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How Long Does Valium (Diazepam) Stay in Your System?

Diazepam is a benzodiazepine sold under the brand name of Valium. It is frequently prescribed for the treatment of a number of conditions such as anxiety disorder, panic disorder, insomnia, alcohol withdrawal, restless leg syndrome and seizures. Although Valium is a useful drug when used for therapeutic purposes, its long term use has been known to cause dependence. It is a central nervous system depressant which produces its effects by lowering down brain activity. As a result, the person feels sleepy, drowsy, relaxed and sedated. Prolonged Valium use/abuse has been known to cause a number of health issues such as dementia and memory impairment. Valium is only a short term solution to a long term problem. This is the reason most of the patients tend to quit its use.

How long does Valium (diazepam) last in your system?

Once dependence has been developed on Valium, it is important to discontinue it under expert supervision. Detox center staff can help taper off the drug over a period of weeks. Sudden discontinuation of the drug can result into serious withdrawal symptoms that can even be fatal. After quitting the drug, the users are interested in knowing how long will it stay in their system. The fact is, the time taken for its complete removal may vary from one person to the other.

Knowing the elimination half life of the main chemical “diazepam” present in the drug can help establish the time taken for its removal. The elimination half life of diazepam is estimated to be between 30 to 56 hours. So, the average half life of diazepam is 43 hours. On average, it will take about 43 hours for the removal of 50% of the drug. Considering this, it will take around 10 days for the complete removal of the drug from systemic circulation. Although by this time, all the original drug has been eliminated, the metabolites of the drug may still be present. The most abundant and active metabolite of diazepam is “nordiazepam” also known as “desmethyldiazepam”. It has a half life ranging between 40 to 100 hours. So its average half life can be estimated to be 70 hours. It means on average, nordiazepam will take about 70 hours for 50% removal. However, if the half life of the drug in a person falls on the longer side of the spectrum, it will take about 100 hours for the removal of half of the drug ingested, and about 23 days for the complete removal of the drug from the system.

Apart from the major metabolite nordiazepam, some minor metabolites such as “tamazepam” and “oxazepam” are also produced which have a relatively shorter half life and are excreted quickly.

Factors that influence how long Valium (diazepam) stays in your system:

There a number of factors that determine the time diazepam stays in the system of the user such as:

Individual variables:

If two people take the same amount of diazepam simultaneously, it is highly likely that one of them will clear it faster than the other. There are a number of factors that influence the clearance rate of Valium such as age, body mass, genetics, overall health etc.

  • Age: Studies have proved that younger people are able to metabolize and excrete benzodiazepines such as Valium at a faster rate compared to older people (usually 65+). On average, the half life of drug is doubled in older individuals.
  • Body mass index (BMI): The body mass as well as the fat content of a person can influence the clearance rate of the drug.  People with greater body mass exhibit a faster clearance rate compared to small people. On the other hand, people with higher fat content significantly longer to remove the drug. Diazepam is a fat soluble substance so it gets accumulated into the fatty tissues of the body. Unlike people with normal body fat who take 9 days for the complete removal of the drug from plasma, obese people can take up to 19 days.
  • Genetic makeup:There are a number of enzymes present in the liver that are responsible for the metabolism of diazepam. Genetics of a person influence the expression of these enzymes. So, in individuals, with faulty expression of these genes, the metabolism of diazepam can be significantly different. Such individuals tend to accumulate the drug that takes longer to leave the body.
  • Basal metabolic rate (BMR):The clearance rate of a drug is influenced by the metabolic rate of a person. People with active metabolism exhibit a faster clearance rate compared to people with low BMR.
  • Liver function/overall health:Since liver is the main organ involved in the metabolism and clearance of the drug, it significantly influences the time taken for its removal. People with hepatic impairment or cirrhotic liver show a longer period of clearance. It is estimated that people with liver cirrhosis may take 5 times the duration taken in people with a healthy liver. So compared to 32 hours, half life is elongated to 164 hours in cirrhotic patients.

Duration of use:

Greater the duration the drug was abused for, the longer it will for its removal. With a prolonged use, the amount of drug accumulated in the body also increases so after its use has stopped, it takes some time for its release and removal.

