Cocaine addiction recovery is a demanding but rewarding process. Men and women who use cocaine can get better and start a healthier lifestyle with proper approach and guidance. Education plays an important role in recovery. The more the affected individual and their loved ones know, the higher the likelihood of successful outcomes.
One of the most commonly asked questions about this subject is how long does cocaine stay in your system. Bearing in mind that reliable information on this subject is scarce, we’re going to help you out. In this post, you’re going to learn everything you need about cocaine drug tests, how long the substance stays in your system, and so much more.
Cocaine Use Prevalence
At the very beginning, we’re going to address the prevalence of cocaine use. Although a well-known fact is that a lot of people use cocaine, it’s impossible not to wonder just how many men and women do so.
Cocaine is the second most trafficked illegal drug in the world. In Europe, an estimated 7.5 million young people (15 to 34 years) have used cocaine at least once in the lifetime. The prevalence of cocaine use in the United States is high, as well.
In 2014, there were an estimated 1.5 million current users of cocaine in the population aged 12 or older in the United States. At the same time, 913,000 people met the criteria for cocaine use disorder.
For example, in 2017, an estimated 2.2 million people aged 12 or older were current users of cocaine, including 473,000 current users of crack. In other words, 0.8% of this population used cocaine. The same year about 966,000 people had a cocaine use disorder, i.e., 0.4% of this population.
The number of people who use cocaine keeps increasing. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an estimated 5.5 million people aged 12 or older were current cocaine users in 2018. The number includes 757,000 current crack users too. More precisely, in 2018, about 2% of this population used cocaine. Additionally, 977,000 people had cocaine use disorder the same year.
As seen above, the number of current cocaine users in the United States keeps increasing each year. Cocaine use is a major problem not only in the US but worldwide. Despite the severity of the problem, recovery is possible.
Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Use
Nobody starts using cocaine with a goal to get addicted to the substance. In almost all cases, everything begins with experimentation. People, usually young adults, want to see how it’s like and how it will make them feel.
The fast-acting, stimulant effects of cocaine result in euphoria and pleasure. Then, a person wants to use more to achieve the same effects. As time goes by, bigger and bigger amounts of cocaine are necessary to feel the high, pleasure, and euphoria. This is how people become addicted to cocaine.
It’s crucial to learn the signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction. That way, you can recognize the problem in your loved ones and act in a timely manner to support their recovery.
Some of the most common signs and symptoms of cocaine use include:
- Burn marks on lips and fingers
- A decrease in personal hygiene
- Dilated pupils
- Engaging in risky and dangerous behaviors
- Financial problems
- Frequent sniffles/runny nose
- Irritability and mood swings
- Long periods of wakefulness
- Loss of appetite
- Missing work or arriving late constantly
- Stealing or selling personal property
- Unexplained weight loss (losing weight without diet and exercise)
- Troubles with the law
- White powder around nostrils
Many symptoms of cocaine use are behavioral, but physical manifestations can also occur. Besides the above-mentioned physical symptoms, a person who uses cocaine may experience headaches, nausea, high blood pressure, trouble sleeping, confusion, sweating, seizures, chills, and coma.
Dangers of cocaine use range from an overdose to organ failure. You see, cocaine abuse constricts blood vessels, thus increasing blood pressure and jeopardizing overall health and wellbeing.
Cocaine use disorder is a serious but manageable problem. The patient needs a strong recovery system and the proper environment, which is why inpatient rehab in Texas as offered by Stonegate Center (just west of Fort Worth) is a viable solution for many.
How Long Does It Take for Cocaine to Kick In?
The onset of cocaine’s effects depends on how a person uses this illicit drug. Generally speaking, the faster the substance reaches the bloodstream, the quicker the effects are.
Cocaine takes longer to kick in when it is snorted or gummed because it takes longer for the substances to enter the bloodstream. Before it can even reach the bloodstream, cocaine has to go through mucus, skin, and other tissues. On the flip side, cocaine works faster when it is injected or smoked.
Let’s take a look at how long it takes for cocaine to kick in depending on the method of use:
- Snorting: 3-5 minutes
- Smoking: 5-10 seconds
- Gumming (oral ingestion): 10-30 minutes
- Intravenous use: 5-10 seconds
Other sources describe that snorting and oral ingestion take one to three minutes to work while smoking and intravenous use kick in 10 to 15 seconds.
