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Anxiety Meds: How Long Does Xanax Stay In Your System?

How long does Xanax take to work
Written by:

Rabia Khaliq

MSc in Applied Psychology

Dr. Bradley Noon



Medical Disclaimer
The medications listed on this website are provided for informational purposes only. Their inclusion does not guarantee that they will be prescribed to any individual, as treatment decisions are ultimately at the discretion of healthcare providers. This list is not exhaustive, and healthcare providers may prescribe other medications, including non-stimulant options, based on the patient’s unique health circumstances and needs. Read more


  • Xanax is a short-acting benzodiazepine and stays in your system for a few hours. 
  • Xanax effectively treats panic attacks and relieves feelings of anxiety.
  • Xanax stays in your system for about 2.5 days but it is detectable for longer in urine, blood, saliva, and hair.
  • Withdrawal symptoms from Xanax often start hours or days after the final dose and may persist for several weeks.

Xanax (alprazolam) is a benzodiazepine medication used short-term to treat anxiety and panic attacks. It is considered a mild tranquilizer due to its calming effects on the central nervous system. However, it has the potential to be abused and cause dependence when taken for an extended period or in high doses. Because of this, it is categorized as a federally controlled substance (Schedule IV).

If you are taking Xanax, it would be beneficial to know how it works and its effects. Keep reading to learn the details!

Receive a personalized treatment plan for anxiety, including online prescriptions if necessary.

Does Xanax Treat Anxiety?

Xanax is commonly used to treat generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, depression-related anxiety, and social anxiety disorder. It reduces abnormal excitation, decreases excessive brain activity, and enhances [1*] the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid. All this lessens nerve tension and anxiety and helps to deal with panic attacks. Also, the effects of this medication may be beneficial if you have irrational fears, concentration problems, or anxiety-related sleep issues and irritation.

How Long Does Xanax Take to Work?

One of the reasons Xanax is a common choice is its relatively quick onset of action compared to some other medications for treating anxiety. Most people experience some relief in one to two hours after taking Xanax. Sometimes, the effects occur within 5-15 minutes. Note that the speed can vary, so discuss the details with your healthcare provider and never take a higher dosage than prescribed.

Average Half-life of Xanax

A drug’s half-life means how long it takes your body to eliminate half of a dose. Xanax has an 11-hour half-life. Since the entire process includes five half-lives, the body can completely eliminate Xanax in 55 hours (about 2.5 days). Note that Xanax XR (extended-release) has a longer half-life of about 16 hours and can stay in the body for up to 6 days.

How Long Does Xanax Stay in Your System and Show Effects?

While Xanax is eliminated from the system in a few days, its particular effects typically last for 2-4 hours. That’s why it is known as a short-acting benzodiazepine. The extended-release version can keep working for almost 24 hours.

If you notice that Xanax sedative effects come on more slowly and fade away more quickly, it may indicate physical dependency. Consult with your healthcare provider to learn what to do in this case.

What Influences the Duration of Xanax’s Presence in Your System?

The length of time that Xanax remains active and can be found in drug tests is influenced by metabolization, which can be impacted by several factors:

  • Age. Age-related changes in metabolism and renal function may affect Xanax’s metabolism. Additionally, reduced dietary consumption may decrease the amount of blood protein that binds to Xanax, thus extending its average half-life.
  • Dose. The half-life of Xanax will lengthen with higher doses, prolonging its duration of action.
  • Body Fat. Xanax is fat-soluble and can be absorbed by body fat. In overweight people, it can stay in the bloodstream longer.
  • Liver Diseases. Xanax is metabolized in the liver before being eliminated by the kidneys. Illnesses like alcoholic liver disease can triple the time it takes for Xanax to leave the body.
  • Drug Interactions. Taking Xanax with certain prescription medications (some antifungals, antibiotics, and others) may result in an interaction that affects their effectiveness.
Consult a medical professional to go through a mental health assessment and learn what treatment can help you best.

How and Why Do People Test for Xanax?

