Cocaine is a powerful stimulant drug that is derived from the leaves of the coca plant, which is native to South America. The drug is known for its ability to create a short-lived but intense high that can make users feel euphoric, energetic, and confident. Cocaine is typically ingested by snorting, smoking, or injecting the drug into the bloodstream.
Although cocaine does have rare medical uses, it is highly addictive and dangerous when abused. Despite its addictive qualities, cocaine is a popular recreational drug. In 2021, 4.8 million people aged 12 or older used cocaine at some point during the year, and about 1.4 million had a cocaine use disorder (addiction).
Like most other illicit drugs, cocaine can stay in your system for several days after it has been used. The amount of time that cocaine stays in your system can vary depending on a number of factors, including the amount of the drug that was used, the frequency of use, and the individual’s metabolism. Cocaine can also be detected in urine, blood, saliva, and hair follicle drug tests for varying lengths of time after the effects wear off.
Understanding the Effects of Cocaine
Similar to other stimulants, short-term effects of cocaine use can include feelings of euphoria, increased energy, and heightened alertness. Long-term effects of cocaine abuse can include addiction, cardiovascular disease, and neurological damage.
The speed and duration of cocaine’s effects vary based on the method of administration:
- Snorting – Snorting cocaine is the most popular method of use because the drug comes in the form of a white powder. The effects are felt 3-5 minutes after insufflation (snorting) and can last for 20-45 minutes.
- Swallowing/oral ingestion – Some people swallow capsules of cocaine or rub cocaine on their gums. When taken orally, the effects can be felt after 10-30 minutes and can last for up to 1.5 hours.
- Smoking – Some people smoke cocaine by sprinkling it on marijuana or inhaling the smoke off of tin foil. After smoking cocaine, the effects appear within 5-10 seconds and can last for about 20 minutes.
- Intravenous use (injection) – Injecting cocaine is incredibly dangerous because all of the substance enters your body at once, producing sudden and strong effects. The effects of injecting cocaine can be felt 5-10 seconds after injection and last for about 20 minutes.
Cocaine is a short-acting drug, so a single dose won’t stay in your body for very long. However, because the effects are so short-lived, many people binge on cocaine, taking multiple doses over the course of an evening or several days, causing the drug to build up in their system and stay in the body longer.
A drug’s half-life refers to the amount of time it takes for half of a single dose of the drug to be metabolized and eliminated from the body. In the case of cocaine, its half-life can vary depending on several factors, including the amount of the drug used, the method of administration, and the individual’s metabolism.
The average half-life of cocaine ranges from about 30 minutes to two hours. This means that after 30 minutes to two hours, half of the cocaine that was ingested will have been eliminated from the body. After another 30 minutes to two hours, half of the remaining cocaine will have been eliminated, and so on, until the drug is completely eliminated from the system.
Although the half-life of cocaine is relatively short, it can still have effects on the body for several hours or even days, depending on factors such as the amount used and the individual’s metabolism. Additionally, while the half-life of cocaine is shorter than many other drugs, its metabolites can remain in the body for longer periods of time and can be detected in drug tests.
The primary metabolite of cocaine that drug tests screen for is benzoylecgonine. In urine, benzoylecgonine has a concentration 50-100 times greater than cocaine. Benzoylecgonine can be detected in urine for about 4 days after the last dose.
Factors that Affect How Long Cocaine Stays in Your System
There are many individual variables that influence cocaine’s half-life and how long it stays in the body. These include:
The more cocaine that is used, the longer it will take for the drug to be eliminated from the body. A single use of cocaine will typically be detectable in the system for up to 72 hours. However, if a larger amount of the drug was used, it could take longer for the body to eliminate it, and it could show up on drug tests for longer amounts of time.
Frequency of cocaine use
Using cocaine on a regular basis causes it to accumulate in the body over time, so frequent use will take longer for the body to eliminate the drug from the system. In some cases, cocaine can be detected in the system for up to two weeks after the last use.
Method of administration
The method that was used to ingest the cocaine can also influence how long it stays in the system. Snorting and smoking cocaine will typically result in a faster onset of the drug’s effects, but it will also be eliminated from the system more quickly. Injecting cocaine into the bloodstream can result in a slower onset of effects, but it will also take longer for the body to eliminate the drug.
Individual health and metabolism
The body’s ability to metabolize cocaine can vary from person to person. Some people may eliminate cocaine at a faster rate than others. Factors such as age, weight, and overall health can all influence how quickly the body metabolizes cocaine.
Cocaine is regularly mixed with alcohol, but mixing cocaine and alcohol can produce a toxic byproduct called cocaethylene. Cocaethylene enhances the effects of both cocaine and alcohol, and it also slows down the rate at which cocaine is eliminated from the body. As a result, people who drink heavily will need more time to eliminate cocaine from their bodies before a drug test.
How Long Does Cocaine Show up on a Drug Test? Urine, Blood, Hair, and Saliva
Cocaine metabolites can be detected on various types of drug tests, including:
- Urine Tests – Urine tests can detect cocaine metabolites in the urine for up to three days after use. However, heavy or chronic cocaine use can result in detection for up to two weeks.
- Blood Tests – Blood tests can detect cocaine in the blood for up to 24 hours after use.
- Saliva Tests – Saliva tests can detect cocaine in the saliva for up to two days after use.
- Hair Tests – Hair tests can detect cocaine in the hair for up to 90 days after use.
How to Get Cocaine out of Your System and Detox Safely
Over-the-counter detox drinks and supplements rarely work and can have more risks than they do benefits. There is no guaranteed way to get cocaine out of your body quickly rather than to let the drug run its course. However, there are a few things you can do to try and speed up the process, such as:
- Stay hydrated
- Eat healthy foods
- Move your body (get exercise)
- Stop using cocaine
If you find that you can’t stop using cocaine on your own or that when you stop using it you experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, you may be struggling with cocaine addiction. If that’s the case, it’s time to get professional help. A cocaine detox and treatment center can provide you with the supportive care you need to detox safely and begin your recovery journey.
Learn About Your Cocaine Rehab Options Today
If you or a loved one are struggling with cocaine addiction, please contact our team at Next Step Recovery to learn about your treatment options today.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): What is the scope of cocaine use in the United States?, Retrieved April 2023 from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-scope-cocaine-use-in-united-states
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): What are the long-term effects of cocaine use?, Retrieved April 2023 from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-are-long-term-effects-cocaine-use
- National Library of Medicine: Cocaine: An Updated Overview on Chemistry, Detection, Biokinetics, and Pharmacotoxicological Aspects including Abuse Pattern, Retrieved April 2023 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9032145/
- National Library of Medicine: A sensitive assay for urinary cocaine metabolite benzoylecgonine shows more positive results and longer half‐lives than those using traditional cut‐offs, Retrieved April 2023 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5573903/
- National Library of Medicine: Cocaethylene: When Cocaine and Alcohol Are Taken Together, Retrieved April 2023 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8956485/