How Long Does Gabapentin Last? Risks and Effects of Gabapentin Abuse

High-dose gabapentin is associated with a twofold increase in adverse effects, including somnolence, tremors, ataxia and nystagmus. Read more about the different treatment options for you or your loved ones struggling with Gabapentin addiction.

How Long Does Gabapentin Last?

Gabapentin, also known by the brand name Neurontin, is an anticonvulsant used for seizure disorders and certain neuropathic pain conditions. It belongs to its drug class known as Gabapentinoids. It is most commonly used to treat epilepsy, restless leg syndrome, hot flashes, and neuropathic pain. Gabapentin abuse tends to happen in people who already have an addiction to opioids or other drugs. The effects of Gabapentin intoxication have been described as a sense of calm, euphoria, and a high similar to Marijuana.

Gabapentin is available in immediate-release and extended-release versions. It is most often taken as a pill. Information on the drug suggests that the half-life of gabapentin in most individuals is between 5-7 hours. The half-life of a drug refers to the time it takes a person’s system to break the drug down to half of its original or beginning concentration in the bloodstream.

Gabapentin would be totally eliminated from most people’s systems after a span of five to eight half-lives has transpired. If we consider that the average half-life of gabapentin is around seven hours in most people, it will take about 48 hours for the drug to be eliminated from the system; however, there are other factors that can affect this process. For instance, extended-release versions of gabapentin would continue to release the drug over time, and the detectability of the drug would be extended.

How Does Gabapentin Work?

Although gabapentin is not a controlled substance, it does require a written prescription from a physician that sees this medication as useful for the particular individual’s condition. Listed as an anticonvulsant drug, gabapentin is likely to mirror the actions of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Neurotransmitters in the brain are chemicals responsible for allowing the brain cells to communicate with one another. GABA, on the other hand, acts as a major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, meaning it decreases the communication between nerve cells.

This decrease in activity experienced by the brain is most likely the result of many people experiencing a calming or mood-boosting effect when GABA is increased in their brain. How long does gabapentin last for anxiety? This could be why low levels of GABA may be linked to anxiety or mood disorders, epilepsy, and chronic pain. 

How Long Does it Take for Gabapentin to Work?

Gabapentin is available as an immediate-release or extended-release tablet. The time it takes for either formulation to work depends on several factors such as age, kidney function, and other medications. Because gabapentin can be used for a variety of indications, the time it takes for effects to kick in can vary.

In general, sleep problems due to nerve pain can improve in a week, but it may take up to two weeks to notice relief from the pain itself. Seizure reduction is often noticeable within a few weeks of starting gabapentin. Symptom relief from restless legs syndrome or postherpetic neuralgia, the nerve pain after shingles, may take several days or weeks to develop

How Long Does Gabapentin Withdrawal Last?

Case reports have shown that gabapentin withdrawal can last for 5 to 10 days or longer, but the duration has not been well established in human studies. Symptoms may start within 12 hours to 7 days after stopping gabapentin. The withdrawal symptoms you develop and how long they last depend on how much of the drug you are taking and for how long you’ve been taking it.

Gabapentin withdrawal is not a common problem unless you have developed physical dependence to it, or you are misusing the drug. Misusing means taking gabapentin in higher than prescribed amounts or taking it for reasons not intended by your doctor.

The gabapentin withdrawal syndrome has some similarities with symptoms of alcohol and benzodiazepine withdrawal. This may be due to the fact that all three substances act on gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain.

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Gabapentin Abuse Statistics

Prevalence of gabapentin misuse in the general population was reported to be 1%, 40– 65% among individuals with prescriptions, and between 15–22% within populations of people who abuse opioids. An array of subjective experiences reminiscent of opioids, benzodiazepines, and psychedelics were reported over a range of doses, including those within clinical recommendations. Gabapentin was primarily misused for recreational purposes, self-medication, or intentional self-harm and was misused alone or in combination with other substances, especially opioids, benzodiazepines, and/or alcohol. Individuals with histories of drug abuse were most often involved in its misuse.


