How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Your System?

Cocaine is a fast-acting stimulant drug that increases the activity of the central nervous system (CNS), causing the nerves in the brain and body to communicate at a higher rate. The drug produces a short-lived high - usually around five-to-thirty minutes. This time depends on the method of consumption:

  • Snorting: this method is the most common and typically the slowest acting.
  • Smoking: smoking cocaine allows users to feel its high in about five minutes.
  • Injecting: to inject the substance, the cocaine powder is dissolved in a liquid. Here, users will feel the high around five minutes after injection.

Cocaine is made from the leaves of the cocoa plant, native to South America. People commonly consume the substance recreationally alongside alcohol in social settings or at work to increase their confidence or social skills. The drug has multiple slang names, including; coke, blow, C, crack, snow, dust, flake, bump. rail, pearl, and line, amongst others.

Short-Term Effects of Cocaine

The most common short-term effects of cocaine include:

  • Euphoria
  • Raised heart rate, body temperature, and blood pressure
  • Excitable and chatty behavior
  • Dilated pupils
  • Sense of being very alert and confident
  • Nausea
  • Decreased appetite
  • Restlessness
  • Heightened sexual desire
  • Partaking in risky behavior
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia

Long-Term Effects of Cocaine

Long-term use of cocaine can be seriously damaging to the body and brain, regardless of age and current health. Some of the side effects of substance abuse using cocaine include:

  • Severe weight loss
  • Sexual problems and infertility
  • Mood swings
  • Mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression
  • Skin infections
  • Permanent damage to the heart and brain
  • Damage to or loss of the cartilage that divides the nostrils if cocaine is snorted
  • Respiratory problems or failure if cocaine is smoked
  • Liver damage
  • Vein damage, ulcers, and gangrene (loss of blood supply to body tissue) if cocaine is injected
  • Bowel decay
  • Hallucinations
  • Psychosis
  • Seizures
  • Intense cravings
  • Addiction and dependency on the drug

Cocaine Addiction

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), over 5 million people reported using cocaine over the last 12 months in 2020. Out of these, around one-fifth struggled with cocaine addiction during this same time frame.

Due to the short-acting high of cocaine, people often binge on the drug over short periods of time. This is dangerous as it leads to an increased risk of addiction and overdose. Cocaine addiction is a neurological disorder that affects the reward and decision-making centers of the brain. The complex and powerful condition can take hold of people's lives, causing them to chronically keep partaking in drug abuse despite its negative impacts over many areas of their life.

When cocaine is regularly taken in large quantities users can become dependent on the substance. In this case, users will experience uncomfortable withdrawals if the drug is not taken regularly. Some cocaine withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Intense drug cravings
  • A general feeling of discomfort
  • Agitation and irritability
  • Slowed movement and thought
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Poor concentration
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Increased appetite
  • Vivid and unpleasant dreams
  • Disrupted sleeping patterns
  • Paranoia

How is Cocaine Metabolized in the Body?

Everything that a human consumes, the body tries to metabolize or break down - this is how we extract nutrients and energy from food and eliminate harmful substances. Each person's metabolic rate varies due to a number of factors such as:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Muscle-to-fat ratio
  • Amount of physical activity they partake in
  • Hormone function

Cocaine metabolism mainly occurs in the liver and the blood plasma, where enzymes convert the substance to various metabolites before being excreted. The most prominent metabolite found in urine is benzoylecgonine.

How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Your System?

Cocaine Half-Live

The half-life of a drug is the time it takes for half of its concentration to be reduced to half. Both the cocaine itself and its metabolites have half-lives, and these are what determine the amount of time they can be detected in a drug test. On average, cocaine stays in the system for around 7.5 hours after being taken, with benzoylecgonine needing one to two days before being diminished.

