How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Your System?
Have you used cocaine recently?
Do you use the drug when you party late into the night? Do you use it regularly to get through the day? Often people who abuse cocaine are concerned about how long it will stay in their system and how long it will continue to affect them. Others are concerned about traces of the drug registering on a mandatory drug test.
If cocaine abuse or addiction is an issue for you and you are concerned about its effects on your life, contact us today. Speak with a rehab support specialist to learn more about how cocaine rehab can change your life through detox, psychotherapeutic treatment and aftercare support.
How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Your System?
Cocaine and its metabolite chemicals may remain present in your body for up to 3 days – or even longer, in cases of chronic cocaine abuse.
Any given drug’s persistent presence in the body is often measured by its plasma “half-life” – or the amount of time it takes for the concentration of the drug in the blood to be reduced by half. In the case of cocaine, cocaine’s urine elimination half-life is also an important measurement tool, as the presence of cocaine is often measured by urine sampling, among other measures.
Cocaine’s plasma and urine elimination half-lives are estimated to be as follows:
- Plasma = 1.5 hours.
- Urine elimination = 19 hours.
Interestingly, cocaine’s metabolites – or the breakdown products of cocaine – have a longer half-life, ranging from 14.6-52.4 hours.1 This discovery has suggested that chronic use of cocaine increases the amount of time that cocaine and its metabolites stay in your system.
Cocaethylene: The Exception to the Rule
Cocaethylene is a chemical metabolite formed in the liver, and circulated throughout the blood after both cocaine and alcohol are combined. Combing any two drug substances can be deadly, but the combination of cocaine and alcohol creates a substance that not only has a longer half-life than that of cocaine alone – meaning that it stays in your body longer than cocaine – but is also believed to lead to longer lasting and more severe toxic effects in the body.2
How Long is Cocaine Detectable in the Body?
If you’re wondering how long after last using cocaine that a drug test will be able to detect the drug in the body, the answer to that will depend on:
- How long you’ve been abusing cocaine.
- Your average amount used each time.
- The functionality of your liver.
- The type of test used to detect cocaine in your system.
Cocaine and its breakdown products may be detected after last use of the drug in 1 of 5 different ways – each of which has varying detection duration times:
- Urine = 2-3 days (or 2 weeks, for chronic cocaine users).3
- Blood = 12-48 hours.4
- Saliva = 12-48 hours.5
- Sweat = several weeks.6
- Hair = a few months to years.7
In non-emergency situations, urine testing is often the preferred testing method. It has a wider detection window than blood or saliva and also offers a non-invasive testing approach.
Blood testing is more commonly used in scenarios of acute cocaine intoxication. Hair testing has the widest detection window but requires a more advanced detection technique, as there are many factors that can skew hair testing results.
Your liver is the primary organ responsible for metabolizing cocaine. It helps break down cocaine into smaller compounds that are more easily transported and excreted – largely through urination – from the body. Benzoylecgonine is one of the major compounds that results from cocaine’s breakdown process and is, in fact, the metabolite that is measured in urine testing to detect the presence of cocaine in the body.
How Long Do Cocaine’s Effects Last?
The amount of time that you will continue to experience the immediate effects of cocaine on the body varies by the route of administration – in other words, how you used it:
- Intravenous administration = 15-30 minutes.
- Inhalation (Smoked) = 15-30 minutes.
- Intranasal = 1 hour.
- Gastrointestinal = 3 hours.8
Health Effects of Cocaine Abuse
Although cocaine users may initially experience feelings of pleasure, increased energy and decreased appetite – cocaine can also have damaging short-term and long-term effects on multiple systems in your body.
Short-term Adverse Effects of Cocaine
- Anxiety, restlessness, panic attacks.
- Impaired judgment.
- Feelings of grandiosity (narcissistic feelings of superiority).
- Hallucinations and delusions.
- Sleep disturbances.9,10
- Involuntary movement disorders.11
Long-term Adverse Effects of Cocaine
Long-term use of cocaine may lead to any of the following destructive health effects:
- Cognitive impairments that can last for at least several weeks after stopping drug use.
- Deficits in attention.
- Poor decision-making – difficulty evaluating risks versus benefits.
- Lowered visual-motor skills.
- Lapses in verbal memory.12
- Increased risk of infection (including viral hepatitis and HIV).
- Increased risk of suicidal thoughts and attempts.
- Damage to a wide range of organ systems.
- Central nervous system: including brain abnormalities, seizures, movement disorders, neurotoxicity and lethal damage to the blood vessels in the brain.
- Cardiovascular system: including chest pain, elevated blood pressure, heart rate, heart attacks, cardiac arrhythmias and sudden death.
- Respiratory system: including perforation of the nasal septum, chronic runny or stuffy nose, sinus inflammation, cough, wheezing, chest pain, shortness of breath and hemoptysis (coughing up of blood).
- Gastrointestinal system: including motility problems, ulcers, mesenteric vasospasm and/or infarction (tissue death) or perforation of the stomach or intestines.
