How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Your System?


How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Your System?

As a fast-acting stimulant, cocaine does not remain in the body much longer than the high it produces. While intense, cocaine stimulation generally only lasts between fifteen minutes to an hour, depending on a combination of factors. Cocaine levels in the blood remain at peak level for an average of around thirty minutes after ingestion, with variations based on the intake of the substance.

While cocaine itself has a short half-life (the time it takes for the drug to leave the body), it does leave metabolites behind after processing. This applies even for those who only consume cocaine once. Drug tests screen for this metabolite, benzoylecgonine, instead of cocaine itself, because it remains in the body for much longer periods of time.

How Long Is Cocaine Detectable Through Urine?

Urine is the most common method of testing for cocaine use and traces of benzoylecgonine. For someone who has only used the drug once, urine testing can still find traces for up to 2-4 days after use. As benzoylecgonine builds up over time, chronic and binge users will still have traces of cocaine in their urine for up to two weeks. In the most extreme cases of high dosages and substance purity in combination with other factors, it’s possible to find metabolites after up to three weeks of abstinence.

How Long Is Cocaine Detectable Through Blood?

Another option for cocaine testing is through the blood. However, this period is nowhere near as long as urine testing. These traces can last between 12 and 48 hours, though the average length is about a day. Blood testing is more likely in situations of potential acute cocaine intoxication to detect the potential risk to the user, rather than to determine if they have ingested cocaine or not.

How Long Is Cocaine Detectable Through Saliva?

The short half-life of cocaine also means that cocaine metabolites don’t last long in saliva. Just like with blood, the timeline for saliva falls between 12 and 48 hours.

How Long Is Cocaine Detectable Through Sweat?

While not the most common form of testing, benzoylecgonines are detectable in perspiration for up to several weeks. Cocaine shares this trait with several other substances.

How Long Is Cocaine Detectable Through Hair?

Hair follicle tests can also detect metabolites in the body. For cocaine, such testing is capable of finding traces of benzoylecgonines for up to 90 days after last use. For heavy and chronic users, traces of cocaine may even last for years in the hair.

Despite the longer length of detection through hair, urine tests are the most preferable methods for medical and legal purposes. This is because the testing procedures for hair are more complex and can have skewed results. However, it is important to keep in mind, as noted by the

Department of Health and Human Services , that “drug tests cannot measure frequency of use, nor do they indicate the severity of impairment or whether an individual has a substance use disorder that requires treatment.” As such, drug testing should only be seen as a means of detection, and not of evaluation.

What Factors Affect How Long Cocaine Can Last in the Body?

Since these times are only average amounts, and not set values, there can be some deviation. A person’s body chemistry, history with the drug, and usage habits all affect how much metabolites build up in the body and remain detectable. Higher dosages and greater frequency of use will obviously allow cocaine traces to linger in the system longer. Other contributing factors include:

Drinking alcohol. When alcohol and cocaine combine in your body’s system, they create a different metabolite than benzoylecgonine, known as cocaethylene. Cocaethylene has a much longer half-life than cocaine, lingering in the body for much longer. It is also much more toxic, with the potential to damage the liver and other parts of the body. Combined with the fact that alcohol and cocaine counter each other’s effects, the danger of overdose when using these two substances in tandem is high.

Method of intake. Like other drugs, it is possible to take cocaine in several different ways. These methods play a role in how long it takes for cocaine to enter the system and create a high, which in turn affects the time cocaine exits the system. Smoking and needle injections create near-instantaneous effects, while snorting and oral ingestion can have effects delayed for anywhere from 20 to 90 minutes.

High body weight. Fatty tissues can absorb and store benzoylecgonine, holding the metabolites in the body. Having a higher BMI thus provides more fat to store benzoylecgonine, making traces of cocaine linger for much longer.

Metabolism differences. Everyone has a different rate of metabolism, which affects how quickly our bodies process food and other substances. Body composition, age, other health conditions, and even level of exercise can impact metabolism, in turn impacting the rate of processing cocaine.

Other drinking habits. Insufficient water intake can prevent the body from excreting metabolites, causing benzoylecgonine to hang around longer. Likewise, high levels of caffeine can do the same thing.

The impact of combining cocaine with other drugs may also influence how long it remains in the system, but current studies have left this possibility as inconclusive at present. Marijuana does not seem to impact the half-life of cocaine.

However, while it may not impact the processing of metabolites, mixing cocaine with other drugs has potentially dangerous consequences. Cocaine and other stimulants have the chance to introduce high levels of toxins into the body, while cocaine and depressants have the same high risk of overdosing due to counteracting effects, just as with alcohol.

Seeking Help for Cocaine Abuse and Addiction

While cocaine may not last in the body for as long as other substances can, that is part of what makes it so dangerous. The short-term high encourages further use, which in turn builds up the body’s resistance to the substance. When the same dosage doesn’t bring the same effects, many users quickly turn to higher and more frequent levels of intake. In turn, cocaine’s metabolites last in the body for longer periods, increasing its detection range.

Even with the short window of detection in the body, long-term and heavy cocaine use can drastically affect a user’s health for years to come. Prompt and proper addiction treatment can help prevent these physical and mental effects, enabling a user to live a healthy life post-addiction.