Rehab 4 Addiction

What is Cocaine?

Cocaine is originally from coca leaves and has been used for hundreds of years in many cultures. The drug is originated from the Erythroxylon coca leaves, located initially in Peru, Colombia, and Bolivia.

Coca-leaf teas have been known to battle sickness from altitude and increase energy in many native tribes located in the countries of South America.

coca plant

Cocaine, nowadays also known as coke, is a powerful stimulant mostly used as a recreational drug. Cocaine is a very addictive drug, usually sniffed or injected.

Effects of taking cocaine may introduce an extreme feeling of satisfaction, and a failure of connection with reality, as well as making someone extremely agitated.

Symptoms can also involve a fast heartbeat and an increase in sweating. Taking large doses can end up in a sharp peak of high blood pressure and even body temperature.

Cocaine is a highly addictive, illegal substance. It’s usually sold in powder form, however, it can be mixed with water to form a paste-like substance that people inject into their bodies.

Cocaine is also often mixed with other substances such as starch, flour or talc in order to make the substance go further and therefore increase its profits [1].

In another attempt to increase their profits, dealers might mix cocaine with other substances such as opioids.

This makes the substance extremely dangerous and even more addictive.

This often leads to an increase in more people being addicted to cocaine for a prolonged period of time and eventually, overdoses and deaths [1].

As cocaine is so highly addictive, individuals who take the drug commonly binge on cocaine in an attempt to chase the high they first experienced when trying the drug in the early stages of their addiction.

Another form of cocaine is commonly referred to as ‘crack cocaine.’ This is when an individual melts or heats the crack cocaine (which comes in a rock-like form).

Whilst heating, the crack cocaine makes a crackling sound, which is where the drug gets its name.

The most common ways individuals consume cocaine are by:

  • Snorting the drug up their nose
  • Injecting the drug into their veins
  • Placing the drug on their gums or teeth
  • Smoking and inhaling the drug

What Is the Half-Life of Cocaine?

Whilst lots of people might have heard the term ‘half life’ when talking about drugs, they might not know what it actually means.

The half life of a particular drug describes the halfway point at which a drug has run through an individual’s body.

That’s why half-life refers to how long the drug stays in the body. If a drug has a half-life of four hours, then the drug’s intensity will be halved after four hours in an individual’s body.

From this point on, the drug will continue to be ‘cut in half’ after every two hours until it eventually leaves the body.

Each type of drug has a different half-life. For example, cocaine has a relatively short half-life in comparison to other drugs [2].

For cocaine, a short half-life makes sense – cocaine produces short but intense highs.

An individual can feel high as quickly as ten minutes after injecting the drug or within sixty minutes of snorting the drug [3]. However, the feelings experienced will often diminish after one hour [4].

There are also a number of factors that influence how the body breaks down a drug. For example, metabolism plays a large and important role.

Drugs are broken down and absorbed by the liver and enzymes. However, as an individual gets older it gets significantly harder for the body, liver and enzymes to metabolise drugs.

How long does it take to feel the effects of cocaine?

Cocaine is a drug that hits fast and hard, but it affects people differently. How fast it can affect someone will also depend on how it’s consumed.

That’s because it will depend on how cocaine enters the bloodstream, which is why that consuming it by inhalation might take a little longer when compared to accessing the body through injection.

But according to the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association, also known as DATIA, cocaine can normally be identified for 2 to 10 days.

The methods of taking cocaine also influence the duration of this drug in the system.

  • Snorting cocaine can present effects within 3 to 5 minutes after consuming and effects can persevere for approximately 20 minutes
  • Inhaling cocaine can present effects within 5 to 10 seconds, and results can continue for approximately 20 minutes
  • Intravenous cocaine injection can present effects within 5 to 10 seconds, and they can continue for approximately 20 minutes
  • Oral ingestion of cocaine can present effects within 10 to 30 minutes, and results can persist approximately 90 minutes

Once in the bloodstream cocaine stops neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine from being absorbed, which can lead to someone experiencing an exhalation of emotions such as euphoric mood swings.

But it cand also to the experience of sensations of delusional, annoyance, and fear. Cocaine can also raise the heartbeat and tighten up the blood vessels, which can result in heart attacks, strokes, and even kidney stones.

How cocaine it’s consumed also concludes how long the effects may last as well. However, the severity and the duration of the results aren’t the same for everyone.

While some people may feel the influence of cocaine for an hour, others may feel it for a few minutes. The quantity of the dosage consumed will also affect the severity and duration of the effects caused by cocaine.

How long does cocaine stay in your system?

It’s almost impossible to know how long cocaine stays in the system because there are a lot of factors involved. And everyone reacts differently when exposed to the drug.

A person’s metabolism, age, different types of body metabolisms along with other factors, will help to determine how long the effects of consuming cocaine can last.

Cocaine tends to stay in the body from 4 to 6 hours. However, cocaine can still be found in the system for a couple of weeks in some cases.

When cocaine is inside, someone’s system is then metabolised with the aid of enzymes that can be found in blood and liver.

Cocaine leaves the body quite fast, so most of the tests that are supposed to detect cocaine in the system actually look for a metabolite called benzoylecgonine.

How Soon Can I Pass A Cocaine Drug Test?

If you’ve recently consumed drugs, then you’re probably wondering how long it will be until you will be able to pass a cocaine drug test.

For cocaine, on average it’s said that you will test positive within 2 – 6 hours after consuming the drug.

Additionally, you will continue to test positive for up to 3 whole days after first consuming the drug [5]. However, this varies greatly depending on which test is administered.

There are a number of factors that come into play when considering how long a drug stays in the body and how long it will be until you can test negative. [6]

These factors include what type of drug you’ve consumed, what type of test is administered and to an extent, the way in which you consumed the drug.

