can fit anywhere within this major range.
  • 6-12 months: Some protracted symptoms may occur, depending on the degree of use of Xanax; these include insomnia, cognitive impairment, digestive problems, pains and tremor, some sensory symptoms, and depression.
  • Beyond a year: For some people, certain symptoms can last indefinitely or resolve much later.

What This Means for Detox and Withdrawal

Because half-life and elimination of Xanax are dependent on a range of factors, it can be difficult to give a definitive half-life and elimination schedule for a given individual. For a person who wishes to withdraw from this drug, these facts mean that a general timeline cannot be relied upon to predict a person’s specific experience.

Based on this, it can be helpful to work with a doctor or professional addiction recovery program when trying to stop taking Xanax. This is not only helpful in managing withdrawal symptoms for a given individual, but it can also help ensure that other elements of treatment are administered at the appropriate time to promote long-term recovery.

As with all benzodiazepines, individuals should never attempt to stop taking Xanax suddenly.

Medical detox is always required. Oftentimes, medical professionals will slowly wean individuals off benzos on a set tapering schedule.