Gabapentin (Neurontin) is a prescription medication that is an anticonvulsant, meaning it is used to treat seizures. It is approved for use in adults and children over the age of three. While its primary use is for seizures, it may also be prescribed for nerve pain, pain associated with shingles, and restless leg syndrome.

Gabapentin misuse has increased in recent years. In fact, studies have found that between 15-20% of people who misuse opiates also abuse gabapentin.

While most standard drug tests do not screen for gabapentin, some people wonder how long it stays in the body. For more people, gabapentin can be detected in urine for about 2-4 days after the last dose.

How Long Do the Effects of Gabapentin Last?

Gabapentin is a medication primarily used to treat epilepsy, neuropathic pain, and restless legs syndrome. It works by affecting the transmission of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, particularly gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which helps to reduce abnormal electrical activity in the brain that can lead to seizures or abnormal sensations associated with neuropathic pain. It comes in both immediate and extended-release pills.

Common side effects of gabapentin include:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Leg swelling
  • Lethargy
  • Sleepiness
  • Poor coordination

Gabapentin is absorbed quickly, and it can produce relief within 1-2 hours after being ingested. Its effects last 6-8 hours, so the medication is usually taken three times daily or as directed by a healthcare provider.

After the effects of gabapentin wear off, people who have been abusing it or are physically addicted to it may develop severe withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms can appear within 24 hours after the last dose.

Gabapentin Metabolism and Half-Life

Most substances are metabolized by the liver, but gabapentin is metabolized by the kidneys. It is then excreted from the body through urine.

While gabapentin comes in both IR and XR versions, its average half-life is between 5-7 hours. A drug’s half-life measures how long it takes the body to break down half of a single dose of a substance and eliminate it from the bloodstream. Since it takes about 4-5 half-lives for a drug to leave the system, gabapentin can be estimated to remain in the system for about 25-35 hours.

Since the kidneys are responsible for breaking down gabapentin, people with kidney problems may process the drug more slowly, causing it to stay in their system for 50 hours or more.

How Long Does Gabapentin Stay in Urine, Hair, Saliva, and Blood?

Although gabapentin leaves the system within a couple of days, it can leave behind trace metabolites that can be detected by some drug screens. However, most common drug tests do not test for gabapentin. Specialized tests must be used to detect the drug.

  • Urine tests – As the most popular type of drug test, urine tests may be used for pre-employment screenings. Gabapentin may be detected in urine for 2-4 days after the last dose.
  • Hair tests – With an exceptionally long detection window, hair tests can detect gabapentin for up to 90 days.
  • Saliva tests – Saliva tests typically cannot detect gabapentin.
  • Blood tests – Blood tests are only performed in medical settings, usually to detect intoxication. Gabapentin can be detected in blood for 5-7 hours after the last dose.

Factors that Affect How Long Gabapentin Stays in Your System

It’s important to note that the detection times listed above are estimates and that actual results may vary. There are many factors that can affect the length of time that gabapentin stays in your system, and elimination times may vary from one person to the next. These include:

  • Dose and frequency – Higher doses can accumulate in the body over time, leading to longer detection times. Similarly, taking gabapentin more frequently or for extended periods can cause it to stay in the system longer.
  • Kidney function – People with impaired kidney function or kidney disease can take up to seven times longer to break down gabapentin than someone with healthy kidney function.
  • Age – Generally, younger people tend to metabolize and eliminate substances from their systems faster than older people due to metabolism and kidney function.
  • Drug interactions – Certain drugs like naproxen and opioids can cause gabapentin to stay in the body longer.

Is Gabapentin Addictive?

Gabapentin is not considered a controlled substance under the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Controlled Substances Act, however, it is believed to act on the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which reduces anxiety and pain. In other drugs like benzodiazepines, a similar mechanism of action is the reason behind the abuse and addiction potential.

While research has not proven gabapentin to be addictive in the same way benzodiazepines or opioids are, there is evidence suggesting that gabapentin may be addictive if it is abused in high doses for long periods. If you or someone you love are struggling with gabapentin abuse or addiction, please reach out to our team at First Step Behavioral Health to discuss your treatment options.

Get Help for Gabapentin Abuse and Addiction

Long-term gabapentin abuse can lead to addiction and the development of withdrawal symptoms. As a result, getting sober and staying clean can be immensely challenging, but there is help available.

At First Step Behavioral Health, we offer a range of programs that are designed to help individuals overcome addiction and mental health issues. Treatment begins with detox overseen by medical professionals who ensure the safety and comfort of clients. Then, treatment focuses on treating the root cause of substance abuse and helping individuals make healthy lifestyle changes. From detox to aftercare, we’re here for our clients every step of the way.

To learn more about gabapentin abuse or to discuss your treatment options with an admissions coordinator, please pick up the phone and contact us today.

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