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How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Your System? Cocaine Metabolism, Half-Life, and Detection Times

Cocaine is an addictive stimulant drug derived from the leaves of the coca plant.1 Cocaine typically comes in a fine white powder that can be snorted through the nose, rubbed into the gums, or injected into the bloodstream. Another popular route of use is smoking cocaine which has been processed to make a rock crystal known as “crack.”1 Due to its high potential for misuse, cocaine is classified as a Schedule II drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).1

Some people who use or have used cocaine may be concerned about how long cocaine will stay in their system. Others may be concerned about how long cocaine shows up on drug tests. While not failing the drug test may be your immediate cause for concern, there are several risks you should be concerned about if you are using this drug or are struggling with cocaine addiction.

This blog will help you learn about:

  • How long cocaine can stay in your system.
  • Risk of cocaine use.
  • How to get help if you’re struggling with cocaine misuse.

The Immediate Effects

Cocaine increases levels of dopamine in areas of the brain that control movement and reward. A buildup of dopamine can lead to the euphoric effects of cocaine, and strongly reinforces drug-taking behaviors.1

Short-term effects can include:1, 2

  • Euphoria.
  • Extreme energy.
  • Increased talkativeness.
  • Increased body temperature.
  • Increased sensitivity to light, sound, and touch.
  • Irritability.
  • Paranoia.
  • Restlessness.
  • Tremors.
  • Unpredictable behavior.

The effects of cocaine appear right away and disappear within a few minutes to 1 hour. However, how long the effects last and how intense the effects depend on the route of use.1 For example, people who inject or smoke cocaine experience a stronger but shorter-lasting high than people who snort the drug.1, 3

Once the effects have worn off, traces of the drug remain as the body takes time to break down and metabolize cocaine.

Cocaine Metabolism & Half-Life

Cocaine is metabolized largely by enzymes in the blood and liver, and benzoylecgonine is the major metabolite of cocaine found in the urine.4 Depending on the amount taken, how frequently it is used, and metabolic variation, benzoylecgonine can be detected in urine for 48-96 hours after use.4 The plasma half-life is the amount of time it takes for the concentration of the drug in the blood to be reduced by half. Urine half-life is the time it takes for the drug concentration in the urine to be reduced by half.5

One study found the average half-lives for cocaine to be as follows:6

  • Plasma elimination = 1.5 hours.
  • Saliva elimination = 1.2 hours.
  • Urine elimination = 4.1 hours.

The study also estimated that cocaine’s metabolites (the breakdown products of cocaine) have a half-life ranging from 14.6-52.4 hours.6 This study suggested that chronic use of cocaine leads to a buildup of cocaine in the body, which increases the amount of time that the drug itself and the metabolites of cocaine stay in your system.6

How Long Is Cocaine Detectable on a Drug Test?

The amount of time that cocaine is detectable in the body depends on several factors, such as how long a person has been using, how much they use, and the type of detection method. Cocaine may be detected in several ways, each of which has varying typical detection duration times after the last use of the drug:7

  1. Blood: Cocaine in blood tests may be detectable for up to 12 hours and 48 hours for metabolites.
  2. Hair: Hair follicle tests may detect cocaine use from months back.
  3. Saliva: Detection of metabolite or cocaine in the saliva may be 1-2 days.
  4. Sweat: Detection of cocaine in sweat patch drug tests may date back a few weeks for cocaine or metabolites.
  5. Urine: Detection of cocaine in urine tests may be 2-3 days for metabolites or up to 2 weeks for heavy cocaine users.

Urine tests are a commonly used testing method because they are non-invasive and can detect trace amounts of cocaine. Blood and saliva drug tests tend to have the shortest detection times, while hair drug tests have the longest. Less well-known, sweat patch drug tests will have someone wear a bandage on their skin for several days and test for the presence of the drug or its metabolites as people sweat out the cocaine.

While there are several claims about how to cheat a drug test for cocaine online including drinking certain substances to flush out your system or using synthetic urine, many drug tests will still be able to detect this activity.7 There is always a chance for false positives in drug tests, but they are rare when it comes to detecting cocaine metabolites.

What Factors Impact How Long Cocaine Stays in Your System?

Along with the type of drug test, several other factors can impact how long it takes cocaine to leave your system and be completely metabolized. Some factors that impact how fast cocaine is metabolized can include:8

  • How long someone has been using cocaine.
  • How much cocaine was ingested.
  • The time cocaine was last taken.
  • Body mass.
  • The pH of urine.
  • Kidney and liver health.
  • The route of administration.
  • Alcohol use.

Long-Term Dangers

While trying to determine how long cocaine stays in your system for a drug test may be your immediate concern, there are several negative long-term effects of crack cocaine and cocaine to be aware of. Especially since it takes time to metabolize cocaine, with regular use these toxins can start to take their toll on your body.

Some long-term effects on the body may include:1

  • Asthma.
  • Bowel decay.
  • Collapsed veins.
  • Increased risk of infections like pneumonia.
  • Respiratory distress or lung problems.
  • Skin infections.

Along with the many potential physical health risks, regular cocaine use can also lead to other problems related to finances, mental health, relationships, and the law. If you are using cocaine, get help before these problems develop or escalate.

Getting Help 

If you or someone you care about is struggling with cocaine use, it may be time to seek professional help. While knowing how long cocaine can be detected in your system could keep you from failing an upcoming drug test, there are greater dangers at play if you are using cocaine.

Recreational cocaine use can lead to addiction and spiral out of control. Professional treatment can help you avoid the long-term effects on your health and the secondary consequences that can come with cocaine use, such as trouble with finances, relationships, and work. There are several cocaine addiction treatment programs designed to help people safely detox and learn how to live life without substances. Treatment approaches can also include a variety of behavioral therapies as well as community-based recovery groups.

Getting help for cocaine misuse or addiction is the first step on the path to recovery. You can contact us to learn about treatment options. You can also fill out the form below to see if your insurance will cover the cost of treatment.


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