According to a 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), over 4.8 million individuals over the age of 12 admitted to using cocaine in the previous year. Cocaine, also known as coke, produces a quick, intense high.
People abuse cocaine to continue feeling its euphoric, short-lived effects. As tolerance grows, many casual users find themselves developing a harmful dependency.
If you or a loved one has a problem with cocaine abuse, you may wonder, “How long does cocaine stay in your system?” This depends on how often you use it, your body chemistry, the dosage, and other factors.
Here’s a guide explaining cocaine addiction and how long the drug stays in your system.
What Is Cocaine?
Cocaine is an illegal drug that originates from the coca plant. Cocaine stimulates the central nervous system.
The initial effects are alertness, increased energy, and a sense of euphoria resulting from dopamine production. Cocaine comes in powder or rock form, known as crack cocaine.
Crack was developed as a cheap alternative to cocaine. It’s extremely addictive in this highly concentrated form.
How People Take Cocaine
People snort cocaine, but this isn’t the only method for ingestion. The drug can be injected intravenously, rubbed on the gums, smoked, or “freebased.”
Each method of ingestion has its risks and affects the rate the cocaine enters your system.
The Effects of Cocaine
Cocaine produces pleasurable effects when taken. However, it has some unpleasant side effects. It’s extremely addictive and dangerous for long-term users.
Some common effects of cocaine use include:
- Feelings happy or excited
- Feeling powerful
- Feeling confident
- Mental alertness
- Being talkative and animated
- Feeling awake
- Feeling restless
- Fast heart rate
- Dilated pupils
- Suppressed appetite
- Raised body temperature
Cocaine is addictive and dangerous for chronic abusers. Continual use of the drug leads to many unpleasant side effects and is especially dangerous if you have high blood pressure or heart issues.
Cocaine puts extra pressure on the heart and can damage the cardiovascular system. Chronic cocaine use can lead to heart attacks, seizures, or strokes.
This method of use impacts how the drug affects your physical health. Snorting cocaine can lead to loss of smell and damage to the structure of the nostrils.
Smoking cocaine can result in severe lung damage. Injecting it puts users at risk for infection, HIV, and hepatitis C.
Using cocaine puts you at higher risk for brain bleeds. It can damage the brain and affect memory, attention span, and decision-making. Long-term users often suffer from suppressed appetite and malnutrition.
Long-term cocaine use may cause:
- Heart damage
- Liver damage
- Organ failure
- Lung damage from smoking
- Nasal damage from snorting
- Weight loss and malnourishment
How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Your System?
To understand this question, you have to consider cocaine’s half-life. A drug’s half-life refers to how long it takes the body to eliminate half of the substance from the body.
Cocaine’s half-life is approximately one hour. This means that an hour after use, half of the drug is still present in the body.
The length of time cocaine stays in the body varies. Chronic use can lead to slower elimination times.
Other factors that affect how long cocaine lingers in the body include:
- Frequency of use
- Method of use
- How much you’ve taken
- Last use of the drug
- The extent of drug abuse
- Kidney or liver damage
- Urine pH
- Body mass or composition
- Whether you have alcohol in your system
Once cocaine enters the body, it begins to break down into metabolites. Drug tests look for these metabolites in hair, blood, urine, or saliva.
Urine tests are a common method for drug testing. They detect cocaine in urine and are simple, cheap, and painless.
Cocaine metabolites are detectable in urine for one to three days. Large doses, prolonged use, or pure cocaine may have a slightly longer window of detection.
Hair tests are highly effective for detecting metabolites of cocaine. The body doesn’t get rid of hair. It continues to grow and cocaine is detectable in the hair for months after use.
Evidence of cocaine use may take seven to ten days to appear in the hair. It can remain in the hair for up to six months after use.
There are some reliability issues with hair testing. People who cut their hair or have short hair could have a shorter positive window.
Hair can become contaminated from direct exposure to cocaine, even if the individual didn’t use the drug.