Dose and frequency of abuse:

If higher doses of the drug are taken frequently, the clearance period will be prolonged. It is because when high amounts of the drug are administrated in the body, the liver has to work harder to remove them. Over time, its efficiency is reduced. Also, greater doses result into greater accumulation of the drug in the body that take some time to be removed after drug use is quit.

Polysubstance abuse:

Taking diazepam in combination with other substances can stimulate or hamper the clearance process. Some drugs may stimulate the function of liver enzymes while the others can slow down their activity resulting into a change in clearance rate. Some drugs that inhibit liver enzymes are: Chloramphenicol, Luvox, Moclobemide, Prozac, Clarithromycin, Cobicistat, Indinavir, Ketoconazole, and Ritonavir.

On the other hand, the enzyme inducer drugs are: Carbamazepine, Oxcarbazepine, Phenytoin, Rifampicin, and St. John’s wort.

Valium (diazepam) absorption, metabolism and excretion:

Following oral ingestion of Valium, about 90% of the drug is absorbed into the bloodstream via gastrointestinal tract. The peak plasma levels of the drug are reached within 1-2 hours. The absorption of the drug may be delayed if a person has taken a fatty meal right before the ingestion of the drug. As a result it may take longer to achieve peak blood levels and the total concentration in blood may also decrease.

Via bloodstream, the drug is distributed to all parts of the body including liver where it is subjected to extensive metabolism. As a result, it is converted into its metabolites such as desmethyldiazepam (nordiazepam), temazepam, and oxazepam.

Minor metabolites of the drug such as temazepam and oxazepam go through glucuronidation and are excreted via urine as the glucuronide conjugates. Only a small amount of drug and its major metabolite nordiazepam is excreted in its original form via urine. Considering the elimination half life of diazepam to be 43 hours, and that of its metabolite nordiazepam 240-100 hours, it will take between 10 to 23 days for a person to completely remove the drug from the system. A small amount of drug is also excreted via bile and feces.

Different types of Valium drug tests:

A number of drug tests can be used to detect benzodiazepines such as Valium.

  • Blood tests:

Blood sample is taken from the patient and tested in the laboratory for the presence of diazepam or its metabolites. Blood tests can not only detect the drug and its metabolites but can also determine their levels in the blood. In case of long term users, diazepam becomes accumulated in the blood resulting into a longer window of detection.

Even though blood tests are highly accurate, they are seldom used due to their invasive nature. Urine tests are preferred over blood tests. But blood tests are a modality of choice in drug abuse cases.

  • Urine tests:

Since only a small amount of drug is excreted in the form of unchanged diazepam, urine tests are used to detect drug metabolites such as nordiazepam, temazepam and oxazepam. The duration for which these metabolites can be detected can be highly variable. In some individuals, they can only be detected for a few days after last use while in others, they remain detectable for weeks.

  • Hair tests:

Hair tests can accurately determine use and abuse of diazepam. A sample of hair follicles is collected from the patient and tested in laboratory for the presence of diazepam and its metabolites. The drug and its metabolites can accumulate in hair follicles within a week of regular drug use. The hair tests provide the longest window of detection and the drug remains detectable for up to 3 months.

  • Saliva tests:

Saliva tests are non-invasive and easy to perform. Salivary fluid is collected from the patient and tested in laboratory for the presence of drug and its metabolites. Saliva tests remain valid for up to 7-9 days after last drug use.

How to speed up the process of Valium removal?

Although the drug takes its time to exit the system, some measure can be used to speed up the process.

  • After quitting its use, maintain abstinence at any cost. Even taking a small dose of the drug can significantly prolong the time taken for its removal.
  • Diazepam is a fat soluble compound so it gets accumulated into the fatty tissues of the body. Losing excess fat can remove the drug accumulated in it.
  • Eating healthy and staying hydrated can significantly stimulate the drug removal process.
  • Exercise can stimulate metabolism and in turn, drug removal.
  • Some supplements that act as the inducers of liver enzymes involved in diazepam removal can speed up the process. However, it is important to consult your doctor before taking any such medications.