Gabapentin Withdrawal: Symptoms, Timeline & Detox
Up to Date
Last Updated - 04/18/2022View our editorial policy
Gabapentin withdrawal symptoms and their intensity can depend on how high of a dose you take, how long you’ve taken it, and how you taper off of it.
Gabapentin is a non-controlled medication most often prescribed to prevent seizures or treat nerve pain. Recently, misuse and abuse of gabapentin have increased, leading some states to regulate this medication in a similar way to controlled medications like narcotics.
Can You Stop Gabapentin Cold Turkey?
After taking this medication for an extended period of time, your brain becomes used to it. Reducing the dose too quickly or stopping it cold turkey can lead to withdrawal or other serious symptoms like seizures. Always discuss reducing or stopping your gabapentin dose with your healthcare provider. Often, they will recommend that you slowly taper your gabapentin dose down to avoid potentially serious withdrawal symptoms.
How Long Does Gabapentin Stay in Your System?
Many factors can influence how long gabapentin stays in your system. Because gabapentin is eliminated through the kidneys, poor kidney function can cause it to build up in the body. The amount of gabapentin you take and whether you take other drugs or alcohol with it can also have a major impact on how long gabapentin remains in your system.
Routine drug tests do not typically detect gabapentin, but a specific test can be requested. Gabapentin can be detected in the blood for five to seven hours and in the urine for one to two days.
A drug’s half-life is the time it takes for approximately half of a dose to be metabolized and eliminated from the body. The half-life of gabapentin is approximately five to seven hours. For this reason, gabapentin is often taken multiple times throughout the day.
With the exception of gabapentin enacarbil (which is metabolized to gabapentin), gabapentin is not typically metabolized. It is absorbed into the bloodstream and then functions in the brain, slowing signaling between the brain and the body. From there, it is eliminated mostly unchanged through the kidneys.
When any medication is taken over the course of a long time, the body becomes used to its presence and adjusts. If you stop taking this medication abruptly or reduce your dose too quickly, the body does not have time to adjust to the absence of the drug, and withdrawal can happen. Always consult your healthcare provider if you are considering decreasing your dose or stopping gabapentin.
Gabapentin Withdrawal Symptoms
Symptoms of gabapentin withdrawal can often be felt within 12 hours and may continue for up to seven days. Symptoms can include:
- Body or stomach pain
- Heart palpitations
- Muscle twitching
- Light sensitivity
- Restless leg movement
Gabapentin Withdrawal Timeline
While there are limited studies on the subject, gabapentin withdrawal can manifest within 12 hours and continue for up to seven days. While there are no specific treatments for gabapentin withdrawal, your doctor may recommend medications based on the symptoms you are experiencing. This can help ease the withdrawal process and avoid more serious symptoms like a return of seizures.
The severity and duration of gabapentin withdrawal depend on many factors, especially how long you have taken this medication and at what dose. If you have taken gabapentin for a longer time or at higher doses, you may be at higher risk for more severe gabapentin withdrawal.
Reasons to Stop Taking Gabapentin
You may want to stop taking gabapentin for a number of reasons. The reasons can vary, but common reasons are that it is not helping, there are unwanted or bothersome side effects, or the medication is only needed for a short time, like in the case of surgery or abuse and addiction.
It’s Not Helping
Depending on why you started this medication, it can take days or weeks to take full effect. If gabapentin is not helping, you may want to talk to your doctor about discontinuing taking it and switching to a different medication.
Unwanted Side Effects
For some people, gabapentin can cause unwanted side effects. Typically, these side effects lessen until they go away. If they persist or are bothersome, make sure to speak with your healthcare provider. Most commonly, gabapentin can cause drowsiness and dizziness, or uncontrolled eye movements or seizures in rarer, more serious cases.
Before and After Surgery
Gabapentin is frequently used in the perioperative period, which is the time before and after surgery. It is often thought that utilizing a variety of pain medicines that work in different ways to prevent and treat pain may minimize the number of opioids needed. This is referred to as “multi-modal pain management.” Typically, this would be for a short time after surgery.