Neuropathic pain affects up to 8% of the population, causing significant distress and morbidity. Gabapentin is one of the recommended mainstays of evidence-based treatment.

Source: NCBI


The prevalence of gabapentin abuse in the general population was reported to be 1%,

Source: SAMHSA


65% among individuals with prescriptions, and between 15–22% within populations of people
who abuses opioids also abuses gabapentin

Source: SAMHSA

Gabapentin Drug Fact Sheet

What is Gabapentin?

Drug class: anticonvulsants

Gabapentin treats seizures by decreasing abnormal excitement in the brain. Gabapentin relieves the pain of PHN by changing the way the body senses pain. It is not known exactly how gabapentin works to treat restless legs syndrome

Why is this medication prescribed?

Gabapentin capsules, tablets, and oral solutions are used along with other medications to help control certain types of seizures in people who have epilepsy.

Gabapentin capsules, tablets, and oral solution are also used to relieve the pain of postherpetic neuralgia (PHN; the burning, stabbing pain or aches that may last for months or years after an attack of shingles).

Gabapentin extended-release tablets (Horizant) are used to treat restless legs syndrome (RLS; a condition that causes discomfort in the legs and a strong urge to move the legs, especially at night and when sitting or lying down).

Other uses for this medicine

Gabapentin is also sometimes used to relieve the pain of diabetic neuropathy (numbness or tingling due to nerve damage in people who have diabetes), and to treat and prevent hot flashes (sudden strong feelings of heat and sweating) in women who are being treated for breast cancer or who have experienced menopause (”change of life”, the end of monthly menstrual periods). Talk to your doctor about the risks of using this medication for your condition.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning that serious breathing difficulties may occur in patients using gabapentin (Neurontin, Gralise, Horizant) or pregabalin (Lyrica, Lyrica CR) who have respiratory risk factors.

These include the use of opioid pain medicines and other drugs that depress the central nervous system, and conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) that reduce lung function. The elderly is also at higher risk.

Gabapentin Withdrawal Symptoms and Timeline

How long do gabapentin withdrawals last? Withdrawal symptoms usually begin within 12 hours to 7 days of stopping the drug

How long do side effects last after stopping gabapentin? The timeline of symptoms, based on case studies, is as follows:

12-48 hours

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Itchy skin
  • Headaches

Day 3

  • Restlessness
  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety

Days 4 and 5

  • Increasing confusion, agitation, and anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Light sensitivity
  • Nervousness
How long does gabapentin last? Gabapentin reaches its peak concentration in your body about 8 hours after you take it.
How long does gabapentin last? Gabapentin reaches its peak concentration in your body about 8 hours after you take it

How long do gabapentin withdrawal symptoms last? There is little information on how long gabapentin withdrawal lasts. Some studies have noted symptoms for up to 10 days, at which point person may develop severe changes in mental status, chest pain, and high blood pressure. However, it’s possible that people could continue to have symptoms beyond this point.

How long does withdrawal from gabapentin last? People who wish to quit gabapentin should work with a physician to taper off the medication. Going “cold turkey” can lead to severe complications. One example of this stems from the fact that gabapentin is commonly prescribed for the treatment of seizures. If someone prone to seizures suddenly stops taking gabapentin, they may begin to have seizures that do not stop (status epilepticus). This condition is life-threatening and requires hospitalization.

Undergoing a gradual taper as part of a supervised medical detox can minimize the risk of these complications as well as facilitate the management of any medical problems that you may experience during withdrawal.

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How Long Does It Take for Gabapentin to Kick In?

Normally, it takes one to two weeks for gabapentin to reach its full effects, but this also depends on the condition it’s being taken to treat. The effective dose of gabapentin is also different for everyone, varying from 300 mg per day to 3,000 mg per day.

