Cocaine, a highly addictive stimulant, is a commonly abused drug in the United States. Many people are attracted to cocaine for the quick, euphoric high the drug provides. This high, however, is also relatively short. Users typically begin to feel the effects of cocaine within minutes, and depending on how the drug is ingested, may continue to feel this high anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour.
Once this fast-acting high wears off though, that does not mean the cocaine has completely left the body. In fact, depending on certain factors, cocaine can stay in your system anywhere from 1 – 4 days and possibly even longer if used chronically or in large doses. Once cocaine has left the system, certain drug tests may still be able to detect cocaine usage for up to 90 days and sometimes even a year.
If there’s a concern that you or a loved one may be struggling with cocaine abuse or addiction, it’s important to know how long the drug stays in the system. This can be useful knowledge if you’re considering entering a rehabilitation center for treatment or are helping monitor a friend or family member who is currently recovering from cocaine addiction.
How long does cocaine stay in your system?
Like all drugs, cocaine is metabolized by the body. When talking about metabolizing cocaine, people will usually refer to the drug’s half-life. The half-life is the time required for the amount of cocaine in the body to be reduced by half. Cocaine is metabolized by the body fairly quickly and is reported to have a half-life of six hours. This means that after the last use of cocaine, half of it will be removed from the body within six hours (typically through urine and feces). It will take another six hours for half of what’s left to be eliminated from the body. This pattern continues until the cocaine is completely gone.
Metabolizing cocaine is not one-size-fits-all
Once you stop using cocaine, the length of time that cocaine stays in your system will vary based on several factors, such as:
- The amount of cocaine most recently ingested. Higher doses of cocaine will take longer to leave the system.
- Chronic versus intermittent use. For chronic cocaine users, the drug tends to remain in the system for a longer length of time. This is due to the fact that, after repeated use, cocaine will begin to be stored in the body’s fatty tissues.
- Body mass. Your body mass affects how quickly you metabolize cocaine. Because individuals with more body fat have more fat cells (and cocaine is a fat soluble drug), those with a higher body fat percentage will metabolize cocaine more slowly.
- Age. Metabolisms tend to slow down as we age. Consequently, cocaine typically will remain in the system longer for older individuals.
- Overall health. Since cocaine is metabolized with the help of the liver and kidneys, those suffering from liver or kidney disease will metabolize the drug more slowly.
- Level of regular physical activity. Those who are more active tend to have a higher metabolic rate, meaning cocaine will be metabolized more quickly.
- Mixing cocaine with alcohol. When cocaine usage is combined with drinking alcohol, cocaine will take longer to be metabolized. This is due to the fact that when cocaine and alcohol are mixed, a metabolite called cocaethylene is formed by the liver and can stay in the body fives times as long as cocaine by itself.
- Purity of the drug. It’s not uncommon for cocaine to be mixed or “cut” with other substances such as flour, cornstarch, or talcum powder to increase profits for the dealer. The greater the purity of the drug, the longer it will remain in your system.
How is cocaine detected?
Since the body metabolizes cocaine relatively quickly, you may be wondering—how are drug tests able to detect cocaine use after the drug has left the system? When the body metabolizes a drug, it breaks it down into other molecules called metabolites. The major metabolite of cocaine is benzoylecgonine. Benzoylecgonine has a half-life of about twelve hours, meaning it can be detected in the urine for up to four days. When you or a loved one take a drug test that’s looking for cocaine usage, often times, the test will actually be checking for benzoylecgonine.
Although urine is the most common bodily substance used in drug testing, cocaine usage can also be detected using saliva, blood, or hair. Depending on the factors listed above, these tests can typically pinpoint cocaine usage within specific periods of time:
- Blood: 24 hours
- Saliva: 1 – 2 days
- Urine: 1 – 4 days
- Hair: 1 – 90 days, sometimes up to a year
Detecting cocaine use without drug testing
If you’re concerned that a friend or family member may be abusing or addicted to cocaine, you won’t always have access to drug tests to confirm your suspicions. Being aware of the short and long-term effects of cocaine may help you identify cocaine use and get the affected individual the help they need. Some of the short and long-term health effects of cocaine use are as follows.
- Increased mental alertness
- Irritability or aggressiveness
- Extreme happiness or euphoria
- Increased energy levels
- Restlessness or insomnia
- Paranoia and auspiciousness
- Hallucinations and delusions.
- Panic attacks
- Hypersensitivity to touch, noise, and light
- Elevated body temperature and blood pressure
- Dilated pupils
- Tremors or twitches
- Loss of sense of smell
- Chronic nosebleeds
- Damage to the nasal passages
- Weight loss
- Heart-rhythm disorders
- Heart attack
- Kidney disease
Some other warning signs of cocaine abuse or addiction may include:
- Being overly talkative, excitable, or having fewer inhibitions
- Disregard for family, employment, school, and/or personal hygiene
- Engaging in illegal activities to feed their drug habit
- Extreme distrust of others
- Frequent mood swings or violent outbursts
- Increased risk taking behaviors
- Lying or becoming defensive when asked about cocaine use
Treatment for cocaine abuse and addiction
If you’re concerned that you or a loved one is suffering from cocaine addiction, do not wait to seek help. Not only can the short and long-term effects of cocaine use be extremely detrimental to the user, but cocaine users are also at risk of overdosing on the drug, which can be fatal. With proper treatment, the adverse effects listed above can be mitigated or completely avoided all together.
Since cocaine is a highly addictive drug, many users have greater success maintaining sobriety after receiving treatment at a rehabilitation center. Reputable treatment facilities work with addiction specialists and healthcare professionals to ensure that you or your loved one receive the best possible care as you undergo treatment for your cocaine addiction.
If you’re considering treatment for cocaine addiction, Nexus is here to help. Our clinical team is comprised of medical professionals who specialize in addiction treatment and help facilitate recovery in a safe, supportive environment. Contact us today to speak with one of our trusted recovery advisors. They’re here to answer all your questions and help you determine what type of treatment may be best for you or your loved one.