A Guide to Benzodiazepines Drug Testing

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Our DNA Legal ongoing series aims to explore the legal implications of drug misuse. We've published articles relating to amphetamines, ketamine, cannabis, cocaine, and tramadol misuse.

They're prescribed medications to treat anxiety, panic disorders, and insomnia. Production, supply, and possession are illegal without a prescription. Types of benzodiazepines, commonly known as "benzos", include midazolam, clobazam, and lorazepam. They work by suppressing the central nervous system to slow down the mind and the body's function - abusers use them to induce states of calm and relaxation.

As a class C drug controlled by the Misuse of Drugs Act (1971), the possession can result in 2 years in prison and an unlimited fine.

Below, we'll answer these questions about benzodiazepine testing:

  • Will benzodiazepines show on a drug test?
  • How long will benzodiazepines stay in your system?
  • What tests will detect benzodiazepines?
  • What factors influence benzodiazepine detection?
  • Why might a court-ordered benzodiazepine test be necessary?
  • What happens if a benzodiazepine test comes back positive?
  • How DNA Legal can help

Will Benzodiazepines Show on a Drug Test?

10-panel drug tests will show benzodiazepine use. But not all benzodiazepines will show. There are multiple short, intermediate, and long-acting benzodiazepines. The short and intermediates have the potential not to show on a 10-panel drug.

If a court or healthcare professional suspects benzodiazepine misuse, it's essential to perform a test as soon as possible.

How Long Will Benzodiazepines Stay in Your System?

Benzodiazepines can cause users to feel drowsy, relaxed, calm, confused, or disorientated.
They differ from the other drugs we've covered in our ongoing series because there are short to long-term effects depending on the controlled release of the drug. 

How long it will stay in the different body systems also differs. Here's a table for the type of tests and the average detection times:

Body System Short-Acting Intermediate-Acting Long-Acting
Urine Up to 24 hours 1-5 days 5-8 days
Blood 12-24 hours 12-24 hours 12-24 hours
Saliva 2.5 days 2.5 days 2.5 days
Fingernails 3-6 months 3-6 months 3-6 months
Hair Up to 12 months Up to 12 months Up to 12 months

Note: Data varies on detection times. Detection times will also vary depending on the type of benzodiazepine.

What Tests Will Detect Benzodiazepines?

A court has the option of using the five different tests in the table above. What test they select will depend on the legal scenario.

Blood Test: Within 12-24 Hours

A blood test is an effective method for legal or healthcare professionals, but the detection window is short. The test should typically be performed as close to an offence as possible if benzodiazepine abuse is detected. 

Professionals can provide a more accurate picture by using a blood test alongside a urine test.

Urine Test: Within 8 Days

A urine test is one of the most common and effective court-ordered drug tests for benzodiazepines if attempting to detect drug misuse within a shorter time frame. They're one of the most accurate tests that can determine the type of benzodiazepine use, but detection varies depending on the type of benzodiazepine and the amount taken.

Rapid Saliva Test: Within 2.5 Days

The rapid saliva test is more effective for benzodiazepines than other drugs - the detection length is longer. The rapid saliva test will also reveal any drug use within roughly 30 minutes, making it one of the best tests to select if court-directed testing requires rapid results. 

Fingernails Test: Within 3 to 6 Months

For a court-ordered drug test in scenarios like a child custody dispute, a fingernail test is effective because it can detect long-term drug abuse. A fingernail test works because traces of benzodiazepine become trapped within the keratin fibres and stay until the nail grows out.

Hair Test: Within 12 months

A hair drug test works similarly to a fingernail drug test - traces of benzodiazepines remain trapped in the keratin fibres of the hair for up to 6 months. Using a sample of hair can be a more effective and accurate form of detection for long-term benzodiazepine abuse, but it depends on the growth of the hair.

Each 1 cm segment of hair represents approximately one month depending on hair growth rates (as it can vary).

Legal and healthcare professionals must wait 2 - 3 weeks (depending on hair growth rate) before testing, so it's not the test of choice for rapid detection.

What Factors Influence Benzodiazepine Detection?

Numerous factors influence benzodiazepine detection:

  • Frequency of consumption
  • Age
  • Weight
  • Hydration levels
  • Metabolism
  • The type of benzodiazepine

Typically, detection varies from person to person. Whether it was a street-manufactured or medically manufactured benzodiazepine also makes a difference. Street 'brands' have unregulated doses and content.

Why Might a Court-Ordered Benzodiazepine Test Be Necessary?

A court will order a benzodiazepine drug test for clarity when supporting a case. If it's a child custody case, benzodiazepine misuse by a parent or caregiver could result in harm to the well-being or health of the child.

A test is also useful for legal officials at the time of an offence if they suspect benzodiazepine misuse - for example, a road traffic accident.

What Happens if a Benzodiazepine Test Comes Back Positive?

The consequences will depend on the legal case. For a child custody case, a positive result could lead to limited or terminated visitation and custody rights. 

If there's no prescription, the legal consequences are listed above relating to potential prison time and fines.

That said, some court cases will present drug misusers with the chance to attend regular court-ordered drug rehabilitation. Anyone willing to do so could face lighter charges in the court case.

How DNA Legal can help

At DNA Legal, we have nearly 20 years of experience assisting individuals with the drug testing process. Our trained professionals can help whether you need the test to support a legal or personal case. 

We understand the stress being required to take a drug test can cause - we're here to support and guide you through it all.

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