Gabapentin, often sold under the brand name Neurontin, is a prescription medication that is listed as an anticonvulsant, meaning that it is primarily used to treat seizures. However, it also has several “off-label” uses, including anxiety and manic-depressive disorders, as well as some forms of neuropathic pain.
While gabapentin is neither a benzodiazepine nor an opioid, it works in similar ways. In some cases, the drug can be just as dangerous, as it is possible to become addicted to gabapentin as well as overdose on it.
In previous years, this has not been an issue, but in the wake of the current drug crisis, many people are looking for what they perceive to be a safer drug that still has many of the same qualities as opioids or benzos, so they are turning to gabapentin abuse.
Learn more about how long gabapentin will stay in your system and how it can be detected in a drug test.
What Affects How Long Gabapentin Stays in Your System?
Gabapentin has a fairly short half-life of roughly five to seven hours, which means that it usually remains in the body for a little more than a day and a half, with most of the drug leaving the body after two days.
However, there is a wide range of factors unique to a given individual that can affect how long gabapentin stays in their system, including:
- How often someone has been using gabapentin
- How much of it they have been using
- Their age
- Their weight and body mass
- Their body’s fat content
- Their metabolism rate
- Their kidney health
- Their urine pH and hydration levels
Some of these factors are more self-explanatory than others. Obviously, if you use a substance heavily over a significant period, it will build up in your system and take much longer to be eliminated.
Similarly, people with higher metabolism will also clear gabapentin from their systems faster, as well as younger people, who tend to have a higher rate of metabolism anyway. Heavier people with a higher body mass index typically eliminate gabapentin quicker than those who weigh less.
When it comes to the process of breaking down substances in the body, known as metabolizing, the liver is almost always the organ responsible for doing so. However, gabapentin is one of the very few drugs that the liver does not metabolize. Instead, the kidneys metabolize it, which is why someone’s kidney health significantly affects how long gabapentin will stay in their system.
gabapentin’s standard elimination time frame of two days applies to people with normal kidney function. For those whose kidneys are in poor health, also known as renal impairment or renal failure, it takes the body much longer to metabolize gabapentin.
One study on the effects of gabapentin on individuals who had renal failure reported that one 400 mg (milligram) dose had a half-life of more than five days, which, in turn, means that it could potentially take more than 30 days for someone with renal impairment to clear all the gabapentin from their system.
Someone’s intake of water and other liquids can also affect how long gabapentin remains in their system. Because the kidneys process gabapentin, it comes out in the urine, 100 percent unchanged. The more hydrated someone is, the greater their urinary flow rate, the faster that gabapentin will leave their system and vice versa.
Finally, the pH of someone’s urine, in other words, how acidic it is, will also impact how long it takes for their body to eliminate gabapentin. Urine pH is based on people’s diets, so if you are eating a diet high in acidic foods like fish, meat, and nuts, the more acidic your urine will be, giving it a lower pH and requiring less time to eliminate gabapentin from your body.
What Types of Drug Tests Are There?
The main methods of drug testing are urine, blood, saliva, and hair. Of these four test types, the most commonly utilized are urine and saliva, although each test has its set of advantages and drawbacks when it comes to being able to detect various legal and illicit drugs in a timely and accurate manner.
Urine drug tests are among the most used types of tests because they are easy to administer and provide rapid results. Generally, a urine test can detect the presence of drugs or alcohol in someone’s urine between two to three days after use. The most significant drawback to urine drug tests is that common substances like vitamin supplements or cough medicines can often trigger a false positive.
A saliva-based drug test will also provide very quick results that tend to be more accurate and less likely to produce false positives than urine tests. A saliva drug test could detect a drug even if someone used it just minutes ago.
The main problem with saliva drug tests is that their window of effectiveness is very limited, usually between a few hours and a day.
Blood tests are almost always the most effective method of detecting drugs or alcohol in the body and are basically impossible to beat. However, like saliva tests, the window of detection is fairly small, and blood-based drug tests are also the most expensive and intrusive methods of drug testing and getting the results can take anywhere from a few days to more than a week. Because of this, despite their accuracy, blood drug tests are rarely used.
Hair drug tests examine the levels of a drug present in someone’s hair follicle. Like blood tests, hair drug tests are also extremely accurate, as there is no way to tamper with the drug content in someone’s hair. Hair tests can also provide a bigger picture of someone’s substance use, as the window of detection in hair tests is usually about a month.
