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How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Your System

Estimated reading time: 26 minute(s)

Popularly known as coke, cocaine is a powerful drug with stimulant properties that can quickly result in addiction. Owing to its intense but brief high, millions of people worldwide use it to enjoy the short-lived effects. But have you ever wondered how long does cocaine stay in your system once you have used it?

Cocaine Fast Facts

Before diving into the details of how long cocaine stays in your system, let’s discuss some basic facts regarding cocaine. These interesting and surprising facts can provide insights into what the drug is, how it works, and what to expect. 

Cocaine is a party drug that many people try for the first time in a social setting. This is owing to its euphoric effects that make an individual social and confident. Additionally, the stimulating effects of this drug also speed up the thought process, making a person talkative

Cocaine is highly addictive and can easily result in an overdose characterized by extremely prominent and dangerous side effects. The addictive potential of this drug is dependent on different factors, such as the preferred method of ingestion. Nevertheless, experts agree that even a single use of cocaine can set someone up for a lifetime of psychological and physical dependence.

‘Benzoylmethylecgonine’ is the scientific name for cocaine, and it is categorized as a stimulant. Cocaine has many popular slangs or street names, such as yayo, blow, coke, snow, and 8-ball.

Cocaine has been considered an extremely expensive drug; however, it is now available in more affordable forms. As a central nervous system stimulant, it acts on the brain to produce a short-lived feeling of happiness. These feelings may last from 15 minutes to an hour and usually end up in a crash, characterized by sluggishness and depression.

Cocaine use may lead to several side effects, such as loss of body weight and appetite, agitation, sexual impotence, reproductive damage, seizures, and convulsions. In some people, it may damage sperm and induce birth defects in growing babies if used by pregnant females.

How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Your Body?

Cocaine is believed to have a half-life of approximately one hour. This means that the body successfully metabolizes half of its initial dose within one hour of consumption. Within the next few days, it completely metabolizes all of the drugs to the point that it no longer remains in the system. Other sources; however, believe that cocaine has a much longer initial half-life which may last up to a few hours.

The time it takes for the body to eliminate cocaine from the system depends on several factors. These factors include the size of the dose, the metabolic speed of a user, and whether the user is taking it for the first time or is a habitual consumer of cocaine. Similarly, the mechanism of ingestion also matters when measuring the time cocaine may stay in the system. For instance, topical cocaine varieties have shorter half-lives than other methods of ingestion, like snorting. [1]

The half-life of cocaine plays a crucial role in determining how quickly an individual stops feeling high or starts experiencing withdrawal symptoms. People new to this drug may find that the associated high weakens within a couple of hours, while habitual users may begin to feel a withdrawal within a much lesser time frame. The type of drug test a person uses to detect cocaine levels in the system also influences the results. 

There are different tests to check cocaine levels in the body and each comes with a different cutoff value. Some of these tests include the following:

Cocaine Urine Test

Urine tests can detect cocaine and its chief metabolite called benzoylecgonine. Using this test, it is possible to test for this drug for up to 2 days following the last dose. Remember that factors like large doses, prolonged use, or the use of pure forms of cocaine may increase the detection window.

Blood Cocaine Test

A blood cocaine test detects cocaine and its metabolite in blood plasma. With the shortest detection window, it can only confirm cocaine use for up to 7 hours following the last dose. This type of test is; therefore, used to measure if a person is currently under the influence of cocaine instead of checking if they have recently used it.

Hair Cocaine Test

Hair can store the metabolites of cocaine for the longest time, primarily because the body does not get rid of hair so quickly. Instead, the hair strands keep growing, making it easier to pick up any cocaine use even months after using it. Evidence suggests that cocaine use can be picked up through a hair test even after six months of using it. [2] However, this test is costly and may take up to 10 days to provide results.

Hair test for cocaine is controversial at the moment due to specific reliability issues. For example, people with shorter hair or those who get a haircut more often may have a shorter positive testing window as they may cut some portions of hair which would otherwise test positive. It is also possible for hair to get contaminated by cocaine through direct exposure even if someone hasn’t used it.