As with many medications, gabapentin doses usually start off low and are gradually increased depending on the person’s condition. For instance, when used to treat nerve pain, a gabapentin dose may begin at 300 mg and, over the course of several days, be increased by 300 mg until it reaches 600 mg three times per day.

How long does a dose of gabapentin last? Once someone has been taking gabapentin for a few weeks, its side effects may take 2 to 3 hours to kick in regularly. It may take longer to kick in simply because doses are started off low and

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Does Gabapentin Show Up on a Drug Test?

How long does gabapentin last in your system? Pre-employment and random drug tests do not typically test for gabapentin. However, some addiction centers may order a special test for gabapentin if there is suspicion this medication is being misused.

How Long Does Gabapentin Stay in Urine?

Gabapentin can be detected in urine for 1–2 days.

How Long Does Gabapentin Stay in Your Blood?

Gabapentin is detected in the blood several hours after use and can be detected for up to two days depending on how much was used.

How Long Does Gabapentin Stay in Your Hair?

While hair follicle tests usually measure within the previous 90 days, gabapentin is not typically included unless it is specifically requested.

How long does gabapentin last? It can take about 2 weeks for the full effects of gabapentin to kick in.
How long does gabapentin last? It can take about 2 weeks for the full effects of gabapentin to kick in.

Factors Affecting How Long Gabapentin Stays in Your System

While gabapentin is not a federally controlled substance, some U.S. states have started regulating it as a result of increasing misuse. One study estimated the prevalence of gabapentin abuse and misuse to be 40–65% among people with prescriptions and 15–22% in populations abusing opioids, compared with 1% in the general population.

Gabapentin can stay in the system for about 45 hours in most people. Some factors that may impact metabolism include:

  • Amount used: Gabapentin accumulates in the body when taken in high amounts. Taking large doses may prolong the time it stays in the body.
  • Frequency of use: Gabapentin will stay in the body longer in people who use it frequently as the concentration in the blood is increased.
  • Age: In general, kidney function declines with age. Therefore, older adults metabolize gabapentin more slowly because the kidneys are responsible for metabolizing gabapentin.
  • Overall health: The length of time gabapentin stays in the body is directly proportional to kidney function. The half-life of gabapentin in people with kidney failure can be up to 132 hours, meaning it can stay in the body for 28 days without dialysis.

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Is Gabapentin Addictive? 

Yes, Gabapentin is addictive. Painkillers can be addictive, even if they’re not opioids. However, doctors may choose to prescribe it to people with a substance use disorder because it’s less addictive than opioids. That said, non-medical Gabapentin use happens and can cause just as much damage as other drugs. 

Gabapentin is addictive because people can develop a chemical dependency on it. In most people, the body naturally produces the amino acid, GABA. It plays a role in stress and relaxation. Also, it helps make a person feel happy. Gabapentin makes individuals feel relaxed and euphoric because it acts similarly to GABA. 

When a person uses Gabapentin consistently their brain becomes used to the chemicals it increases or inhibits. After a while, the brain becomes used to that level. This can also result in tolerance, meaning someone would need to do more of it to feel the same effect. Tolerance or not, the brain becomes used to the levels of chemicals brought about by regular use. Stopping upsets brain chemistry, which turns into both physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms

How long does gabapentin last? it would take about 48 hours for the drug to be totally eliminated from the system; however, there other factors that can affect this process.
How long does gabapentin last? it would take about 48 hours for the drug to be totally eliminated from the system; however, there other factors that can affect this process.

Effects of a Gabapentin Addiction

Effects of excessive Gabapentin use include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Coordination problems
  • Tremors
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts/behaviors
  • Changes in mood
  • Dizziness
  • Forgetfulness
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty speaking

It is important to try to recognize these symptoms and to be wary of other red flags, such as the presence of an abundance of pill bottles. These effects can be detrimental to one’s health, livelihood, and overall safety.

