If you are using Xanax to treat anxiety, panic disorder or any other medical condition, you may be curious to know how long Xanax stays in your system.

What is Xanax?

Xanax, commonly known as Alprazolam in the UK, is a type of medication that can be prescribed by a private doctor.

It is a form of benzodiazepine that works quickly and is up to 10 times stronger than many other sedative medications. [1]

There have been concerns raised about Xanax during recent years, mostly around its addictive properties and the amount of illegal Xanax being sold by dealers.

Xanax usually comes in pill form and looks like a small white tablet. This drug has been linked to many overdose deaths across the world and should be taken with caution.

It is legal to use Xanax if you have been prescribed this medication by a doctor.

It is illegal to use Xanax if you are using someone else’s prescription, has purchased the drug without a prescription or is otherwise using it in a way that is not intended.

What is Xanax used to treat?

Xanax is often prescribed to treat anxiety disorders due to its sedative and calming effects.

It increases the production of a certain chemical in your brain known as GABA, which is what causes you to feel more relaxed.

You may be prescribed Xanax if you are struggling with one of the below conditions:

1. Anxiety disorders

It’s normal to feel anxious sometimes, but an anxiety disorder is when these feelings of worry begin to affect your everyday life.

You may find it difficult to think about anything else and may avoid going outside or interacting with other people.

Anxiety can feel crippling and impossible to escape from, so some doctors may prescribe Xanax to calm these feelings of worry and stress.

2. Panic disorders

If you’ve ever experienced a panic attack, you’ll know how terrifying it can feel.

When you have a panic disorder, you may experience frequent panic attacks for seemingly no reason. This can make it very difficult to function and you may constantly worry that you are going to have another panic attack.

As Xanax has a sedative effect and can make you feel calm, you may be prescribed this medication to prevent these panic attacks from occurring.

It’s important to remember that Xanax should be used on a short-term basis only and only when prescribed by a medical doctor.

What are the effects of Xanax?

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Xanax has an extremely calming and relaxing effect, due to its sedative properties of this drug.

This is partly what makes it so addictive, as the feelings of anxiety that may return when someone cuts down on their dosage can make them crave the calming sensation of Xanax.

Some of the effects of Xanax include:

  • Feeling extremely relaxed
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Falling asleep
  • A sensation of calm
  • Lack of anxiety
  • Memory loss
  • Mild confusion

If you experience extreme drowsiness or confusion, speak to your doctor immediately as these are not common or intended effects.

You should also seek immediate medical assistance if you experience signs of an allergic reaction, such as difficulty breathing or swelling of your tongue, face or throat.

How long does Xanax take to work?

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As Xanax is a fast-acting drug, it usually does not take long before you begin to feel its effects as it is absorbed into the bloodstream.

Most people will notice Xanax beginning to work after around 15 minutes, although it can take up to an hour in some cases.

This is one of the reasons that Xanax is so addictive as the effects appear and disappear so quickly, leaving the brain wanting more.

How long do the effects of Xanax last?

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The effects of Xanax are relatively brief, lasting between two and four hours in most cases.

This is because Xanax is a short-acting drug, meaning that it is metabolised very quickly. Some people may feel the effects of this medication for slightly longer, up to five hours, but in general the effects do not last long.

Some factors can affect how long the effects of Xanax last, and these include:

  • Your kidney health
  • Your liver functioning
  • Your age
  • Your height and weight
  • Your gender
  • Your metabolism
  • Your tolerance to Xanax

The fast-acting nature of this medication can cause some people to take it more frequently than intended, however, this is not recommended as it can increase your risk of overdose and addiction.

The link between Xanax and addiction

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Xanax is thought to be one of the most addictive benzodiazepines available, so it’s important that you understand the risks of this medication before you begin taking it.

One of the factors that makes Xanax so addictive is how quickly the effects are felt – it is a fast-acting medication, which means you will begin to feel the effects very soon after taking it. [2]

Some studies indicate that even taking Xanax as prescribed by a doctor comes with a high risk of addiction, with 4 in 10 people thought to develop a dependency within just six weeks of beginning a prescription.