Saliva Cocaine Test

Wondering how long does cocaine stay in your saliva? The simplest answer is up to 48 hours after the last dose. Remember that an individual’s metabolism and the quantity and purity of cocaine can alter this time frame.

What Factors Determine Cocaine Detection Timelines?

As per the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association, cocaine can stay in a person’s body for between 2 to 10 days. However, keep in mind that this is a general window, and the exact amount of time this drug lingers in the system can vary. Several factors can affect this time window, such as:

Type of Test

Different types of tests determine the presence of cocaine in a system. These tests typically work by detecting the levels of metabolites, the byproducts produced as the body breaks down cocaine. Because some of these metabolites stay in the body longer than others, the detection window for this drug will depend on the type of drug test and the type of metabolite it is testing for.

Dosage

The more cocaine an individual uses, the longer it will stay in the system.

Frequency of Use

People who use cocaine more often than others tend to have a longer detection window.

Way of Use

People who snort cocaine or prefer it gummed will have a longer detection window than those who inject or smoke it.

Purity of Drug

Most batches of cocaine are impure and usually contain many contaminants and other substances. Its level of purity also impacts how long it stays inside the body.

Individual Body Composition

Most drug tests for detecting cocaine in the body look for a certain metabolite of this drug called benzoylecgonine. This metabolite often enters the fatty tissues of the body and persists in detectable quantities for a long time. So people who have a higher body fat content will automatically have more quantities of this metabolite in their system, making it easier to show up on drug tests.

Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol forces particular metabolites of cocaine to stick around in the system for longer. Hence, people who routinely combine cocaine with alcohol may have this drug in their systems for a longer time than usual.

How to Get Cocaine Out of the System: The Role of Detoxification

The only way to get cocaine out of the system is through detoxification. This process is beneficial for people who are battling substance abuse and wish to take back control of their life. A detox typically takes place in a medically-supervised environment with the help of adequately trained medical professionals, detox specialists, and nursing staff.

Going through a cocaine detox can be relatively unpleasant. Hence, it is always a good idea to join a professional treatment center to ensure safety and comfort combined with the best chances of success. Many people who attempt to detox to get cocaine out of their system end up developing withdrawal symptoms, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Exhaustion
  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Strong cravings
  • Nausea
  • Shivering and sweating

Fortunately, a good detox center is well-equipped to fight all these side effects while keeping an individual comfortable and safe with minimal chances of a relapse. By the end of a detox process, most people come out clean with no traces of cocaine in their systems.

FAQs

How long does it take to feel the effects of cocaine?

Cocaine is a rapid-acting central nervous system stimulant that produces an intense euphoric high that is typically short-lived. The effects of cocaine may take a few minutes to an hour to kick in and may persist for different periods depending on the method of ingestion:

  • Snorting cocaine triggers euphoria within 3 to 5 minutes and the effects last for up to 20 minutes
  • Smoking cocaine triggers euphoria within 5 to 10 seconds, and the effects last for up to 20 minutes
  • Intravenous use of cocaine triggers euphoria within 5 to 10 seconds, and the effects last for up to 20 minutes
  • Consuming cocaine orally triggers euphoria within 10 to 30 minutes, and the effects last for up to 90 minutes

Is there any way to get cocaine out of my system faster?

While the internet is full of faulty remedies and tricks to get cocaine out of the system faster than usual, none of them hold any evidence to back it up. Experts encourage users to stay hydrated and drink water to slightly speed up the rate at which the body expels this drug; however, doing so does not guarantee a difference.

How long does cocaine stay in your urine?

For most people, cocaine may stay in urine for up to 2 days. However, remember that factors like urine pH levels, dosage and frequency of use, body mass, and the presence of kidney or liver disease may influence this time window.

References

[1] Richards, J. R., & Laurin, E. G. (2021). Cocaine. In StatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing.

[2] Jeromel, L., Ogrinc, N., Siketić, Z., Vavpetič, P., Rupnik, Z., Bučar, K., … & Pelicon, P. (2022). Molecular imaging of human hair with MeV-SIMS: A case study of cocaine detection and distribution in the hair of a cocaine user. PloS one, 17(3), e0263338.

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