Many Gabapentin users in early recovery abuse Gabapentin because, at high doses (800mg or more), they may experience a euphoric-like high that does not show up on drug screens. Gabapentin abusers typically take the drug in addition to Opioids to produce their desired high, a dangerous and potentially deadly combination. It is possible to fatally overdose on Gabapentin, both on its own or in conjunction with other drugs.

There is currently no antidote that can be administered to someone in the case of a Gabapentin overdose as there is with Opioid overdoses. If you find a loved one showing signs of an overdose–drowsiness, muscle weakness, lethargy and drooping eyelids, diarrhea, and sedation—seek medical attention immediately.

Signs of a Gabapentin Addiction

  • Lying about or exaggerating symptoms to doctors
  • Seeking out multiple doctors to get extra doses
  • Switching doctors after the original doctor refuses to continue prescribing the medication
  • Changes in social habits and/or circles
  • Changes in personal hygiene and grooming habits
  • Unease at the thought of the drug being unavailable
  • Refusal to quit despite social, financial, or legal consequences
  • Failed attempts to quit

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Gabapentin Detox and Addiction Treatment

Suddenly discontinuing Gabapentin can boost the probability of seizures, so it’s vital to seek assistance when looking to quit. Suppose you are getting treatment for a gabapentin addiction problem. In that case, you will likely begin with a medically-assisted Gabapentin detox so that you can slowly eradicate the drug from your body in a controlled way. After completing the Gabapentin detox, you need medical clearance before transitioning into an inpatient treatment program. There are several gabapentin addiction treatment options available, including:

Medically-assisted Gabapentin Detox

After heavy or extended use of this drug, your system becomes dependent on Gabapentin and needs it in its system to function and avoid a possible dangerous withdrawal symptom. Getting medically-assisted Gabapentin detox helps you slowly wean off gabapentin while under medical care.

Inpatient Treatment

If your gabapentin addiction is severe or you have co-occurring mental health or medical issues, an inpatient program can provide intensive care. Inpatient treatment demands that you live at the facility for the entire duration of your treatment. These programs provide a safe environment and a high level of structure that minimizes triggers to use the drug. Before starting treatment, medical professionals will assess your situation and your addiction to create a tailored treatment plan. This may include group and individual therapy, family therapy, relapse prevention lessons, support groups, and aftercare planning.

Support Groups

Before, during, or after treatment, you may attend 12-step meetings like AA/NA or other support groups. When you go to a support group, you will be welcomed by individuals who know what you’ve been through because they’ve gone through it too. Feeling accepted can make a massive difference in your healing because you will create a new support network of sober people and learn from individuals who have been abstinent from drugs for a longer period of time.

Aftercare Addiction Treatment Program

While in rehab, you will get ready for your transition out of treatment by developing an aftercare plan. This will look different for every person and may include:

  • Transitioning into a sober living facility
  • Locating a counselor or therapist outside of treatment
  • Regularly attending 12-step meetings or other support groups

After you leave treatment, you must stay involved with aftercare recovery treatment to prevent relapse.

How long does gabapentin last?  It usually takes five half-lives for all of a drug to completely leave the system.
How long does gabapentin last?  It usually takes five half-lives for all of a drug to completely leave the system.

Find the Right Treatment Plan at We Level Up NJ

The inpatient treatment approach works best to change the person’s behaviors. Also, it will help clients establish social support systems and better methods of coping with stress. However, a person will likely experience many different side effects from the abuse and misuse of Gabapentin. These side effects may be physical, emotional, or mental. For instance, someone in withdrawal will likely experience many uncomfortable feelings and negative thoughts about life during detox. Unfortunately for those with dependency, medically assisted Gabapentin detox is an unavoidable first step towards recovery. 

Please, do not try to detox on your own. The detox process can be painful and difficult without medical assistance. However, getting through the detox process is crucial for continued treatment. We Level Up NJ provide proper care with round-the-clock medical staff to assist your recovery. So, reclaim your life, call us to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Our counselors know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions. 

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