A saliva test can detect the presence of cocaine for 24 to 48 hours after use. The user’s metabolism, along with the quantity and purity of the cocaine, determines the amount of time it is present in the body.
Habitual users may take longer to metabolize the substance. The use of saliva testing has increased due to its low cost and easy administration.
Blood tests for cocaine look for the drug or its metabolites in the blood plasma. Blood tests have a short detection window of 5.5 to 7.5 hours.
Blood tests can be used to measure whether someone is currently under the influence of the drug rather than whether they’ve used it recently.
Blood tests are more expensive than other forms of testing and are administered by qualified medical personnel in a laboratory setting. For these reasons, blood testing is less common than urine testing.
How Cocaine Is Metabolized
As the body metabolizes cocaine, the drug begins to break down. This creates metabolites that travel to saliva, urine, hair, and the bloodstream before leaving the body.
The liver plays a critical role in the metabolization process. Chronic use or overdose can damage the liver.
Seeking Help for Cocaine Abuse
A person concerned with the time it takes for cocaine to leave the body may need help for an addiction. Habitual users may be unable to abstain and may be concerned about the effects of withdrawal from the drug. This is a sign of cocaine addiction.
Other signs an individual may need help with addiction include:
- Unable to quit despite trying
- Using cocaine to feel “normal”
- Experiencing health issues as a result of cocaine use
- Drug use is affecting your relationships
- Financial, workplace, or legal problems
- Using cocaine to manage mental health issues
- Using cocaine to mask physical pain
The Need for Treatment
Long-term cocaine addiction can impact your life in many negative ways. If you’re unable to stop using cocaine, keep in mind that addiction is a medical problem, not a moral failing. Cocaine addiction requires treatment.
Treatment should include medical support to deal with withdrawal and psychological support to deal with issues such as anxiety, depression, and relationship problems.
A person suffering from addiction may benefit from:
- Medical detox
- Medical support for health issues
- Comprehensive inpatient treatment
- Outpatient treatment
- Support groups
A family doctor or mental health professional can help you find the treatment you need to beat your addiction and begin a new life. Seeking help for an addiction may seem scary at first, but there is help available for you.
It is possible to break free from addiction and live a happier and healthier life.
Mixing Cocaine and Alcohol
It’s common for people to abuse cocaine with alcohol. This is a dangerous combination.
When the two are mixed, a toxic metabolite called cocaethylene forms in the body. This can damage the heart and liver.
Cocaine and alcohol are highly addictive. Using them in combination heightens the risk of addiction and other health issues.
Treatment for Addiction
Cocaine addiction is treatable. Treatments include detox, rehab, and emotional support to ensure long-term recovery.
Treatment begins with the detox process. During this time, you will be medically supported to break through the physical dependence on cocaine.
There are anxiety medications and antidepressants that can help relieve some of the symptoms associated with withdrawal. After detox, psychological support is critical.
Cognitive behavioral therapy and group therapy can be very helpful for overcoming substance abuse. Long-term recovery options may include lifestyle changes, support groups, and having a sober support network.
Will Insurance Cover Addiction Treatment?
Some insurance carriers may pay for part or for all of the cost of addiction treatment. Depending on your provider, the costs of addiction treatment could be reduced or possibly free.
Major insurers, including Blue Cross, Aetna, United, and Cigna, offer addiction treatment coverage. Check with your insurance carrier and the addiction treatment center of your choice.
Cocaine Addiction and Drug Rehab
If you’re struggling with cocaine addiction, you may have asked, “How long does cocaine stay in your system?” Drug test detection times depend on many factors and can vary from person to person.
Cocaine addiction is a serious illness and can have devastating consequences for long-term users. If you’re unable to stop using cocaine, there is hope for a brighter future.
With the right addiction treatment and high-quality care, you can achieve long-term sobriety. At America’s Rehab Campuses, we take a multidimensional approach to addiction treatment.
We offer evidence-based, compassionate care to help you achieve lasting recovery and an improved quality of life. We’d love to talk with you about our addiction care services.