How Long Valium Can Stay in Your System

Why It Matters

Man Counting Pills
Combining Valium With Other Drugs Can Be Risky. © Getty Images

Since being approved by the FDA in 1963, Valium (diazepam), has been prescribed for a range of medical conditions. Most commonly it's used to relieve anxiety; calm muscle spasms; treat seizure disorders; and manage symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

If you take Valium, it's important to know how long after you take it the drug stays active in your system. As the doctor who prescribed it for you (and perhaps also the pharmacist who filled the prescription) likely explained, there are several important reasons for this:

  • Having too much Valium in your body at one time can cause serious side effects. These include seizures, tremors, a shuffling gait, fever, severe skin rash, yellowing of the skin or eyes,  irregular heart rateshortness of breath, and difficulty swallowing.
  • Valium can easily become habit-forming. After a period of time, you can develop a tolerance for the drug, making it less effective than when you first started taking it. As a result, you may be tempted to take larger dosages to achieve the same effect that you once got, but to do so can increase your risk of becoming addicted. An addiction to Valium that lasts for an extended period of time can have some alarming consequences. Studies have found, for instance, that long-term use of Valium and similar drugs used to treat anxiety are associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's. According to American Addiction Centers, taking Valium for an extended period has been linked to depression and sleep disorders as well.
  • Valium can have serious or even life-threatening side effects if you take certain other medications before it's totally cleared from your body. It's especially dangerous to take sedatives, sleeping pills, or tranquilizers if you have Valium in your system. The same is true of drinking alcohol.

There are lots of variables affecting how long Valium remains in the body.

Everybody is different and the rate at which medications (and any substances for that matter) stick around depends on things like a person's metabolism, age, weight, and percentage of body fat. Activity level and hydration also can impact how long it takes a medication to clear. Some health conditions can play a role in the rate at which drugs are metabolized by the body.

Other factors that can affect how long Valium stays in a person's body have to do with the specific prescription—the larger the dose and more frequently you take it, for example, likely means it will be detectable for longer.

Why You Might Be Tested For Valium

Some prospective employers order blood tests during the interviewing process to screen for possible drug abuse problems. A doctor may want to make sure you don't have traces of Valium in your system before prescribing another medication.

Valium—or rather metabolites associated with the medication—can be detected in different ways. It will show up in blood for six to 48 hours and in urine for one to six weeks after being taken. A saliva test can detect Valium one to 10 days after it's taken. And like many other drugs, Valium can be detected with a hair follicle drug test for up to 90 days.

Sources:

American Association for Clinical Chemistry, "Drugs of Abuse Testing." Lab Tests Online. Jan 2, 2013.

Yaffe, Kristine. "Benzodiazepines and Risk of Alzheimer's Disease." British Medical Journal. Sep 9, 2014.

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