How Long Do The Effects of Cocaine Last?
Just like the onset, the duration of the effects of cocaine depends on the method of consumption. The faster cocaine reaches the bloodstream, the quicker it starts working, and the faster it wears off.
Below, you can see how long the effects generally last according to the method of use:
- Snorting: 20 minutes
- Smoking: 20 minutes
- Oral ingestion: 90 minutes
- Intravenous use: 20 minutes
According to other sources, the effects of cocaine last 15 to 30 minutes when snorted or orally ingested. On the flip side, the effects of cocaine wear off in five to 15 minutes when preferred methods are smoking and intravenous use.
Not all people are the same, so their experience with cocaine may differ. Duration and intensity of cocaine high aren’t the same for everyone. In some people, the effects wear off faster than in others. For example, some people may experience the lingering effects of cocaine high even two hours later.
The duration of the effects of cocaine is largely determined by the quantity and how long a person has been using the drug.
To retain the feeling of cocaine, high people keep taking the drug more and, moreover, a short timeframe. This practice is called a binge. However, an unpleasant crash tends to follow the binge, which makes people take more cocaine just so they can avoid or counteract the unpleasant symptoms they’re experiencing.
Cocaine addiction recovery may involve strong withdrawal symptoms, which is why the whole process should be monitored. Medical detox for cocaine in Texas includes eliminating cocaine out of the system and getting on the road to recovery in a supervised environment to ensure safety and efficacy.
How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Your System?
Generally speaking, cocaine stays in the system for one to four days, but it can be detected for a lot longer than that. Upon scheduling an appointment at a cocaine detox center, the affected person and their loved ones get detailed insight into the drug test and all details associated with it. When it comes to the detection of cocaine, a lot comes down to the type of drug test administered. Drug tests that can detect cocaine include hair, blood, urine, oral swab, i.e., saliva and sweat tests. We’re going to focus on these tests below.
Hair Follicle Drug Tests for Cocaine
Hair follicle drug tests, or hair drug tests, screen for illicit drug use and the misuse of prescription medication or illegal drugs. During the test, a small amount of hair is removed from the head or other parts of the body. What’s interesting about this test is that it looks for traces of the substance use, in this case, cocaine, within the last 90 days preceding the test. Basically, the hair drug test determines whether a person has been using cocaine for the last three months.
Besides cocaine, a hair drug test can also screen for marijuana, ecstasy, amphetamine, methamphetamine, PCP, and opioids.
Hair tests looks for cocaine metabolites, i.e., byproducts of the body breaking down or metabolizing a certain substance. Cocaine is metabolized mainly to benzoylecgonine (BE, BZE, BEG) formed by hydrolysis of the drug in the liver and then excreted in the urine after processing. The drug is metabolized to other metabolites, too, but in lesser amounts.
Cocaine and its metabolites accumulate in the hair where they can be detected for 90 days.
Benzoylecgonine is the most useful metabolite because it is always formed by the body in the presence of cocaine. That’s why drug tests look for this metabolite the most. The metabolites are typically found in the hair at 10% to 35% of the concentration than cocaine is.
One study analyzed 90 hair samples for the presence of cocaine, benzoylecgonine, and other metabolites. For light (0.5-3 ng/mg), moderate (3.1-10 ng/mg), and heavy (10.1-40 ng/mg) the following criteria are fulfilled:
- Cocaine concentration ≥ 0.5 ng/mg
- Benzoylecgonine concentration ≥ 0.05 ng/mg
- Benzoylecgonine to cocaine ratio > 6.43%
They found that the presence of minor metabolites as proof of cocaine use has limited applications for definitive evidence of active cocaine consumption.
The reason why hair drug tests for cocaine don’t only look for the presence of cocaine, but its metabolites too, is simple. The only way to differentiate drug users from someone who unknowingly came into contact with cocaine is to look for metabolites. As mentioned above, benzoylecgonine and other metabolites are produced when the liver metabolizes the drug. Therefore, a person who comes into contact with cocaine, e.g., narcotics officer or pharmaceutical research, doesn’t test positive for cocaine use because their body didn’t produce metabolize. In other words, it means they didn’t ingest the drug.
