How Long Does Gabapentin Stay in Your System?

How Long Does Gabapentin Stay in Your System? | Recovery By The Sea

Gabapentin (brand name Neurontin) is a commonly prescribed medication that remains in the body for about 36 hours. Gabapentin has a half-life of 5-7 hours, meaning that it takes this amount of time for the body to eliminate one-half of a dose of the drug.

What Is Gabapentin?

Gabapentin is a prescription medication approved for the treatment of seizures and neuropathic pain related to shingles. Gabapentin may also be used off-label for other purposes, including the following:

  • Pain unrelated to nerve issues
  • Anxiety that can occur in certain types of psychiatric disorders
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Withdrawal symptoms from alcohol and other substances

How Gabapentin Works

The DEA does not classify gabapentin as a controlled substance, but it does require a prescription from a doctor to obtain it legally. It is believed to simulate the action of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which inhibits activity in the central nervous system (CNS).

Gabapentin does not appear to affect GABA receptors directly, and instead, reduces the activity of other neurons through a different but unexplained mechanism. This would explain why gabapentin can address issues like pain, anxiety, and seizures, which are the result of overactivity in the brain.

Gabapentin is not considered to have the same addiction potential as many other prescription pain medications, as on its own, it does not cause euphoria, and it is not as potent as opioids. However, doctors will often prescribe gabapentin with other drugs, and these combinations can result in the more effective treatment of a specific condition. Unfortunately, this approach may, in some cases, lead to some level of drug dependence.

How Long Does Gabapentin Stay in the Body?

How Long Does Gabapentin Stay in Your System? | Recovery By The Sea

Gabapentin is most often consumed orally in tablet form, and as noted, will remain in the body for about 36 hours. Gabapentin is one of the few drugs not broken down by the liver, and instead, is primarily metabolized by the kidneys. Because of this uncommon process, gabapentin does not stay in the body for a very long period.

Gabapentin comes in both immediate- and extended-release forms. The latter continues to release the drug into the system gradually, over time, and therefore the detection window for the drug will be extended, as well.

Drug panel screens do not typically test for the presence of gabapentin because it is not a controlled substance and has a low potential for abuse. However, it can be detected if instructions are put forth to look for the drug specifically.
Gabapentin’s detectability ranges from 5-7 hours for most blood tests. It is not detectable in saliva, and it would be improbable that a hair follicle test would be used to check for gabapentin.

Urinalysis can, however, detect gabapentin for an average of 72 hours, and the broader range of detection would span from 1-3 days in most cases. A urinalysis, although rare in and of itself, is probably the most common method used to test for gabapentin.

Factors That Influence Elimination Time

Due to the way gabapentin is broken down in the body, the dosage may not affect the duration in which the drug stays in the system—at least to the extent of many other substances. Still, taking very high amounts of gabapentin could result in a longer elimination time for the medication.

Other factors can affect the elimination of gabapentin from the body, however, including the following:

  • Age, as older people experience longer elimination times Differences in kidney function
  • Weight and body mass index, as heavier people will eliminate it more rapidly
  • Hydration, because the drug is primarily broken down in the kidneys and eliminated through the urine

Getting Help for Drug Abuse

Although gabapentin is believed to have a relatively low potential for abuse, it does happen. Gabapentin is also commonly misused in conjunction with other drugs such as opioids, which can enhance their effects but also lead to additional complications, including drug dependence and addiction.

Moreover, those who are abusing gabapentin or other substances are urged to seek treatment as soon as possible. The earlier treatment is received, the less arduous the transition back to sobriety will be.

Recovery By The Sea offers comprehensive programs tailored to each individual’s unique needs and goals. We feature a variety of therapeutic services that are clinically proven to be extremely beneficial for the recovery process, including psychotherapy, counseling, group support, aftercare planning, and more.

Are you ready to take that first step to long-term sobriety and wellness? If so, contact us today and find out how we can help you get started, one day at a time!

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Is Gabapentin a Controlled Substance?

Is Gabapentin a Controlled Substance? | Recovery By The Sea

At the time of this writing, gabapentin (Neurontin) is not considered to be a controlled substance on the federal level. However, some states, such as Michigan, and other municipalities, have scheduled it as a class 5 drug, meaning it is believed to have a relatively low potential for abuse. It is commonly prescribed to treat neuropathic pain, epilepsy, and restless leg syndrome.

Gabapentin is a fairly new medication that was first introduced in 1993. As such, its use, mechanism of action, and adverse effects are still being researched. However, gabapentin appears to have an effect on the GABA neurotransmitter but does not seem to manipulate receptors related to other common drugs of abuse, such as opioids. 

For this reason, it’s not commonly thought of as a drug of abuse, and yet, it still has depressant properties that are similar to many other abused intoxicant substances. Also, it has been known to induce withdrawal symptoms in those who become dependent.

This medication can function as a tranquilizer and produce feelings of well-being that, although mild, are similar to the high produced by marijuana. It can also produce feelings of calm and increased sociability. It is recreationally used by polydrug users who combine it with other substances to amplify the effects of both the gabapentin or the other substance. It may also be misused by those seeking to relieve some symptoms of withdrawal from other drugs or alcohol.

