The exact time a benzodiazepine drug may be detected for varies per drug. The length of time depends on the drug’s half-life or the time it takes for half the drug to be metabolized and eliminated from a person’s body. The type of test also determines how soon, and for how long, the drug can be detected.
Blood tests have the shortest window of detection; followed by saliva (oral fluid screening) and urine (urinalysis), which have an intermediate testing window and then the longest, hair tests.
An individual’s age, metabolism, physiology, and health or medical concerns may also influence the rate by which the drug is metabolized, thus influencing its detection. Detection time may also be dependent on the dose and frequency of use or abuse.
When a drug is consumed and metabolized by the body it’s broken down into different chemical components called metabolites. For example, diazepam (Valium) is metabolized into two other benzodiazepines, oxazepam and temazepam, in addition to the metabolite nordiazepam.
In addition to the parent drug (the drug consumed), certain drug tests look for the presence of metabolites. Mayo Clinic notes that “Benzodiazepines are extensively metabolized and the parent compounds are not detected in urine.” Even so, tests can determine if a metabolite is present, thus enabling the test administered to determine what drug was used or abused.
The exact time it takes for a medication or its metabolite to show up in urine varies. With certain medicines, these substances may show up in minutes and last for days, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC). For instance, the metabolites of diazepam (Valium) show up in urine 30 minutes after a dose is taken.
As reported by Mayo Clinic, here are the approximate detection times:
Standard urine tests don’t detect every benzodiazepine. The URMC writes that many of the common tests may not find alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), temazepam (Restoril) and triazolam (Halcion).
Should a sample test positive, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a person is actively using the drug. While many urine tests identity that a drug is present, they are not able to give the exact amount. A positive blood test, however, may be able to detect the amount of drug present in the bloodstream.
In many cases, a blood test is able to determine the parent drug, not just the metabolites. The window for testing benzodiazepines in the blood is smaller than the detection time in urine, yielding results for only a matter of hours, not days. A blood sample has the earliest and shortest window of detection.
A saliva or oral fluids test can detect benzodiazepines in a person’s system for longer than blood tests. For example, one study reported that diazepam was detected for seven days, clonazepam for five and alprazolam for two and a half days.
A hair test may test positive for benzodiazepines up to 90 days from past drug use.
Factors That Influence Benzodiazepine Test Results
While drug tests are fairly reliable, they sometimes yield inaccurate results, including false positives or false negatives.
Compared to urine, blood tests may be more reliable, since it’s harder for a person to tamper with the sample. At-home drug tests may be more prone to error, as individuals administering them may not adhere to the same strict collection procedures that a lab does.
Further, the quality and reliability of at-home collection kits are typically less than those administered by a lab. However, as noted by the FDA, certain at-home tests are sent to reputable laboratories, making these tests reliable options.
The FDA does note that several factors can influence the accuracy of a test, including:
- the way the test was administered
- the way the test or urine was stored
- different foods or beverages which were consumed prior to the test
- prescription and over-the-counter drugs are taken prior to the test
According to URMC, the following drugs may cause a false positive result in benzodiazepine urine tests:
- etodolac (Lodine)
- fenoprofen (Nalfon)
- naproxen (Aleve)
- oxaprozin (Daypro)
- sertraline (Zoloft)
- tolmetin (Tolectin)
In addition to false positives, drug tests may also produce negative results even when a person took drugs. A drug does not remain detectable indefinitely. Taking a test too soon or too late could yield negative results. In regards to an at-home test, the testing chemicals may no longer be good if they are beyond their expiration date or stored improperly.
Individuals with liver disease and older adults may eliminate benzodiazepine drugs more slowly. This can cause higher levels of the drug to show up on a test even when the initial dose was the same.
When Are Benzodiazepine Drug Tests Used?
A drug test monitoring benzodiazepine use may be administered by a drug rehab center, per a court order, to an athlete, to military personnel, by an employer or to hospital patients.
Individuals with a prescription for benzodiazepines may be screened for overdose if they are showing signs of confusion, poor coordination, slurred speech, breathing difficulties, unconsciousness or other signs of overdose.
On the other hand, individuals presenting in the emergency department with these symptoms, but no known prescription for these or other medications, may be given a drug test as part of a urine or blood toxicology screen. Individuals overdosing on other drugs may also be given a benzodiazepine test to rule out polydrug use.
Individuals who have experienced sexual assault may have a drug test done to determine if they have been slipped a date rape drug or “roofie,” such as the benzodiazepine Rohypnol. Medical personnel may also perform a test if they believe a person took benzodiazepines by accident or to commit suicide.
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Keep in mind, even if there’s a positive result for a benzodiazepine, this does not mean that a person is necessarily abusing it. According to the FDA, there is no way for a test to differentiate between what are acceptable levels of use (meaning prescribed use) compared to those which accompany abuse. However, if a person does not have a prescription for a benzodiazepine, there is cause for concern. Any use of a benzodiazepine without a prescription qualifies as abuse.
Gain Control Over Benzodiazepine Abuse And Addiction Today
The benzodiazepine class of drugs includes those used to treat anxiety, insomnia, panic disorder and alcohol withdrawal. They may also be used as muscle relaxants and to induce sedation. With so many indications for treatment, this drug class is one of the most frequently prescribed in America. But with this prevalence comes a greater opportunity for drug misuse, diversion, and abuse.
Benzodiazepine drugs can be very dangerous when abused, particularly when abused with other central nervous system depressants like alcohol and opioids. Even if a person can no longer feel the peak euphoric or sedative effects of a benzodiazepine drug, it could still be in their system. Taking more doses or using another drug in a short period of time increases the risk of respiratory depression, coma, and overdose.
Benzodiazepines form strong physical dependencies, often necessitating a medically-supervised detoxification. Following this treatment with an inpatient drug rehabilitation program is the strongest treatment plan for recovery success.
Contact AddictionCampuses.com to learn more about benzodiazepine drug abuse and treatment.