The US Department of Health and Human Services proposed confirmatory test cut-off concentrations for cocaine analytes in hair, with the added stipulation that the parent drug compound must be present with at least another analyte. They specified the BE/COC ratio of ≥ 0.05.
Blood Tests for Cocaine
A blood test is yet another test that looks for the presence of cocaine. The test is primarily done in emergencies such as acute cocaine intoxication or overdose. A blood test isn’t a go-to drug test for cocaine in most scenarios due to its invasive nature. For example, if you’re in a hospital and the healthcare provider suspects drug abuse, they may obtain a blood sample to analyze.
The greatest advantage of blood testing is that it allows for a precise level of the substance, in this case, cocaine, to be analyzed.
Cocaine is detected in blood for two days after the ingestion. More precisely, the blood holds cocaine for 12 hours, while benzoylecgonine can be detected for 48 hours.
The whole process of blood testing is easy and straightforward. As you’re already aware, the blood sample is obtained from a vein in the arm. The test doesn’t cause pain, but a person may feel mild discomfort.
Laboratory test results may vary depending on a person’s gender, age, health history, and other factors. Normal results for this test are:
- Negative confirmatory test (GC-MS) for cocaine metabolite, benzoylecognine: < 150 ng/ml
- Negative screening test (immunoassay) for cocaine metabolite, benzoylecgonine: < 300 ng/ml
Values higher than the above-mentioned results point to drug use. The blood test says screening and confirmatory tests are positive. Again, as in a hair drug test, we see that benzoylecgonine plays an important role since it’s the main metabolite of cocaine.
Urine Drug Tests for Cocaine
The urine test is the most common drug test for cocaine. This test can detect cocaine for up to 4 days after consumption. In heavy users, a urine test can detect the presence of cocaine for up to two weeks after use.
Cocaine has a six-hour half-life, which is why it’s present in the urine for about one day after last use. On the other hand, benzoylecgonine has a longer half-life than the parent drug. This metabolite has a half-life of 12 hours. The longer half-life of the metabolite explains why it is detected in a urine sample for four days after cocaine use. For that reason, most assays are specifically designed to detect benzoylecgonine, not cocaine itself.
Keep in mind that regardless of how a person takes cocaine, the drug and its metabolites will show up in urine within three to six hours.
It’s worth mentioning that laboratories can have their own criteria in terms of concentration and testing. Approximate detection times for LOQ (lowest concentration) of 50 ng/ml of cocaine and benzoylecgonine are one and five days, respectively. But the actual detection times may depend on the frequency of use and other factors.
Urine drug tests for cocaine are accurate in the detection of recent cocaine use. The accuracy stems from the fact that cross-reactivity between the screen and other non-cocaine substances is practically nonexistent.
High accuracy and noninvasive sample collection are the most important reasons behind the reliance on a urine test for cocaine. Despite many available methods, a urine test is the most commonly administered.
Evidence shows that route of administration influences the metabolic profile of the drug. Cocaine is rapidly absorbed, metabolized, and excreted, usually in the first urine void regardless of the route of administration. That being said, benzoylecgonine concentrations tend to be route-dependent. Most workplace, treatment, and judicial programs identify cocaine use by analyzing for the presence of the biggest cocaine metabolite, benzoylecgonine. Testing for this specific metabolite is required for federally-regulated urine drug test programs. However, it’s worth noting that cocaine can be converted to this metabolite in urine when the pH is basic, which allows for the possibility of a positive test due to external contamination.
Generally speaking, the screening cut-off detection concentration for benzoylecgonine is 150 ng/ml, while the confirmatory cut-off is 100 ng/ml.
Some argue, though, that these cut-offs are too high and allow some patients who abuse cocaine to be missed. That’s why some studies suggest that positive findings in the range of five to 100 ng/ml are most likely indicative of less recent cocaine use. As a result, some people who abuse cocaine wouldn’t be missed with a urine drug test.
Oral Swab Tests for Cocaine
The saliva test for cocaine is, basically, an oral swab taken from the mouth with a special device. Then, the sample is safely deposited into a tube. This test is becoming more and more common because the risk of cheating is very low. Nowadays, people have found a way to cheat on urine tests (to some extent), but oral swab is less intrusive, and the drug test administrator obtains the sample. That way, the sample is not tampered with.