The likelihood of gabapentin abuse occurring is considered low due to its relatively low potential for addiction. It does, however, induce withdrawal symptoms, which is a tell-tale sign of physical dependence. Effects induced by the drug could also promote psychological dependence. Treatment for gabapentin addiction may be more complex than other addictions because the individual will likely be dependent on other substances concurrently.

Gabapentin Use and Abuse

Prescription drug abuse is characterized by any use above and beyond that which is prescribed by a doctor. This includes using the medication without a prescription or making up symptoms to obtain a prescription. Taking a higher dose or more frequently than instructed is also considered abuse, and this is likely to result in withdrawal symptoms when use is discontinued. 

Commonly, people enrolled in substance abuse treatment programs report abusing gabapentin without a prescription. One study revealed that 22% of surveyed patients used this medication for intoxicating purposes, especially for enhancing the effects of methadone.

Gabapentin is also increasingly being used as an adulterant in heroin. The fact that this medication is uncontrolled means that it’s not difficult to obtain legal prescriptions, which can then be sold on the black market. If gabapentin follows the trend of many other psychoactive prescription drugs, recreational use will likely increase until the DEA and other government agencies recognize the danger and begin putting restrictions in place.

Signs of Gabapentin Addiction

Is Gabapentin a Controlled Substance? | Recovery By The Sea

Although the potential for dependence on gabapentin is low, it can still occur, and such an addiction can be a serious issue due to the possibility of overdose and death. If you suspect that someone you know is using gabapentin without a prescription, other drugs, or alcohol, you can watch for the following symptoms of abuse:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired memory
  • Impaired motor skills
  • Tremors
  • Jerky movements
  • Erratic eye movements
  • Double vision
  • Fever
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

If a person is taking gabapentin as directed with a prescription, these side effects are not necessarily an indication of abuse or addiction, although side effects tend to be more intense relative to how much a person uses. A number of symptoms characterize addiction, and a few are specific to prescription drugs. Common signs of prescription drug addiction include the following:

  • Making up or exaggerating symptoms to physicians
  • Doctor-shopping (visiting multiple doctors to get extra doses)
  • Switching doctors after a physician has refused to continue prescribing the drug
  • Changes in social habits and friends
  • Adverse changes in personal hygiene and grooming
  • Constant obsession with obtaining and using the drug
  • Feeling nervous about not being able to obtain the drug
  • Refusal or inability to quit using despite social, financial, or legal problems

Dependence and Withdrawal

Lastly, the occurrence of withdrawal symptoms after stopping the use of a drug is a hallmark indication of dependence and likely full-blown addiction. These occur because the body has adapted to the drug’s presence and has become unable to function without it. In addition to dependence, tolerance also usually develops, which is characterized by the need to use an increasing amount of the drug to achieve the same effect. 

In general, the higher the dose a person’s system adjusts to, the more severe the withdrawal symptoms will be. Common gabapentin withdrawal symptoms include the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Changes in appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness
  • Itching
  • Muscle pain or spasms
  • Stomach pain
  • Sweating
  • Seizures
  • Suicidal thoughts

While most of these symptoms are not outright dangerous, seizures can cause harm or even death, and suicidal ideations are always cause for alarm. For these reasons, it is recommended that a person who is thinking about going off gabapentin consult a doctor or addiction specialist. This should be done regardless of whether or not they are using it with a legitimate prescription. It may also be necessary for the individual to undergo a medical detox during the initial days of the withdrawal period.

Is Gabapentin a Controlled Substance? | Recovery By The Sea

Gabapentin Overdose

Prescription drug overdose fatalities have been steadily increasing for many years. Gabapentin overdose is similar to that of some opioids, such as heroin or Vicodin. However, unlike with opioids, there is no antidote to gabapentin overdose that can instantly reverse symptoms and prevent the substance from further affecting the brain and body. As such, irreversible damage is possible, even if a medical intervention is performed early.

Overdose is most likely to occur when combining gabapentin with other drugs or alcohol. For this reason, the fact that gabapentin is frequently being added to heroin by drug dealers is especially alarming. Moreover, heroin users often have no way of knowing what is in the drug they purchase on the black market, which is one of the reasons why opioid overdose deaths are so common.

Common signs of gabapentin overdose include the following:

  • Dizziness
  • Tremors
  • Slurred speech
  • Ataxia
  • Double vision
  • Accelerated heartbeat
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Diarrhea
  • Slowed heart rate and respiration
  • Central nervous system depression

The biggest threat to a gabapentin overdose victim is a lack of oxygen to the brain—especially when it is consumed alongside other CNS depressants. Depression of the CNS results in slowed breathing, and it can even cause breathing to stop altogether. An overdose on any CNS depressant is considered an extreme medical emergency, and 911 should be called immediately.