But hair tests are less practical for regular use than urine or saliva tests since hair grows so slowly, which means it can take up to several weeks for drugs to become detectable in a person’s hair follicles. This also means a hair test cannot confirm if someone is currently using drugs, just that they previously were.
How Long Is Gabapentin Detectable in a Drug Test?
Gabapentin is usually not included in the panel of substances that standard drug tests look for. It is not illegal to use, and it also is not a regularly tested legal drug like prescription opioids, so it will not show up on a test unless a drug screening is specifically ordered to test for gabapentin. Even then, the window of detection for gabapentin is very small.
It is also important to keep in mind how the previously mentioned factors can affect how quickly the body processes gabapentin and how long it can be detected.
- Urine test: As the kidneys process and excrete gabapentin, it remains detectable in someone’s urine for about one to three days, and is the most commonly used test for detecting gabapentin.
- Saliva test: Even though gabapentin is generally taken orally, it is not detectable in saliva-based drug tests.
- Blood test: Typically, the peak concentration of gabapentin in the blood occurs roughly one to two hours after the last use. In accordance with gabapentin’s half-life, it is detectable in a blood test in a five- to seven-hour window, although it can sometimes take up to two days to fully leave the bloodstream.
- Hair test: While it is extremely unlikely that a hair test would ever be used to identify the presence of gabapentin, it can detect gabapentin in a hair follicle for up to 90 days.
If you’re concerned about drug tests because you’re abusing gabapentin, you might be wondering to yourself – can you just stop gabapentin? The short answer is yes. However, it’s not that simple. When you abuse a drug or use it for a prolonged period, you’ll need to carefully approach how you stop taking gabapentin. It can also lead you to wonder how gabapentin is eliminated from the body, which is done slowly and safely.
Will gabapentin side effects go away after stopping? Well, abrupt cessation of gabapentin can make your symptoms worse and can even be dangerous. It’s possible to encounter severe reactions, such as seizures, if you stop suddenly. Your doctor might have prescribed the medication to treat postherpetic neuralgia or partial focal seizures, meaning you must speak to them before making a decision of this caliber.
Since gabapentin is sometimes used to treat restless leg syndrome, a common side effect people experience during opioid withdrawal; it could be even riskier to stop without help. If you’re going through opioid withdrawal, your body is already at increased stress levels. By adding gabapentin withdrawal into the mix, it could be too much for it to handle. If you’re wondering how to stop taking gabapentin, you must reach out to your doctor. If the medication is not prescribed to you by a doctor, you should still reach out to a primary care physician or an addiction treatment center.
Tapering off Gabapentin
In some cases, we understand that addiction treatment may not be an option. With that being said, tapering off the medication and slowly reducing the dose will be the best alternative. In a professional addiction treatment center, they’ll taper your dose of the drug to alleviate most of your side effects, which can be done alone. However, since the withdrawal period is unpredictable, it’s more dangerous, which is why we highly recommend professional help. The overall timeline to reduce the dosage is dependent on your current dose and how long you’ve taken the drug.
You can do everything right, but the odds of developing uncomfortable symptoms are inescapable. You’re likely to endure agitation, anxiety, and insomnia when the dose is reduced. You should report any of these symptoms to your doctor as they could potentially recommend natural medicine to relieve these symptoms. If the symptoms are too severe, they might suggest you go back to the dose you were on and reduce it even less. For example, if you went from 10 milligrams to five milligrams and it’s too much, you may need to start back at ten and reduce to 7.5. Your comfort is important.
If you experience severe side effects, such as shortness of breath or seizures, you must call 911 or seek medical assistance immediately. If you’re trying to stop a drug because you’re concerned about your health, it’s not worth risking your life to stop.
If you’re ready to stop but you’re worried about withdrawal symptoms, speak to your doctor about a plan that works for you. It could mean addiction treatment, which will target the root of why you became addicted and other pressing medical issues that need adequate care. Addiction treatment will address these symptoms and make sure the discomfort you experience is kept to a minimum. The level of discomfort is dependent on your age, the dosage you’ve been taking and for how long, the condition you were treating, and other health conditions.
Remember, it’s okay to reach out for help as it can save your life. Once you get the help you need, you’ll wonder why you didn’t reach out and ask sooner.