The oral swab test can detect cocaine or its metabolites for one to two days after the use of this substance. The presence of metabolites can be detected within 10 minutes in saliva after cocaine use.
Evidence shows that the simultaneous measurement of cocaine and benzoylecgonine in the saliva is suitable for recent cocaine use. Interestingly, cocaine concentration was 4.9 times higher in saliva than in serum, while benzoylecgonine was 2.5 times higher in serum.
Generally, oral swab can’t detect the presence of cocaine and its metabolites past 72 hours.
Sweat Test for Cocaine
What most people don’t know is that their sweat can be tested for the presence of cocaine. The test involves a patch you put on the skin. However, the sweat test isn’t very common. Results may vary based on the place you put the patch.
Sweat tests don’t lack the efficacy. Studies reveal that a sweat patch showed a clear, dose-response relationship that points to cocaine use. Administration of as little as 1-5mg of cocaine would produce detectable levels of the drug and its metabolites in sweat. Doses ranging 1-25mg of cocaine appeared in the patches after one to two hours.
Cocaine appears to be the dominant analyte, followed by benzoylecgonine. As the length of wear increases, so do the analyte levels up to a week. Between one and two weeks of wear, the levels of benzoylecgonine increase significantly. This is due to the metabolism of the drug and subsequent excretion of the metabolite in sweat.
Wearing a patch for less than two hours doesn’t yield significant results. The ideal timeframe is between two hours up to a day.
Factors That Affect How Long Cocaine Remains in the Body
Cocaine doesn’t remain in the body like some other substances. As mentioned above, some tests can detect the presence of the primary metabolite from cocaine a few days or weeks later.
It’s important to keep in mind that not all people are the same. Cocaine doesn’t remain in the body of each person for the same period. Various factors determine how long cocaine remains in your system. These include:
- How much cocaine you use
- Frequency of use
- Method of use
- Purity of the drug
- Body fat percentage
- Whether a person is using other substances
- Urine pH
- Alcohol and caffeine consumption
- Physical activity levels
Mixing Cocaine and Alcohol
It’s not uncommon for people who use cocaine to also consume some other substances. Cocaine and alcohol are a common combination observed in patients in inpatient rehab in Texas like Stonegate Center with centers for both men and women.
While mixing two substances is never a good idea, it’s particularly dangerous to pair cocaine and alcohol. Why? The reason is simple: a combination of these two drugs creates a toxic chemical called cocaethylene or ethylbenzoylecgonine. The compound is more toxic and dangerous than cocaine itself. Additionally, this substance has a significantly longer half-life than cocaine.
What’s this got to do with you?
Well, this means that combining alcohol with cocaine holds the drug in your body longer. Cocaine is eliminated out of the system at a slower rate when a person is taking alcohol too.
Detox is an important part of cocaine treatment and recovery. But what most people want to know is how long does it take to detox from cocaine.
The exact timeframe may vary from one patient to another, depending on the severity of addiction and general health. But a general cocaine detox timeline goes like this:
- Crash phase – an initial drop from euphoria, lasts from a few hours to 3-4 days.
- Craving phase – intense, debilitating cravings, lasts anywhere from one week to 10 weeks.
- Extinction phase – 10 to 30 weeks later, the cravings for cocaine decrease. They may show up from time to time but are easier to manage.
Whether you’re looking for an inpatient rehab center for cocaine near Fort Worth for yourself or a loved one, it’s crucial to get informed about cocaine use, symptoms, treatment, and more. The first step toward successful recovery is detox. Cocaine doesn’t remain in the body for too long, but its main metabolite can stay longer. Since drug tests are an important part of sober life and recovery, in this post, we’ve had the opportunity to see how they work and what to expect.
John Eckelbarger is a Business Development Representative for Stonegate Center. With a BSA in Chemistry from the University of Texas at Austin, he has an interest in the neurobiology of addiction & pharmacology of drugs. He hopes to bolster Stonegate Center to the forefront of addiction medicine through bold, innovative content. He is currently pursuing his MBA in Finance from Texas Christian University.