Urine, saliva, blood, and hair samples are commonly used to detect Xanax and its metabolites in the body. A test may be administered as a screening for Xanax abuse or addiction or to monitor therapeutic levels during treatment.

How Long Does Xanax Show Up on Drug Tests?

Depending on testing methods and detection windows, Xanax can be found in the body for the following amount of time:

Saliva tests

Almost 3 days

Urine tests

About 4 days

Blood tests

About 27 hours

Hair tests

For 90 days

Effects of Xanax According to Dosage

Xanax is available in 0.25 mg, 0.5 mg, 1 mg, and 2 mg dosages. As the dose rises, the effects become more prominent, from mild anxiety relief to strong sedation. Doctors generally advise to start with the lowest dose and then increase it if necessary.

Common Signs of Xanax Addiction

Because of Xanax’s relaxing and euphoric properties, some people abuse [2*] it trying to reduce anxiety or achieve other effects. But, it can result in physical dependence.

A person with Xanax addiction may show the following symptoms:

  • Tolerance. Requiring greater dosages of Xanax to have the same effects.
  • Continued Use. Using Xanax continuously despite unfavorable effects.
  • Cravings. Strong inclinations to use Xanax.
  • Ignoring Responsibilities. Avoiding and neglecting commitments to relationships, jobs, or education.
  • Failed Attempts at Quitting. Inability or incapacity to reduce or stop Xanax usage.
  • Social and Interpersonal Issues. Tense relationships or social anxiety brought on by Xanax usage.

How to Determine If You Have a Xanax Use Disorder?

If you have any concerns, first evaluate your patterns of using Xanax, your ability to control or lessen your usage, any difficulties you may face in your daily life, and withdrawal symptoms occurring when you are not using Xanax. However, you cannot make a diagnosis by yourself. The results of your self-assessment can only show the need to see a doctor who will conduct a thorough examination, detect Xanax use disorder, and recommend treatment.

How Long Does Xanax Withdrawal Last?

The symptoms of Xanax withdrawal [3*] typically include anxiety, sleeplessness, agitation, shaking, perspiration, nausea, and tremors. They usually appear hours or days after the last dose and might remain for several weeks.

The dosage, duration of use, and individual health features all affect the length and intensity of withdrawal. Remember to seek medical advice for proper withdrawal management.

Our medical team will guide you every step of the way toward relief from anxiety.

Summing Up

Xanax has a relatively short half-life and therefore is completely eliminated from the body in a few days after the last dose. However, it may take longer in people with certain health conditions, those taking a higher dose or Xanax XR, among other factors. Contact your healthcare provider if you have any concerns about Xanax use or if you feel like the prescribed dose starts to become insufficient with time to avoid dependency.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, Xanax passes through breast milk, so if you are breastfeeding, you should speak with your healthcare provider about any possible concerns or alternative treatments.

Xanax can cause drowsiness and impact your alertness and coordination, so it’s advised to not operate heavy machinery or drive when taking this medication for anxiety. Monitor your response to medication and consult with your doctor to learn more about its effects on your cognition and reflexes.

For people with acute anxiety symptoms, Xanax usually starts to take effect within 30 minutes to an hour. Note that this period can vary because of individual response, remember to discuss the details with your healthcare provider and never take a higher Xanax dose than prescribed.
The effects of Xanax usually last for 4 to 6 hours. It is often administered several times a day to provide continuous relief from anxiety symptoms because of its relatively short duration of action. Remember to consult your healthcare provider to learn how many times a day you should take it.
Usually, the frequency is twice or three times a day, but it varies based on the dosage, the degree of symptoms, and the response to the medication. Follow your individual instructions from a medical provider.


3 sources
  1. Alprazolam
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  2. Hooked on benzodiazepines: GABA receptor subtypes and addiction
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  3. A Review of Alprazolam Use, Misuse, and Withdrawal
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Written by:

Rabia Khaliq

MSc in Applied Psychology

Dr. Bradley Noon



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This article contains scientific references. The numbers
in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.