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.
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:
With continued use, the following long-term effects can occur:
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.
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.
When someone starts to experience withdrawal from cocaine, certain symptoms can occur.
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.
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.
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:
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:
Certain antihistamine and decongestant drugs may also cause a false positive for cocaine. Examples include brompheniramine, ephedrine nasal inhalers, and promethazine.
Use of cocaine is dangerous even when someone only uses it occasionally. Any use can result in overdose.
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