Gabapentin is a prescription medication that is used to treat seizures as well as the pain that is caused by shingles. It is commonly sold under the brand name Neurontin and is one of the most popular anticonvulsant drugs because it has very minimal side effects. In addition to seizures and pain from shingles, gabapentin may also be used for restless leg syndrome, withdrawal symptoms from drugs or alcohol, and some forms of pain.
Gabapentin is not a controlled substance, but it does require a prescription to obtain. However, both medicinal and nonmedicinal use of gabapentin has increased in recent years. And, because gabapentin is a central nervous system depressant, it can produce feelings of relaxation and impaired motor function, so it may be abused illegally.
For most people, gabapentin is a fairly short-acting drug that leaves the system after 2-4 days. However, the drug may linger in the bodies of people who have kidney problems for longer periods of time. Ultimately, how long gabapentin stays in your system depends on how often you use it, what dose you take, and other factors.
What is the Half-Life of Gabapentin?
Gabapentin comes in pill form, available in both immediate and extended-release formulations. The half-life (how long it takes the average person to metabolize half of a single dose of a drug) of gabapentin is estimated to be between 5-7 hours for most people. It takes 4-5 half-lives for a drug to leave the body, so the typical person can expect gabapentin to stay in their system for 20-35 hours.
Although the liver is responsible for metabolizing most drugs, gabapentin is actually metabolized by the kidneys. As a result, people who have kidney disease or are on dialysis process gabapentin more slowly, and it can stay in their systems longer. In people with kidney disease, the half-life can be as long as 52 hours, and it can be even longer in people who are on dialysis treatment.
Factors that Affect How Long Gabapentin Remains in the Body
Several factors can influence how long gabapentin stays in your system:
- Dosage and frequency of use – The dosage and frequency of gabapentin use play a significant role in determining how long the drug remains in your body. Higher doses and frequent use can result in longer detection times.
- Metabolism – Individual differences in metabolism can affect how quickly gabapentin is broken down and eliminated from the body. People with faster metabolisms may clear the drug more rapidly.
- Age – Older individuals may metabolize the drug more slowly than younger ones, potentially leading to a longer duration of action.
- Kidney function – If you have impaired kidney function, the drug may take longer to be eliminated from your body, potentially leading to a prolonged presence in the system.
- Drug interactions and alcohol use – The presence of alcohol, illicit drugs, or other medications in your system can affect gabapentin’s metabolism and elimination.
- Duration of use – Long-term use of gabapentin can cause the drug to accumulate in the body’s tissues, potentially extending its presence even after stopping the use of it.
- Hydration – After being metabolized in the kidney, gabapentin is eliminated from the body via urine. Drinking more water and staying properly hydrated can help speed up the elimination of the drug.
Because of these variations, no two people have the same drug elimination times.
Does Gabapentin Show Up on a Drug Test?
Gabapentin is not a controlled substance and does not fall into any of the drug categories that are tested for on most standard drug tests. Most 5-panel drug tests look for marijuana, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, and phencyclidine (PCP). As a result, doctors, employers, and other drug test administrators do not routinely test for gabapentin.
With that said, special advanced laboratory tests can be ordered to screen specifically for gabapentin. Saliva and hair samples will not test positive for gabapentin, but urine or blood tests with special instructions to look for gabapentin may be able to detect it in your system.
How Long Does Gabapentin Stay in Urine, Blood, Saliva, and Hair?
Exactly how long gabapentin will show up on a drug test varies from one person to the next and is different for each drug test type.
- Urine tests – Urinalysis tests are the most common type of drug test. Gabapentin can stay in urine for 2-4 days.
- Blood tests – Gabapentin can show up on a blood test for 5-7 hours after the last dose.
- Saliva tests – Gabapentin cannot be detected in a saliva sample.
- Hair tests – Hair tests can detect drugs for up to 90 days, however, they are unlikely to detect gabapentin.
Understanding Gabapentin Abuse and Addiction
Gabapentin is not a benzodiazepine, but it does have an inhibitory effect on the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which plays a crucial role in regulating brain activity and has a calming effect. People may take high doses to achieve the said effect.
Long-term gabapentin abuse can also lead to tolerance which may cause individuals to take higher doses than they are prescribed in order to feel the same effects.
Although rare, it is possible to get addicted to gabapentin. Most people who do use it in combination with alcohol or other drugs, such as opioids or benzodiazepines, to experience a stronger high.
If you or someone you love are struggling with gabapentin addiction, please contact our team at Arise Treatment Center today to discuss your treatment options.
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Worrying about passing a drug test is often an indicator of drug abuse or addiction, but at Arise Treatment Center, we are here to provide compassionate and evidence-based care. Our team of experienced professionals at Arise Treatment Center is dedicated to helping you or your loved one embark on a journey to recovery. We offer a range of treatment options tailored to your specific needs, from detoxification and therapy to ongoing support and counseling.
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- DailyMed, National Library of Medicine (NIH): Neurontin-gabapentin capsule Label, Retrieved September 2023 from https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=ee9ad9ed-6d9f-4ee1-9d7f-cfad438df388
- National Institutes of Health (NIH): Gabapentin, Retrieved September 2023 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493228/
- National Library of Medicine: Clinical pharmacokinetics of gabapentin, Retrieved September 2023 from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8022536/