After using Xanax for a while, you may develop a tolerance to this medication. This means that the symptoms of anxiety or panic may begin to return, which causes many people to take a larger dose to compensate.

In short, Xanax is highly addictive and extreme care must be taken when prescribing or taking this medication.

What are the dangers of Xanax addiction?

As with every other addictive substance, developing an addiction to Xanax comes with many short and long-term dangers.

Even if you are prescribed Xanax by a doctor, you are still at risk of the below dangers due to the highly addictive nature of this medication.

Some of the potential dangers of Xanax addiction include:

  • Lowered inhibitions, resulting in potential risky decisions such as unprotected sex
  • Increased risk of legal troubles
  • Increased risk of financial troubles
  • Damaged relationships with family and friends
  • Loss of employment
  • Physical health issues
  • Increased risk of overdose
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts

If you are able to get treatment quickly, you will be able to avoid many of the above dangers of Xanax addiction.

Additionally, knowing the warning signs of addiction can help you to seek treatment before it’s too late.

What are the signs and symptoms of Xanax addiction?

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Addiction to Xanax may be able to fly under the radar for some time, particularly if you have been prescribed this drug by a doctor, but eventually, the signs of addiction will begin to emerge.

Common signs and symptoms of Xanax addiction include:

  • Developing a tolerance to Xanax and needing to use more of it
  • Experiencing cravings for Xanax when you are not using it
  • Becoming fixated on your next dose of Xanax
  • Buying Xanax over the internet or from dealers
  • Getting several prescriptions for Xanax
  • Going through your Xanax prescription faster than intended
  • Taking Xanax in a way that is not prescribed, such as snorting crushed pills
  • Frequently thinking about Xanax
  • Being dishonest when asked about your Xanax use
  • Attempting to cut down on your Xanax use but being unable to

You can become addicted to Xanax even if you were originally prescribed this drug to treat a medical condition.

Make sure to let your doctor know if you experience any of the above symptoms.

Of course, if you are using Xanax without a prescription then you are much more likely to become addicted as your use is not monitored or approved by a medical professional.

How long does Xanax stay in your system?

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Why will you be screened for Xanax?

The most common reason for you to be tested for Xanax is if you are required to by your workplace.

Some jobs require a clean drug test for all their employees, particularly those who are operating heavy machinery or are in charge of critical systems.

In these cases, even prescribed Xanax will likely not be permitted. This is due to the effects of this medication which can potentially dull your reactions and cause you to make incorrect decisions.

Additionally, the increase in people using Xanax recreationally means that many organisations are clamping down on any type of drug use for the safety of their customers and employees.

For these reasons, you may be asked to take a Xanax drug test when you begin a new job or on a regular basis as part of your employment contract.

How will you be screened for Xanax?

There are several ways that you can be tested for Xanax, with some being more invasive than others.

Each of these tests can detect Xanax for a different amount of time after your last dosage.

The most common ways to test for Xanax are listed below:

  • Blood test
  • Urine test
  • Saliva test
  • Hair test

There is usually no way to know for sure which test will be performed beforehand, and it is not recommended that you attempt to ‘trick’ the testing procedure.

The only way that you can be sure you will screen negative for Xanax is if you do not use it.

What is the half-life of Xanax?

Every drug has a half-life, and Xanax is no exception.

The half-life of Xanax is roughly 11 hours. This means that providing your body is reasonably healthy, it will take 11 hours to get rid of half a dose of Xanax. [3]

Each person is different, so the range of Xanax’s half-life is 6-27 hours. If you are extremely overweight, it may take your body longer to process this medication.

How long does Xanax stay in your urine?

A urine test is the most common way to test for Xanax.

Xanax can usually be found in your urine for up to four days in occasional users, but this can be much longer if you use Xanax regularly and at a high dosage.

As part of the urine test, you will be required to urinate in a cup, ideally first thing in the morning before drinking water.

