Though gabapentin is not a federally controlled substance, some still wonder how long the drug can be picked up on drug screenings. Learn more about how long it stays in the body.

Gabapentin works as a central nervous system depressant, and it is primarily used as an anticonvulsant drug for treating epilepsy. However, it’s also helpful in treating a variety of other conditions. Some people misuse the drug for its calming effects, leading some states to classify it as a controlled substance.

Because gabapentin carries risks for misuse and can cause impaired motor function, some people wonder how long the drug takes to leave their system. This overview covers how long gabapentin stays in a person’s system and the factors and chemistry that affect that duration.

Half-Life of Gabapentin

A drug’s half-life refers to the amount of time it takes for the body to clear half of the drug from its system. For most people, the half-life of gabapentin ranges from 5–7 hours. But the half-life can be as long as 52 hours in people with kidney problems and even longer for people on dialysis.

It usually takes five half-lives for all of a drug to completely leave the system. Based on this estimation, gabapentin can stay in the system of someone without kidney disease for about 35 hours.

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.

How Long Does Gabapentin Stay in Your Urine, Hair and Blood?

Some people wonder if gabapentin will show up on a drug test and for how long. First and foremost, gabapentin is a legal drug and is not a federally-controlled substance. For this reason, doctors do not routinely test for gabapentin in standard drug screenings.

However, gabapentin drug tests can be specially ordered. The drug can show up in the urine for about 2–4 days after the last dose. Although gabapentin can be found in saliva and hair, these types of tests are not generally performed commercially and data on them is limited.

Other Questions About Gabapentin

What is Gabapentin used for?

Gabapentin is a prescription medication that is often sold under the brand name Neurontin as well as Gralise. It is FDA-approved for treating seizures and nerve pain from shingles. However, it can also be used off-label to treat conditions like diabetic nerve pain and fibromyalgia.

Gabapentin is similar in structure to GABA, a naturally occurring neurotransmitter. GABA is responsible for calming neural activity, which causes a relaxing effect on the brain and body. Gabapentin has a similar effect.

What are Gabapentin’s side effects?

The most common side effects of gabapentin include dizziness, drowsiness and leg swelling. However, antiepileptic drugs like gabapentin can sometimes cause suicidal thoughts or behavior as well. If this side effect occurs, seek medical attention right away.

As a central nervous system depressant, gabapentin can slow thinking and motor skills. Someone who is taking gabapentin may seem lethargic or sleepy, or they may have an abnormal gait and coordination problems. When someone is prescribed gabapentin, they’re warned not to drive or engage in dangerous activities until they know the effects it will have on them.

Is Gabapentin illegal?

Gabapentin is not a controlled substance at the federal level, despite the fact that 1% of the United States population misuses the drug. Since it’s not a controlled substance, gabapentin is relatively easy to get. However, due to the uptick in gabapentin abuse and the lack of regulation at the federal level, some states are taking matters into their own hands.

For example, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Michigan and Virginia recently classified gabapentin as a Schedule V controlled substance. Classifying gabapentin as a controlled substance makes the drug harder to acquire.

If you or a loved one is struggling with drug misuse or addiction, The Recovery Village can help. Contact us today to learn more about treatment plans and recovery programs that can work well for your needs.

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Editor – Jonathan Strum
Jonathan Strum graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a Bachelor's in Communication in 2017 and has been writing professionally ever since. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD
Dr. Jessica Pyhtila is a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist based in Baltimore, Maryland with practice sites in inpatient palliative care and outpatient primary care at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Read more

U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Neurontin.” April 14, 2020. Accessed June 27, 2020.

Utah Department of Health. “Gabapentin and Prescription Opioids.” 2018. Accessed June 27, 2020.

U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Gralise.” April 7, 2020. Accessed June 27, 2020.

Hallare, Jericho; Gerriets, Valerie. “Half Life.” StatPearls, January 30, 2020. Accessed June 27, 2020.

PharmaDrugtest. “Gabapentin (Neurontin) Test.” Accessed June 27, 2020.

Wang, Xin; Johansen, Sys Stybe; Nielsen, Marie Katrine Klose; et al. “Targeted Analysis of 116 Drugs in Hair b[…]on to Forensic Cases.” Drug Testing and Analysis, August 2017. Accessed June 27, 2020.

Patsalos, Philip N.; Berry, Dave J. “Therapeutic Drug Monitoring of Antiepile[…]ugs by Use of Saliva.” Therapeutic Drug Monitoring, February 2013. Accessed June 27, 2020.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.