In October 2019 CNN’s “This is Life with Lisa Ling” (CNN) explored a growing drug epidemic, an increase in prescriptions for benzodiazepine, and their misuse. A year later as the world struggles to manage the Coronavirus pandemic, studies show an increase in people reporting anxiety. In fact, in the US, a recent poll by the American Psychiatric Association revealed that 40% of Americans are anxious about becoming seriously ill from the disease. Over half of the people polled, 62%, are anxious for their loved ones contracting the disease. To manage their stress, Americans are turning to medicines like Xanax and Klonopin.
Doctors have long prescribed medications to manage occasional stress. Not surprisingly, as more people turn to doctors to manage anxiety, the number of prescriptions written for benzos rose by 34% over one month. These medications have generic brand names such as Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, Librium, and Ativan, generic names include diazepam, alprazolam, clonazepam, chlordiazepoxide, and lorazepam. What these medications all have in common is they are a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines (benzos) and when used appropriately, provide relief from the symptoms of stress.
Common forms include pills or tablets which are swallowed or dissolved under the tongue. Suppositories and liquid injectable forms may also be prescribed. Also, benzos are further broken down into three categories: short-, medium-, and long-acting based upon the length of time it takes to break (or metabolize) down in the body. What these medications all have in common is they are a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines (benzos) and when used appropriately, provide relief from the symptoms of anxiety.
Regardless of the method of use, these medications all work by quieting signals in the brain and people experience a sense of relaxation, people feel less stressed. By acting on the reward pathway in the brain, dopamine is increased which reinforces the use of the drug. This reward and reinforcement increase the potential for dependency, addiction, and even overdose.
Tolerance happens quickly with benzos and people who use them may find that they need more and more of the drug to achieve the same effect they had at first use. It is possible to become tolerant of benzos within six weeks of the first usage. This is because of the reward system in the brain where the brain becomes dependent on benzos to calm down, thus making it harder and harder for the user to achieve a relaxed state of mind without the drug.
How long does Xanax stay in your system?
To answer this question, we can look at the half-life of the medication. The half-life is how long it takes a body to metabolize a substance into half of its starting dose. It is difficult to say exactly how Xanax will last or stay in each person’s system; It is classified as an intermediate lasting benzo, meaning it is broken down at a medium rate. Research shows that the half-life is about 11 hours (with a range of 6-27 hours). The drug takes about 4 days to be undetectable in urine, 2.5 days for a saliva test, and 1 day for a blood test. Heavy users could have positive drug test results for a week or more after last use. Several factors contribute to detection levels in the body:
What makes benzos stay in my system longer?
- Height and weight
- Percentage of body fat
- Liver/kidney function and health
- Amount used
- Length of use
These drugs are easily misused which may lead to a diagnosis of substance use disorder (SUD). Substance use disorder includes both substance dependence and addiction.
Dependence is defined as having a physical need for a substance that develops from repeated consumption and which results in withdrawal symptoms upon stopping intake. When a person is physically dependent on Xanax or other benzos, physical symptoms (withdrawal) may begin to happen when not using. Withdrawal from Xanax, Valium, Klonapin, Ativan, and the other drugs in this class should be done under the care of a medically qualified team while in a supervised setting as withdrawing from benzos can be deadly.
Addiction occurs when a person is unable to stop using a substance despite harmful consequences. Often, the use of and the need for the drug slowly replaces other things in an individual’s life.
People who are around someone that is struggling with a substance use disorder will be able to recognize these behavioral, workplace, and interpersonal changes.
Fake Xanax, Fentanyl, and Overdoses
When someone begins to buy drugs on the street, they are at a greater risk of purchasing fake (counterfeit) drugs. In August 2020 the DEA, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, and other agencies in San Diego saw an alarming spike in fentanyl-related overdose deaths from fentanyl-laced and counterfeit drugs. US Attorney Robert Brewer states “While buyers may think they’re getting cocaine, oxy or Xanax, in reality, they’re playing a high stakes game of Russian roulette,”
Benzo Addiction Treatment at Serenity Lodge
At Serenity Lodge, we are experts in treating addiction to benzos and other substance use disorders. Our comprehensive addiction treatment programs provide the foundation needed for long-term, sustainable sobriety. Many of our therapists and counselors are active in recovery which provides a personal understanding of each client’s individuals struggles and challenges. Using evidenced-based approaches, we offer:
- Alcohol and drug detoxification on-site
- Residential inpatient treatment on our safe and comfortable 22-acre grounds
- Aftercare, including sober living homes that help individuals transition back into society following treatment
- Alumni program for graduates interested in staying connected to our growing recovery community
Even during uncertain times, we are here to help! Call us today to begin your journey back to life!