Cocaine, a highly addictive illegal stimulant made from the leaves of the coca plant, remains one of the most widely used illegal drugs in the U.S. Social and recreational users take this “upper” to feel more confident, gain more energy, and keep their tiredness at bay as they party into the wee hours of the next morning. Cocaine can be taken in four ways. Users can consume the white crystalline powder (or off-white chunky substance) by mouth or they can smoke it, inject it, or snort it through their noses.
Effects of Cocaine
When one either smokes, injects, or snorts the drug, it quickly acts on the nervous system and speeds up their breathing, body temperature, and heart rate, and raises their blood pressure. As a result, they typically feel:
After the party winds down, some users may wonder how long cocaine remains in their system. This group may include people new to recovery, those who have to take random drug tests as part of a drug treatment program, or job-seekers who know they will have to submit a sample before they are offered employment.
Even though cocaine can stay in the body for several days, depending on how frequently the drug is used, there are cocaine drug tests that can detect the substance far beyond that time. Cocaine is detectable in the saliva, urine, and blood, and even in one’s sweat.
It’s interesting to note that the manner in which cocaine is used is important for two main reasons:
First, the method the drug is ingested affects how quickly it reaches the brain. Smoking or injecting the substance means the drug will reach the brain within seconds and build up rapidly, creating a “rush” feeling that lasts no longer than a half hour or so. The buildup process is slower when the drug is snorted.
Second, the manner in which cocaine is consumed affects how long cocaine stays in one’s system and how long detection times will be. This may be of particular interest to people who are randomly drug tested or those who are new to addiction recovery and are looking for employment
How long cocaine stays in your system is also influenced by:
Another important factor is how often a person uses cocaine as this will greatly affect how long it stays in their system. In general, cocaine is said to be detectable for a short time in the body because of its short half-life, which is the time it takes for half of the drug to leave the body. It is estimated to remain in one’s system anywhere from 3.3 to 5.5 hours. However, what a drug test looks for is the presence of the benzoylecgonine, an inactive metabolite that has a longer half-life than cocaine. This is why tests can pick up whether a person has used cocaine just days of their last use. Benzoylecgonine, formed in the liver once cocaine has been metabolized, has a half-life of 12 hours, so it can remain in the body for up to four days, according to ScienceDirect.
“The higher the dosage, the more time it takes to excrete the detectable metabolites,” writes Health-Street.net. It also states, “High-frequency users build up metabolites in the system, which are easily detectable by drug tests.”
So, frequent users extend their cocaine detection timelines even longer with each use. Cocaine binges are common among users, who should expect the substance to remain in their bodies for long periods based on this practice. During this time, they take the drug repeatedly and in higher doses, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
There are different kinds of cocaine drug tests, and each one is designed to look closely at either the saliva, blood, urine, and hair follicle samples for cocaine metabolites. All of these tests have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The length of the cocaine detection period depends on the kind of drug test given. Below is a list of the kinds of drug tests given and their cocaine detection timelines. Keep in mind this is just a general guide.
A blood screening for cocaine can find evidence of the drug up to 24-48 hours after use. This method may be used when acute cocaine intoxication, or overdose, is the case.
Saliva can contain cocaine metabolites up to 12-48 hours, or two days, after last use. The presence of these metabolites can appear 10 minutes after cocaine is used.
A urine drug screening is more commonly used than the blood or saliva test because the window for detecting cocaine is longer. The test is also viewed as less invasive. Urine screenings can determine cocaine use that has taken place within a few hours to an estimated two or four days after use. According to Health-Street.net, higher doses of cocaine may show up three to seven days after use. Frequent users may test positive for cocaine anywhere from five to 14 days, the site says.
This test has a wider detection window. It can pick up evidence of cocaine use for 90 days. That cocaine detectable timeline extends to 365 days for frequent users, according to Health-Street.net.
Cocaine also can remain in one’s sweat for several weeks.
According to MentalHealthDaily.com, organizations can require a combination of all of these tests to determine whether evidence of cocaine use is present. “Administering a combination of these types of tests ensures that results aren’t subject to inaccuracies,” it writes. “In most cases, an individual will be said to test ‘positive’ for cocaine if levels of the active metabolite (benzoylecgonine) are present at 300 ng/mL (or greater); 150 ng/mL (for GC/MS confirmation).”
Polysubstance use is common among people who use drugs, and alcohol is the most commonly paired substance with other drugs. This isn’t wise to do with any drug, but cocaine and alcohol is a definite no-no. Some cocaine users add alcohol to the mix to enhance the effects of the alcohol, a depressant, and create a longer-lasting high. However, that’s not all they’re doing.
The combination of these two drugs creates another toxic chemical called cocaethylene, or ethylbenzoylecgonine, and it’s more toxic than cocaine. It also has a longer half-life than cocaine. When the substance lingers longer in the body, more stress is placed upon the heart and liver for longer periods, and some users may exhibit stronger reactions that can lead them to become violent or aggressive.
Recreational cocaine use may be popular in some social circles, but even users who dabble are not immune to the drug’s strong pull. Users are at risk of developing a habit that can put them on the road to cocaine addiction. This naturally occurring drug, known by street names such as snow, blow, powder, and nose candy, can lead to a strong psychological dependence that can be tough to break.
Signs of cocaine addiction include:
Long-term cocaine use affects one’s health over time and can result in death. Chronic users may be battling an addiction and need addiction treatment now. If they don’t get it, they can experience these health effects that accompany long-term use that impact the entire body:
Health Effects of Cocaine
The National Institute on Drug Abuse advises that former cocaine users are at high risk of having a relapse after long periods of abstinence. “Research indicates that during periods of abstinence, the memory of the cocaine experience or exposure to cues associated with drug use can trigger strong cravings, which can lead to relapse,” it writes.
A positive result on a cocaine drug test could just be the start of realizing someone needs help or just the motivation one needs to get help for a drug problem. If you or someone you know is trying to stop using cocaine but hasn’t succeeded so far, it might be time to get outside help. Cocaine is one of the most powerful drugs, and while its glamorous image makes it seem like the perfect party drug, the truth is it can leave a trail of destruction in its wake and lead to an overdose or death.
Delphi Behavioral Health Group’s trained addiction specialists are standing by and waiting for you to call us so we help you leave cocaine alone for good and put your like back together without it.
Treatment programs at Delphi Behavioral Health Group’s facilities provide unique therapy and counseling methods for certain addictions. They are designed to allow you to receive the daily support of the facility’s staff and your loved ones when you return home. Our treatment centers provide just what’s needed for community, counseling, and support throughout the day so clients can apply what they learn in their lives everyday life. Give us a call to discuss you or your loved one’s options today.
LabCorp. (2007). “Drugs of Abuse Reference Guide.” Retrieved June 2018 from https://www.labcorpsolutions.com/images/Drugs_of_Abuse_Reference_Guide_Flyer_3166.pdf
Mental Health Daily. (n.d.) “How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Your System?” Retrieved June 2018 from https://mentalhealthdaily.com/2015/10/02/how-long-does-cocaine-stay-in-your-system/
Mayo Clinic. “Cocaine and Metabolite.” Retrieved June 2018 from https://www.mayomedicallaboratories.com/test-info/drug-book/cocaine-metabolite.html
Nordqvist, Christian. (May 2017). “Everything You Need to Know About Cocaine.” Medical News Today. Retrieved June 2018 from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/234239.php
NIDA. (May 2016). “What Are the Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Use?” National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved June 2018 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-are-long-term-effects-cocaine-use
ScienceDirect. (n.d.). “Benzoylecgonine.” Retrieved June 2018 from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/benzoylecgonine