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Gabapentin is a medication that is approved for the treatment of seizures (therefore, often termed an anticonvulsant) for children over the age of 3 and for adults. It is also approved for the treatment of pain that is associated with shingles.
Gabapentin is most recognizable by the brand name Neurontin, but there are numerous generic forms of gabapentin on the market and other brands of gabapentin (Gralise, Horizant, and others). Gabapentin is also used for numerous other purposes, including:
- Other forms of pain that are not related to nerve issues
- Anxiety that occurs in certain types of psychological disorders, such as bipolar disorder
- Restless leg syndrome
- Withdrawal symptoms from alcohol and other drugs
The above uses are referred to as off-label uses, meaning that they are not formally approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for that purpose, but there is research and clinical evidence to suggest that the drug can be useful in addressing these issues. Gabapentin is often used in conjunction with other drugs to treat specific conditions, including seizures, pain, and anxiety, as opposed to being used by itself.
Because gabapentin is considered to have a relatively benign side effect profile and does not have significant interactions with many other medications, it is commonly used in the treatment of numerous other issues. The doses of the drug used for medical purposes will depend on the type of condition being addressed. The effectiveness of gabapentin may be diminished for treating pain at higher doses.
How Long Does Gabapentin Stay In Your System?
Gabapentin is a medication used to treat seizures and pain caused by shingles. Common brand names for gabapentin include Gralise, Horizant, and Neurontin. It belongs to the GABA analog drug class, meaning it stimulates the release of the neurotransmitter GABA to reduce neuronal excitability in the brain that may contribute to seizures and pain. Today, to better understand how we can safely use this medication, we’re looking at how long gabapentin stays in your system and the onset and duration of its side effects.
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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.
However, 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 gradually built up to avoid intoxication or any adverse reactions.
If you start taking gabapentin and don’t experience immediate relief from symptoms, do not take more doses than directed by your doctor. Speak to them if you have any concerns, but you might simply have to wait for your body to get used to the medication.
Factors That Influence How Long Gabapentin Stays in Your System
No two people are the same when it comes to drug elimination times. Factors that influence how long gabapentin stays in the system include:
- Kidney function: Gabapentin is eliminated from the body through the kidneys. If someone has impaired kidney function, it can take them much longer to clear the drug. The half-life of gabapentin in someone with kidney disease can be more than seven times longer than in someone without it.
- Age: For the most part, younger people tend to eliminate drugs from their systems faster than older people. This is usually because of reductions in kidney function that commonly occur as people age.
- Drug interactions: Certain drugs can increase the amount of gabapentin in the body, which can cause it to take longer to clear from the system. These drugs include over-the-counter pain relievers like naproxen, stomach acid drugs like cimetidine and opioids like morphine and hydrocodone. Some drugs can also reduce the amount of gabapentin absorbed by the body, including antacids like Maalox.
Does Gabapentin Show Up on a Drug Test?
Some people wonder if gabapentin will show up on a drug test and for how long. Drug screens do not usually test for gabapentin, but it can be detected if instructions are made to look for the drug.
Because gabapentin is a legal drug and not federally controlled, doctors don’t usually routinely test for it in standard drug screenings. However, specific gabapentin drug tests can be ordered. How long gabapentin is detectable in urine, and other aspects of the body, may vary.
Gabapentin detection times for drug tests include:
- Blood: 5 to 7 hours
- Urine: 2 to 4 days
- Saliva: Undetectable
- Hair: Up to 90 days (these are rare)
A person’s age can also affect how long gabapentin is in your system, with older people experiencing a longer elimination time than younger people. Differences in kidney function can also significantly prolong the length of time it takes for gabapentin to leave the system, as well as the person’s weight.
On the other hand, it’s believed that staying hydrated could speed up the elimination of gabapentin from the body since the drug is primarily metabolized in the kidneys and released through the urine.
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