- Liver: viral hepatitis is a typical consequence for long-term injection cocaine users.
- Kidneys: including diminished kidney function, end-stage kidney disease and chronic renal failure.
- Skin: including skin lesions and vascular problems.
- Reproductive and sexual health: including sexual dysfunction, irregular menses in women, and a number of health risks to pregnant mothers and their newborns.13-17
Treatment for Cocaine Addiction
If you actively abuse cocaine and are ready to cut the drug and its negative effects out of your life for good, you will want to start exploring your options for treatment and recovery.
Generally speaking, most structured substance abuse treatment approaches will walk you through some combination of detox, cognitive-behavioral therapy, group and individual therapy, relapse prevention training and aftercare planning. There are several different types of treatment structures you should be aware of:
- Luxury rehab facilities offer a wide range of plush, resort-like amenities to complement top notch addiction recovery treatment.
- Executive rehab facilities also offer luxurious amenities through treatment alongside a structure that allows busy business professionals to maintain an active involvement in their work.
- Traditional rehab typically offers a more affordable option, as it may forego some of the more expensive, high-end amenities that luxury and executive rehabs offer. Don’t be deterred, as many quality traditional addiction treatment programs are available in both inpatient and outpatient settings.
Ready to Get Started?
Are you ready to get started? Contact us today at 1-888-744-0789 to discuss your options further and be matched with the best possible treatment program for you.
- Jufer, R. A., Wstadik, A., Walsh, S. L., Levine, B. S., Cone, E. J. (2000). Elimination of cocaine and metabolites in plasma, saliva, and urine following repeated oral administration to human volunteers. J Anal Toxicol, 24(7), 467-77.
- Jenkins, A. J., Cone, E. J. (1998). Pharmacokinetics: drug absorption, distribution, and elimination. In: Karch, S. B. (Ed.), Drug Abuse Handbook (p. 151). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
- Preston, L. L., Epstein, D. H., Cone, E. J., Wtsadik, A. T., Huestis, M. A., Moolchan, E. T. (2002). Urinary elimination of cocaine metabolites in chronic cocaine users during cessation. J Anal Toxicol, 26(7), 393.
- Blaho, K., Logan, B., Winbery, S., Park, L., Schwilke, E. (2000). Blood cocaine and metabolite concentrations, clinical findings, and outcome of patients presenting to an ED. Am J Emerg Med, 18(5), 593.
- Pil, L., Verstraete, A. (2008). Current developments in drug testing in oral fluid. Ther Drug Monit, 30(2), 196.
- Uemura, N., Nath, R. P., Harkey, M. R., Henderson, G. L., Mendelson, J., Jones, R. T. (2004). Cocaine levels in sweat collection patches vary by location of patch placement and decline over time. J Anal Toxicol, 28(4), 253.
- Gambelunghe, C., Rossi, R., Ferranti, C., Rossi, R., Bacci, M. (2005). Hair analysis by GC/MS/MS to verify abuse of drugs. J Appl Toxicol, 25(3), 205.
- Cone, E. J. (1995). Pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of cocaine. J Anal Toxicol, 19(6), 459.
- Williamson, S., Gossop, M., Powis, B., Griffiths, P., Fountain, J., Strang, J. (1997). Adverse effects of stimulant drugs in a community sample of drug users. Drug Alcohol Depend., 44(2-3), 87.
- Ersche, K. D., Stochl, J., Woodward, J. M., Fletcher, P. C. (2013). The skinny on cocaine: insights into eating behavior and body weight in cocaine-dependent men. Appetite, 71, 75-80.
- Rosse, R. B., Fay-McCarthy, M., Collins, J. P. Jr., Risher-Flowers, D., Alim, T. N., Deutsch, S. I. (1993). Transient compulsive foraging behavior associated with crack cocaine use. Am J Psychiatry, 150(1), 155.
- Roy, A. (2001). Characteristics of cocaine-dependent patients who attempt suicide. Am J Psychiatry, 158(8), 1215.
- Bohgadi, M. S., Henning, R. J. (1997). Cocaine: pathophysiology and clinical toxicology. Heart Lung, 26(6), 466.
- McCord, J., Jneid, H., Hollander, J. E., de Lemos, J. A., Cercek, B., Hsue, P., et al. (2008). Management of cocaine-associated chest pain and myocardial infarction: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association Acute Cardiac Care Committee of the Council on Clinical Cardiology. Circulation, 117(14), 1897.
- Tseng, W., Sutter, M. E., Albertson, T. E. (2014). Stimulants and the lung: review of literature. Clin Rev Allergy Immunol, 46(1), 82-100.
- Macdonald, P. T., Waldorf, D., Reinarman, C., Murhpy, S. (1988). Heavy cocaine use and sexual behavior. J Drug Issues, 18, 437.
- Palha, A. P., Esteves, M. (2008) Drugs of abuse and sexual functioning. Adv Psychosom Med, 29, 131.