Factors That Impact How Long Cocaine Stays in the System

"How long does cocaine stay in your system?" is not a straightforward question to answer due to a number of variables that influence the time frame of metabolization. These include:

  • Metabolic rate
  • The amount of substance taken: this makes a difference to the amount of time both cocaine and its metabolites take to be removed from a person's system.
  • The length of time of cocaine use: chronic cocaine abuse increases the amount of time that cocaine stays in a person's body.
  • The method of administration
  • If multiple drugs have been taken: the simultaneous consumption of cocaine and other drugs causes them to be eliminated from the body at a varied rate and can cause different levels of harm to the body. Drinking alcohol and taking cocaine simultaneously produces the metabolite cocaethylene which stays in the body for a significantly longer time and is linked to a higher risk of a fatal overdose.
  • Body mass: the larger the body mass, the longer it takes for cocaine to be eliminated.
  • Kidney and liver health: if the function of these organs is impaired then cocaine is removed from the body at a slower rate.

Testing for Cocaine

There are a few ways cocaine can be detected via a drug test. As benzoylecgonine has a much longer half-life than cocaine itself, it is this substance that is usually targeted in the tests. Each method has a different detection window due to the different speeds that cocaine is metabolized in the saliva, blood plasma, and urine. These are the rates it takes for half of the drug concentration in these bodily fluids to be reduced by half.

While the large majority of the time a drug test for cocaine will bring back accurate results, there is a chance of false positives. If you think you have gotten a false positive result, you may be able to request another test.

Saliva Test

The saliva half-life of cocaine is 1.2 hours, with its detection window via saliva tests being 1-3 days. Saliva tests are convenient to administer and can bring back rapid results, though the short time frame of detection and their high cost are some of the downsides of this method.

Urine Test

Cocaine has a urine half-life of 4.1 hours on average and the substance can be detected in a urine test up to 48-96 hours after use. However, for some heavy drug users, the substance can be detected up to two weeks from their last time using it.

This method of testing is the most commonly used to assess cocaine use, due to its non-invasive nature, high sensitivity, and longer detection window compared to other methods.

Blood Test

The average blood plasma half-life is around 1.5 hours, though users can test positive for its metabolites from 7.5-48 hours after consumption. This method of cocaine test is not commonly used to detect cocaine metabolites as it is invasive, expensive, time-consuming, and has a short window of detection from the last use.

Sweat Test

Sweat patch drug tests can detect cocaine and its metabolites weeks after the drug has been taken. This lesser-known test works by asking the individual being tested to wear a bandage for multiple days. After this time, the sweat collected by the material is tested for any remnants of drug use.

Hair Follicle Test

As hair follicles do not regularly divide and refresh like many other bodily structures, they can hold onto molecules of cocaine for a long time after use. A hair sample will be able to detect cocaine use months after it happened, though it is expensive so not commonly used.

Breast-Milk Test

It is possible to test for cocaine via breast milk up to 36 hours after the most recent use of the drug. Even very small amounts of cocaine exposure for infants can be extremely dangerous, so the drug should never be used by breastfeeding mothers.

Cocaine Addiction Treatment Options

If you are asking "how long does cocaine stay in your system?" in order to pass a drug test, it is possible that you need addiction treatment for the substance. This can seem daunting, though addiction is a progressive disease - meaning it keeps getting more intense over time - and receiving expert professional guidance is essential to overcoming the mental health disorder.

The first step when approaching cocaine use disorder is medical detox. During this process, licensed medical professionals will offer around-the-clock care to assist in quitting the substance as safely and successfully as possible.

Once this initial stage has been completed, entering a rehabilitation center is advised. Here, inpatients will receive therapy sessions, receive professional medical advice, gain a sense of routine and live a healthy lifestyle. Many people find it useful to create these new behavior patterns in a setting away from where their drug-taking took place.

Continued support is needed after leaving an addiction center. This can come in the form of further individual therapy sessions, support groups, family therapy, or online forums depending on each individual.

Contact Us

Fortunately, you do not have to face substance use disorder alone. The experienced and compassionate team at Vita Recovery is here to make this process easier and help you beat addiction to get control over your life again. We offer both in- and outpatient programs at our world-class facility in Miami and customize your program to suit your personal needs.

Contact us today to find out more about how we can help you stop taking cocaine and start your journey to recovery.

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