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  • How Long Does Ibuprofen Stay in Your System? Here’s What You Need To Know

How Long Does Ibuprofen Stay in Your System? Here’s What You Need To Know

Last Medical Reviewer On: January 8, 2024
Updated On: Jan 8, 2024
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Written by:

Amanda Stevens, B.S.

Medical Review by:

Dr. Po Chang Hsu MD, MS

How Long Does Ibuprofen Stay in Your System
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    What you will learn
    • Ibuprofen is an NSAID that treats inflammation, pain, and fever.
    • The safe dosing rate for pain is 400 mg every six hours.
    • Ibuprofen isn’t physically addictive but could be psychologically addictive.
    • Chronic Ibuprofen use has serious consequences.
    • Ibuprofen use is not recommended during pregnancy, especially in the third trimester, but should be discussed with a healthcare provider.

    A regular 400mg dose of Ibuprofen will be eliminated from your system in about 10-24 hours. It’s not habit-forming, so there is a low potential to develop painkiller addiction. But, some people can become psychologically addicted to Ibuprofen.

    Chronic Ibuprofen use can damage your stomach lining and kidney function. Use with caution.

    What Is Ibuprofen?

    Ibuprofen is an over-the-counter NSAID (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug) designed to treat pain, fever, and inflammation. Despite being initially tested as a hangover treatment, it’s been marketed as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis in the United Kingdom since 1969 and in the United States since 1974.

    Even though it’s an over-the-counter drug, US doctors still formally prescribe it as an Rx medication to the tune of 16.5 million prescriptions per year. That means that, in all likelihood, there are hundreds of millions of doses of Ibuprofen taken every year in America alone. Some quick facts:

    It comes in liquid, tablet, and capsule form, with flavored versions for children.
    Common brand names include Advil and Motrin.
    Dosing happens orally.

    How Does Ibuprofen Work?

    Ibuprofen works by inhibiting prostaglandin production in the body.

    It reversibly binds to COX receptors on prostaglandin synthase, thereby preventing arachidonic acid from binding to these sites.[1] Without converting arachidonic acid into prostaglandins, the subjective sensation of pain is greatly diminished.

    Prostaglandin compounds play a role in sensitizing pain-sensing nerve fibers, which explains the pain-relieving effect of Ibuprofen.[2] You’ve felt the physical manifestations of prostaglandins before, such as inflammation, redness, swelling, and pain at the site of an infection.

    Ibuprofen also works on the thermoregulatory center of the hypothalamus to control fever.[3]

    How Long Does Ibuprofen Stay In Your System?

    Ibuprofen comes and goes rather quickly. The half-life of a drug is how long it takes for 50% of the substance to be eliminated from your body. It takes 4 to 5 successive elimination half-lives for a substance to be eliminated from your body entirely. Ibuprofen has a short half-life: Just 1.8 to 2 hours.

    How Long Do The Pain Relief Effects of Ibuprofen Last for Adults?

    Here are some of the adult Ibuprofen dosing guidelines:[4]

    Reason

    Dose 

    Half-Life

    Pain Relief Timeline

    Pain 1 tablet (200mg) 2 hours Every 4-6 hours
    Pain 1 tablet (400mg) 2 hours Every 4-6 hours
    Arthritis 1 tablet (600mg) 2 hours Every 6 hours
    Menstrual Cramps 1-2 tablets (200mg) 2 hours Every 4 hours

    What Could Alter The Timeline For Ibuprofen In Your System?

    The timeline for Ibuprofen being eliminated from your system depends on the time since your last dose, the potency of your last dose, and the frequency of your dosing. Ibuprofen has a short half-life. It leaves your system quickly.

    Does Ibuprofen Show Up On A Drug Test?

    Weak, unsubstantiated research has suggested Ibuprofen can create false positives on drug tests for other drugs.

    Ibuprofen has been anecdotally documented to have a very small chance of causing false-positive tests for barbiturate, cannabinoid, and even PCP levels.[5]

    Drug tests do not isolate ibuprofen but rather could confuse it for illicit drugs. Make sure you give full disclosure to the collection agency before giving a sample.

    Is Ibuprofen Addictive?

    Is Ibuprofen Addictive?

    Ibuprofen does NOT have a high potential for physical addiction.

    It’s not a stimulant or depressant. While it’s not habit-forming, a person could theoretically become psychologically addicted to Ibuprofen. That person may credit the subjective endurance of chronic pain to the administration of Ibuprofen.

    While not a perfect comparison, a diary study on thousands of Ibuprofen users found that 11% exceeded their daily limit (EDL). Personal characteristics correlated with EDL included:[6]

    • Male sex
    • Ongoing pain
    • Poor physical function
    • Daily smoking
    • Having the attitude of “choosing my own dose”
    • Not starting with the lowest dose
    • Lack of knowledge about “one-time” and “24-hour doses”

    Side Effects of Ibuprofen Misuse

    Taking too much short-term Ibuprofen can generate some quickly presenting symptoms. Some short-term Ibuprofen misuse symptoms include:[7]

    • Headache
    • Dizziness
    • Fatigue and disrupted sleep
    • Thirst and sweating
    • Tingling or numbness sensation in hands or feet
    • Ringing in the ears
    • Blurred vision and eye irritation
    • Swelling of the face or limbs
    • Abdominal pain
    • Nausea, vomiting
    • Heartburn
    • Diarrhea or constipation
    • Bladder irritation and pain, frequent urination

    Health Risks of Long-Term Ibuprofen Misuse

    The long-term effects of Ibuprofen misuse stem from the inhibition of prostaglandins. In the short term, prostaglandins do cause discomfort in the form of inflammation, pain, and fever.

    Adverse effects associated with chronic Ibuprofen use stem from prostaglandins’ important roles, including maintaining gastric mucosal (stomach lining) integrity and renal (kidney) blood flow.[8] Some long-term Ibuprofen misuse symptoms include:[9]

    • Anemia due to bleeding in the stomach (fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, etc)
    • Impaired hearing ability
    • Kidney and liver damage from constant filtering
    • Bleeding in the stomach and bowels
    • Increased risk of heart attack

    Substance Use Disorder Treatment

    While NSAIDs like Ibuprofen are not commonly associated with Substance Use Disorder (SUD) in the way that opioids or other controlled substances are, misuse or psychological dependency may still warrant professional help. Since it’s not habit-forming, there won’t be a withdrawal period. But, there will likely be underlying psychological issues that need to be addressed.

    If you have developed a dependence or are misusing Ibuprofen, seek professional help. If you or a loved one are experiencing mental health concerns in addition to substance misuse, the symptoms from each often exacerbate the other and accelerate the vicious cycle of relapse and addiction. Ensure your treatment program is equipped to treat co-occurring disorders with holistic interventions.

    Address Your Whole Person With Substance Use and Mental Health Treatment

    Your life is worth fighting for. You have the ability to take control of your health rather than resigning yourself to addiction. Don’t lose hope. Many people are eager to help you get on the road to recovery.

    If you’re misusing Ibuprofen, find a treatment center near you that can create a personalized treatment plan for your needs, your life, and your future.

    Frequently Asked Questions About Ibuprofen and Substance Use Disorder

    Is Ibuprofen a blood thinner?
    Can you take ibuprofen when pregnant?
    Can you overdose on ibuprofen?
    Sources

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