Your urine will then be taken and tested for Xanax, and the test will come back either positive, negative or inconclusive. If your test is inconclusive then you will likely need to repeat it.

How long does Xanax stay in your blood?

A slightly more invasive way to test for traces of Xanax is through a blood test.

Xanax will only show up reliably in your blood for one day, and this is because it is an extremely fast-acting drug. Your body will metabolise and expel it from your blood very quickly.

During your blood test, you may feel a slight scratching sensation as the blood is drawn, but it shouldn’t be very painful and will only take around a minute to complete.

In some cases, you may be required to fast before your test, but usually you will be able to eat and drink normally.

How long does Xanax stay in your hair?

Many people don’t realise that their hair follicles can provide evidence of drug use for an extremely long time, and Xanax is one of the substances that can be detected through your hair.

Xanax can show up in your hair follicles for up to one month after your last dosage, and this is because traces of this drug can accumulate in your hair follicles.

A very small section of your hair will be cut during a hair follicle test and will be examined for traces of Xanax.

How long does Xanax stay in your saliva?

Traces of Xanax can also be found in your saliva after you use this drug, and will show up in a saliva test.

In most cases, you will test positive for Xanax in your saliva for up to 2.5 days after you last used it. This timeframe may be longer if you frequently use Xanax.

A saliva test is quick and easy to perform – the inside of your cheek will be swabbed and then taken away to be tested.

You will be asked not to drink, eat, smoke or vape before the saliva test to ensure a more accurate result.

Which factors can influence how long Xanax stays in your system?

While the above timeframes are accurate for much of the population, there are several factors that can change how long Xanax stays in your system.

These include:

  • How much Xanax you have taken
  • How often you take Xanax
  • How long you have been using Xanax for
  • The speed of your metabolism
  • Your weight
  • Your age
  • Your liver health
  • Your kidney health
  • Your height
  • Your body fat percentage

Depending on the above factors, the half-live of Xanax may be longer or shorter in your body than it is for others and may affect the results of any drug tests you take.

Frequently asked questions

Can you take Xanax while pregnant or breastfeeding?

You should not take Xanax while pregnant, as studies have found that this drug has the potential to harm your pregnancy. [4]

Xanax is unsafe to use at all points throughout your pregnancy , including the first, second, and third trimester.

Some of the effects to your baby from using Xanax during pregnancy include:

  • Increased risk of cleft lip
  • Increased risk of cleft palate
  • Increased risk of addiction in your baby
  • Floppy infant syndrome
  • Breathing problems
  • Heart rate problems

If you are taking Xanax and have found out that you are pregnant, speak to your doctor and follow their advice.

It is also unsafe to use Xanax while breastfeeding, as small amounts of this drug can pass through to your baby. [4]

This can cause your baby to experience weight loss, difficulty sleeping, restlessness and agitation.

Is Xanax legal in the UK?

While Xanax is legal to use in the UK if you have a prescription, it can be more difficult to obtain.

You will not be prescribed Xanax on the NHS, but it is available on a private prescription.

Xanax is classified as a Class C controlled medication in the UK. This means that it is allowed to be prescribed in certain conditions and may be used legally as long as you have a prescription.

However it is illegal to produce, sell or use Xanax without a prescription or licence. You can face up to two years in prison if you are found in possession of illegal Xanax, and up to 14 years in prison if you are found guilty of supplying or producing this drug.

How will I know if I need to take Xanax?

Deciding whether to take medication such as Xanax to treat a diagnosed medical condition is a personal choice.

If your feelings of anxiety or panic are beginning to impact your life, speak to your doctor. They will be able to advise you on the steps to take, one of which may be prescribed medication.

As mentioned above, Xanax can only be given on a private prescription – you will not be able to access this medication through the NHS.

Do not attempt to self-diagnose yourself and obtain Xanax over the internet or from someone else. You should only take Xanax if a medical professional has advised you to, and only through a prescription.


[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538165/

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4657308/

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK554498/

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5846112/