Gabapentin, also known by the brand names Neurontin, Gralise, and Horizant, is an anticonvulsant drug that is used to treat epilepsy, nerve pain, and restless leg syndrome.
While gabapentin is not a federally controlled substance, abuse can create a high lasting five to seven hours, which is why several states have recently labeled gabapentin a Schedule V drug.
The length of a drug’s effects is influenced by a number of factors including tolerance level, genetics, polysubstance abuse, and method of use.
Factors That Affect How Long Gabapentin Lasts
The half-life of gabapentin is between five and seven hours. Provided the person has normal kidney function, it takes approximately 25 to 35 hours for gabapentin to be fully eliminated.
Below are some of the factors that influence how long gabapentin stays in the body, particularly in people who may be abusing the medication for its pleasant effects.
Method Of Abuse
There are several ways people may abuse gabapentin after they develop a substance use disorder.
Some of the ways gabapentin is misused:
- snorting gabapentin
- taking gabapentin orally in tablet form
- rectally inserting or “plugging” gabapentin
Many people who resort to snorting or plugging gabapentin do so because it allows the substance to be more rapidly absorbed into the body and may cause a more intense high.
Polysubstance abuse refers to taking multiple illicit or prescription drugs at the same time to heighten their effects and longevity. Gabapentin is commonly abused with other substances.
One of the most dangerous mixtures is taking gabapentin and alcohol together, due to the fact that central nervous system depressants can dangerously affect the respiratory system.
Some people mix cocaine and gabapentin, as cocaine will counteract gabapentin, masking the symptoms of both substances and giving the perception of a less intense high.
Other Influencing Factors
Other factors that may contribute to the length of gabapentin’s effects include weight, metabolism, hydration level, dosage, and history of drug use.
People who have been using gabapentin for a significant period of time will likely need to take higher doses to achieve the same effect as someone who is using the drug for the first time.
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Gabapentin Side Effects
Gabapentin works by interacting with a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain.
When GABA levels are boosted in the brain, there is a release of dopamine which helps to elevate mood. Some people can get addicted to this sensation and start to abuse the drug.
Side effects of gabapentin abuse can include confusion, memory problems, drowsiness, anxiety, and tremors.
While uncommon, people who chronically abuse gabapentin are at elevated risk for gabapentin overdose. Symptoms of overdose may include slurred speech, sedation, and coma.
Elimination Times For Gabapentin In The Body
Even though most traces of gabapentin will be eliminated within 48 hours, there are still several drug tests that can detect gabapentin in the system for days or even months after last use.
Drug screening methods include:
- gabapentin urine tests can detect the drug up to three days from the last dose
- blood tests can determine whether gabapentin has been used for up to eight hours
- gabapentin hair tests are rarely conducted, but they can detect the drug for up to 90 days
If you suspect that someone you care about is engaging in prescription drug abuse, getting a lab test may help reveal the extent of the substance use disorder.
How Long Do Gabapentin Withdrawal Symptoms Last?
When someone with a substance abuse disorder abruptly stops taking gabapentin, they will likely experience a range of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
These symptoms usually last up to five days and may include confusion, muscle twitching, nerve pain, anxiety, irritability, and more.
Treatment Programs For Gabapentin Addiction
Addiction to gabapentin can be dangerous, but recovery is possible with the help of medical professionals at a drug rehab program.
Drug addiction treatment centers may offer:
- medically monitored gabapentin detox
- counseling services
- outpatient rehab programs
- dual diagnosis treatment for co-occurring
- support groups
- general healthcare needs
- inpatient treatment
- mental health services
Find Substance Use Disorder Treatment Today
If you or a loved one are facing gabapentin addiction, call our helpline today. Our team can answer your questions and put you on track to stopping gabapentin abuse permanently.
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
- National Institute of Health (NIH)
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)