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How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Your System?

Cocaine stays in your system for about a day after use, though its effects are only felt for 15 to 60 minutes, on average. Cocaine’s metabolites can be detected in urine for up to four days.

Cocaine Information

People use cocaine for its stimulant effects.

In 2014, among people ages 12 and older in the U.S., approximately 1.5 million used cocaine within the past month, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. While this drug has very limited medical use, almost all use in the U.S. is illicit.

Cocaine is made using coca plant leaves which is a plant found in South America.

People turn the drug into a powder and may stretch how much they have by mixing it with talcum powder, cornstarch, or flour. In some cases, it is mixed with other drugs like fentanyl and amphetamines, amplifying the intensity of a batch and increasing the risks.

Crack cocaine comes in the form of rocks. People who make crack use baking soda to create this hardened form of the drug. Crack is generally smoked, and it is considered the most addictive type of cocaine.

When someone takes cocaine, the following short-term effects are possible:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Circulatory system and heart stress
  • Euphoria
  • Impotence
  • Irritability
  • Blood vessel constriction
  • High blood pressure, temperature, and heart rate
  • Increased alertness and energy
  • Reduced appetite
  • Insomnia and restlessness
  • Paranoia and anxiety

With continued use, the following long-term effects can occur:

  • Seizures and convulsions
  • Stroke
  • Nasal septum damage
  • Tactile and auditory hallucinations
  • Infertility and reproductive damage
  • Headaches
  • Heart attack and heart disease
  • Lung disease and damage
  • Mood disturbances and irritability
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Sudden death

How People Use Cocaine

People may rub the powder into their gums, snort the powder, or dissolve it for injection. In some cases, cocaine is mixed with heroin for a speedball. People can also smoke cocaine, most often in the form of crack.

When people use cocaine, they often do so in binges, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. They take multiple doses in a short time. They may also increase the doses with the goal of maintaining their cocaine high. 

When someone liquefies and injects cocaine, it gets into the bloodstream faster. This can result in more intense effects.

Smoking the crack form of cocaine results in the effects happening almost as rapidly. As the lungs absorb the vapors from the smoke, the effects hit the brain within seconds.

Cocaine Detox

Since cocaine is excreted from the body so rapidly, people may start to experience detox within a few hours. The acute symptoms may last for up to 10 days. 

However, it is possible for people to experience symptoms for several weeks or months if they develop post-acute withdrawal syndrome. In some cases, this syndrome persists for up to two years. 

The following are possible symptoms of cocaine detox:

  • Depression, anxiety, and sadness
  • Reduced energy
  • Mental fogginess
  • No interest in sex
  • Aggression, hostility, and irritability
  • Severe mood swings
  • Insomnia or fatigue
  • Limited focus
  • Chronic pain

Withdrawal Symptoms

When someone starts to experience withdrawal from cocaine, certain symptoms can occur.

  • Depressed mood
  • General feeling of discomfort
  • Unpleasant and vivid dreams
  • Restless behavior and agitation
  • Fatigue
  • Increased appetite
  • Overall slowing of activity

When someone heavily uses cocaine for a long time, depression and cravings may persist for several months. In some cases, suicidal thoughts are possible when someone is withdrawing from this drug after chronic use. 

The severity of symptoms would depend on multiple factors, such as a history of cocaine use, if the person used other drugs with cocaine, their size, and the purity of the cocaine they used regularly.

How Long Cocaine Stays in the System

When someone is tested for cocaine, they may need to provide a urine, blood, saliva, or hair sample. To pass a drug test, cocaine users must know how long the drug usually remains in the system. 

The half-life of this drug is six hours, according to Mayo Clinic Laboratories. However, benzoylecgonine, the major metabolite of cocaine, has a half-life of 12 hours. 

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Half-life is the time it takes for the concentration of a particular drug to be reduced by half. Since cocaine has a half-life of six hours, it can be detected on urine tests for about 24 hours. Benzoylecgonine can be detected for up to four days on urine tests due to its 12-hour half-life. In some cases, it is possible to detect the metabolite for up to 30 days. This is typically seen in people who are very heavy cocaine users. 

The following are the average detection times for other samples:

  • Cocaine may be detectable in saliva for up to 10 days.
  • Cocaine may be detectable in hair for up to 90 days.
  • Cocaine may be detectable in blood for up to 24 hours.

At the longer ends of the detection windows, it is usually benzoylecgonine that is being detected by the test.

When people are drinking along with cocaine use, they are creating a substance referred to as cocaethylene. The half-life of this chemical is about 2.5 hours. When people get tested for cocaine, the test often also looks for this chemical, so drinking with cocaine can increase the risk of a positive cocaine screening.

While most cocaine tests are relatively accurate, there is the potential for a false positive. The following may cause a false positive test result for cocaine:

  • Amoxicillin
  • Liver
  • Diabetes
  • Topical anesthetics that are derived from cocaine
  • Kidney disease
  • Ingesting coca, such as in the form of a brewed tea

Certain antihistamine and decongestant drugs may also cause a false positive for cocaine. Examples include brompheniramine, ephedrine nasal inhalers, and promethazine. 

Certain factors that may cause benzoylecgonine to stay in the body longer.

  • Someone who is overweight may test positive longer since this metabolite is stored in fatty tissue.
  • Since water increases cocaine metabolite speed, hydration plays a role.
  • The more cocaine someone uses, the longer excretion will take.
  • When people are active, it can enhance their metabolism to increase excretion of cocaine and its metabolites.
  • Drinking a lot of caffeine can decrease the speed at which the body excretes cocaine

Use of cocaine is dangerous even when someone only uses it occasionally. Any use can result in overdose.

SOURCES

Cocaine. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-scope-cocaine-use-in-united-states

(July 2018) What is Cocaine? National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/cocaine

Cocaine. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/how-cocaine-abused

Cocaine Withdrawal. MedlinePlus. Retrieved February 2019 from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000947.htm

(November 2018) What to Expect from Cocaine Withdrawal. Verywell Health. Retrieve February 2019 from https://www.verywellmind.com/what-to-expect-from-cocaine-withdrawal-21990

(November 2018) Why Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) Can Be a Barrier to Recovery. Verywell Health. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-post-acute-withdrawal-syndrome-22104

Cocaine and Metabolite Confirmation, Urine. Mayo Clinic Laboratories. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.mayocliniclabs.com/test-catalog/Clinical+and+Interpretive/9286

(November 2018) How Long Cocaine Stays in Your System? Verywell Health. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.verywellmind.com/how-long-does-cocaine-stay-in-your-system-80231

(2017) Cocaethylene, the In Vivo Product of Cocaine and Ethanol, is a Narcotic More Potent Than Its Precursors. Acta Crystallographica Section C. Retrieved February 2019 from http://scripts.iucr.org/cgi-bin/paper?S2053229617012852

Tested Positive for Cocaine, but Never Touched the Stuff. Columbia University. Retrieved February 2019 from https://goaskalice.columbia.edu/answered-questions/tested-positive-cocaine-never-touched-stuff

(October 2018) Cocaine. Drugs.com. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.drugs.com/illicit/cocaine.html

Short-Term Effects of Cocaine Use. In the Know Zone. Retrieved February 2019 from http://www.intheknowzone.com/substance-abuse-topics/cocaine/short-term-effects.html

Cocaine (Powder). Center for Substance Abuse Research. Retrieved February 2019 from http://www.cesar.umd.edu/cesar/drugs/cocaine.asp

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