Getting Treatment for Addiction

Recovery By The Sea offers comprehensive, individualized programs designed to treat all aspects of drug abuse and addiction, as well as co-occurring mental health conditions. Our programs feature therapies and services clinically-proven to be vital for the process of recovery, including behavioral therapy, individual and group counseling, group support, aftercare planning, and much, much more.

If you or someone you love is battling a dependence on gabapentin or other substances, contact us today! Discover how we can help you break free from the grip of addiction once and for all and foster the happy, healthy life you deserve!

⟹ READ THIS NEXT: Is Lyrica Addictive?

Is Gabapentin Addictive?

Is Gabapentin Addictive? | Recovery By The Sea Addiction Treatment

Gabapentin (brand name Neurontin) is a prescription medication commonly prescribed for the treatment of seizures, neuropathic pain, and restless leg syndrome.

Gabapentin is not currently scheduled by the Drug Enforcement Agency as a controlled substance because research has historically shown that it has little potential for abuse or dependence. Although gabapentin is considered to be a relatively safe drug, especially when used as directed, over the years, research has raised questions regarding the drug safety and potential for addiction.

Gabapentin Abuse

According to research presented at the 2015 American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry (AAAP) 26th Annual Meeting, gabapentin abuse is an increasing concern. This concern is primarily due to the fact that the drug has become more and more available, as many doctors consider it a safer alternative to other drugs formerly used to treat some of these conditions, such as benzodiazepines or opioids.

While this belief is, in general, correct, some people who use Neurontin have described experiencing feelings of well-being, which could certainly be appealing to would-be recreational users. Others say that gabapentin enhances the effects of other drugs, including prescription painkillers and alcohol.

According to a report published in Pharmacy Times (2015), 57 million Americans had been prescribed gabapentin. Still, other reports reveal that there are also many people abusing Neurontin illicitly without a prescription. A report in the journal European Addiction Research found that 38% of people in the six substance abuse facilities they studied admitted to misusing either gabapentin or pregabalin (a similar medication) with methadone to experience a high.

Also, in 2004, a study that surveyed patients in a Florida correctional facility found that less than 20 percent of the gabapentin prescriptions given out were in the hands of people who had actually been prescribed the drug. Five of the inmates reported crushing the pills and snorting them, and four of the five reporting experiencing a high similar to cocaine, and all had histories of cocaine abuse.

Risks and Symptoms of Abuse

Gabapentin essentially mimics the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the body, thereby increasing the available amount of GABA to the brain, which in turn, induces relaxing feelings of well-being and anticonvulsant effects. Like any other drug, gabapentin can have adverse side effects, including the following:

  • Weight gain
  • Dizziness and headaches
  • Fever
  • Impaired memory
  • Double vision
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Tremors
  • Nausea
  • Impaired motor function

In some cases, the side effects of gabapentin abuse can be even more significant. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that any anticonvulsant, including gabapentin, can lead to an increase in suicidal thoughts. Outside of legitimate therapeutic reasons, in most cases, the mild “reward” of using gabapentin does not outweigh the risks associated with abuse.

Is Gabapentin Addictive? | Recovery By The Sea Addiction Treatment

How Is Gabapentin Addictive?

Whenever a new medication is introduced into the prescription drug market, there are always concerns regarding the drug’s potential for addiction. To determine whether a drug may have such a potential, researchers examine how the drug affects specific nerve receptors in the brain. If it activates these receptors and results in compulsive, drug-seeking behavior, the drug is considered to be addictive. If it does not, it is deemed nonaddictive.

Although gabapentin has been found nonaddictive according to scientific research, anecdotal evidence has raised concern. For example, one report in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice highlights a case of gabapentin abuse, in which the person suffered from “toxic delirium, intense cravings, and a prolonged post-withdrawal” similar to withdrawal from benzodiazepines. A severe withdrawal period can drive a person to continue using gabapentin even if they attempt to quit, a result that indicates drug dependence has indeed developed.

Gabapentin withdrawal can be highly unpleasant, and symptoms may include nausea and fatigue. If people are using the drug for seizure control, they can expect to encounter an increase in seizure activity if they discontinue use. Most patients choose to taper off the drug under the care of a medical professional to mitigate the severity of withdrawal symptoms.

It’s also important to note that any substance has some potential for psychological or emotional dependence, even if a true chemical addiction is not present. Issues that can manifest as a result of psychological dependence may include drug cravings, anxiety, agitation, and depression associated with the use of the drug of choice.

Treatment for Gabapentin Abuse and Addiction

If you or someone you love is struggling gabapentin abuse, it is vital to seek professional help. If a person is abusing gabapentin, it is very possible that they are using it with other drugs or alcohol, which is another issue that deserves to be addressed in its own right.

Recovery By The Sea is a specialized addiction treatment center that offers integrated, evidence-based approaches that include psychotherapy, psychoeducation, counseling, peer support, medication-assisted therapy, aftercare planning, and more.

If you or someone you know needs help overcoming substance abuse or addiction, contact us today. Discover how we help people break free from the vicious cycle of addiction for life!

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