You’re Feeling Better
If you are feeling better, you may want to stop taking gabapentin. However, depending on why you are on this medication, your doctor may recommend that you continue taking it. For example, if prescribed to prevent seizures or for nerve pain, you may be feeling well because gabapentin is managing these conditions. It is important to always discuss medication changes with your healthcare provider.
Alcohol and Opioid Interactions
Gabapentin is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, similar to alcohol and opioids. If gabapentin is taken with either or both of these, the likelihood of severe symptoms is higher. This combination can result in impaired judgment, thinking, motor skills or concentration. It is important to always take gabapentin as prescribed.
Abuse and Addiction
Several studies have demonstrated that gabapentin has the potential for misuse and abuse. There is an estimated overall 1.1% rate of gabapentin misuse in the general population, and only 13.1% of those using this medication are doing so as prescribed. This implies that there may be a higher likelihood of gabapentin abuse than previously reported.
While gabapentin is a non-controlled medication, some states have begun reporting it similarly to opioids and other controlled medications.
We are here when you are ready.
Speak with a Recovery Advocate today to talk about your treatment options.
How to Stop Taking Gabapentin
If you are considering stopping gabapentin use, it is important to first discuss with your healthcare provider. There may be other options or alternatives to gabapentin, depending on your situation. It is also important to fully discuss the process of stopping gabapentin, as the timeline for stopping can change depending on how much of the medication you take and for how long you have been on it.
In general, the safest way to stop taking gabapentin is to slowly taper off of this medication. While there is no agreed-upon or specific dose reduction schedule, talking with your healthcare provider will be the best way to develop a plan for your situation. If you are on a higher dose of gabapentin or have been taking it for a long time, a slower taper may be recommended. There have been reports of specific regimens like twice-weekly reductions of 10–25% of the original dose or reductions of 200 to 300 mg over three to seven days which seemed well-tolerated.
According to the package insert, a possible taper schedule might look like:
- Day 1: Starting dose of 2400 mg
- Day 2: 1800 mg
- Day 3: 1200 mg
- Day 4: 900 mg
- Day 5: 600 mg
- Day 6: 300 mg
- Day 7: 100 mg
- Day 8: None
Your doctor may recommend tapering your dose down more slowly than this example, depending on your specific situation.
For some patients, gabapentin detox is a process that can happen at home. However, for others, gabapentin detox is most effective in a treatment facility. There are some case reports of gabapentin withdrawal lasting up to seven days. This timeline can also be altered if other drugs or alcohol are often taken with gabapentin.
In a medical detox treatment facility, you will be monitored closely throughout the detox process to ensure symptoms of withdrawal are managed. Treatment facilities also provide the necessary resources to foster success, like counseling and other therapies.
Drug Detox in West Palm Beach
If you or a loved one are struggling with gabapentin misuse or addiction, The Recovery Village at Baptist Health can help. Our team of licensed, experienced professionals create personalized, evidence-based treatment plans designed around your needs and situation. Our full continuum of care includes medical detox, inpatient, partial hospitalization, outpatient and aftercare programs. Contact us today to begin your journey to a healthier life in recovery.
Kochhar, Anjali, et al. “Gabapentinoids as a Part of Multi-modal Drug Regime for Pain Relief following Laproscopic Cholecystectomy: A Randomized Study.” Anesthesia, Essays and Researches, July 2017. Accessed March 24, 2022.
Mersfelder, Tracey L. and Nichols, William H. “Gabapentin: Abuse, Dependence, and Withdrawal.” Annals of Pharmacotherapy, December 31, 2015. Accessed March 24, 2022.
Pfizer. “Nurontin Package Insert.” Updated October 2017. Accessed March 24, 2022.
Drugs.com. “Gabapentin Monograph for Professionals.” December 3, 2020. Accessed March 22, 2022.
ARUP Laboratories. “Drug Plasma Half-Life and Urine Detection Window.” October 2021. Accessed March 22, 2022.
Drugs.com. “How long does gabapentin withdrawal last?” November 13, 2020. Accessed March 24, 2022.