Some other factors include but are not limited to:

  • The number of drugs consumed
  • The health of your kidney and liver
  • Your metabolism
  • Your individual tolerance to drugs
  • The pH level of your urine
  • Your weight
  • How often you tend to consume the drug
  • Your age
  • How long it’s been since you last consumed the drug

There are a number of common drug tests which include urine, saliva blood and hair follicle tests.

However, each test can detect a drug over different periods of time. For example, blood tests can test positive for cocaine for up to 12 hours, but saliva tests can detect cocaine for up to around 48 hours.

However, hair follicle tests can detect cocaine in an individual’s system for up to 90 days.

What is benzoylecgonine?

Benzoylecgonine or also known as ecgonine benzoate is the primary metabolite of cocaine.

Because no other drug provides the identical metabolite as benzoylecgonine, it is clear that when benzoylecgonine is found in someone’s system, that person has consumed cocaine.

Cocaine is metabolised through our system extremely fast.

Of course, the rate of metabolism will dictate how fast cocaine leaves the body. Once cocaine is in our system, it gets broken down in three ways; esterases, de-methylation and ecgonine.

De-methylation is known as the method that cocaine is metabolised into benzoylecgonine.

Because benzoylecgonine can be found in the bloodstream within 30 minutes of someone consuming cocaine, and then steadily rises within the next 2 to 3 hours, it’s possible to identify if someone had consumed cocaine even if the cocaine is already out of the system.

How long is cocaine detectable by a drug test?

Once within the system cocaine is metabolised by enzymes, this happens so quickly that cocaine is barely detectable in the majority screening tests designed to identify cocaine.

That’s why the tests to detect cocaine look for benzoylecgonine instead. This is because benzoylecgonine can be detected in the body for a more extended period of time than cocaine.

There are four-way to look for cocaine in the system:

1. Blood

Blood tests that are commonly done in a hospital can identify cocaine in blood, usually up to 12 hours after consuming cocaine. Alternatively, it can also recognise benzoylecgonine for approximately 48 hours.

2. Saliva

A saliva test works by using an appropriate unique tool to remove a sample of saliva from someone’s mouth and insert it instantly into a sample tube. Saliva tests can detect cocaine metabolites for up to two days after consumption.

3. Urine

Urine tests used to detect cocaine are exceptionally reliable. This is mainly because the cross-reactivity between the test and other possible no cocaine components is almost hypothetical impossible. Urine tests can usually detect cocaine for up to three days.

4. Hair

Cocaine metabolites can usually be identified in hair follicles from months or even years after the consumption of cocaine. Although the results can depend on where the hair sample is removed.

Are there any factors that can affect how long does cocaine stay in your system?

Many factors will define how long someone will be able to feel the effects of cocaine, and for how long cocaine’s traces can remain in the body. Here are some of the factors that can affect how long cocaine stays in your system:

1. Amount

The amount of cocaine consumed will influence the amount of time that cocaine will stay in the body, more cocaine, the longer the cocaine will remain in the system.

2. Frequency

The frequency that someone takes cocaine can influence the time that cocaine will stay in the body.

3. Method

The way that cocaine is consumed can also determine the duration of the effects. Cocaine that is snorted may remain in your system for a more prolonged time than cocaine that was taken by intravenous injection.

Alternatively, for those individuals who snort cocaine, they might only experience a high for as long as half an hour and after three hours it would be eliminated completely from the body.

By ingesting cocaine orally, the drug takes effect within around an hour and will last for around two hours. However, by consuming cocaine this way, the drug can last for up to 5 and a half hours in the body.

4. Alcohol

Drinking alcohol and consuming cocaine has been seen to raise the duration of cocaine in the body.

5. Body & Metabolism

Having higher amounts of body fat can induce cocaine to stay in the system for longer.

How long does cocaine stay in your system when mixed with alcohol?

Mixing cocaine with alcohol will generate new components. One of the most dominant of these new components is the metabolites known as cocaethylene.

Cocaine and alcohol alone are already powerful enough to make harmful reactions to the body, but when together, these two can induce more significant harm. They will intensify the toxicity in the liver, heart, and other main organs.

Cocaethylene also lingers around for longer than cocaine, and its toxicity also stays for longer in the body. Alcohol also reduces the elimination of another metabolite, known as ethylbenzoylecgonine, from the kidneys.

Because of this, the levels of cocaine and cocaethylene will increase in the bloodstream, potentially imposing even more damage.

There is also the concern that alcohol induces the craving for cocaine as this research has concluded. Due to this co-dependence between those two substances, it makes it more challenging for people to stop using.

Mixing cocaine and alcohol can raise risks for:

  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Erratic behaviour
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Seizures
  • Damage on the liver
  • Increase in body temperature
  • Severe drug desires
  • Raise cancer risk
  • Sudden death

When people combine cocaine and alcohol, cocaethylene can remain in the system for days and sometimes even weeks. The total duration will, of course, depend on the quantity and how it’s consumed.

But no matter how little consumption someone chooses to have, those two components can have deadly outcomes.

Accuracy of cocaine testing and False Positives

Although most testing processes for drugs and alcohol are very accurate, sometimes a false positive can occur.

This happens when individual tests positive for a drug, despite the fact that they have not consumed the drug.

For example, testing via hair follicles has proved to be occasionally unreliable when testing for drugs, with some suggesting that the test is simply not reliable enough.

This is because an individual does not have to consume the drug for it to show up in a hair follicle test.

For example, if your hair were to become contaminated with the drug or if it were to be smoked in your company, there’s a chance you would test positive for cocaine even though you have not consumed the drug.

Additionally, it has been noted over the years that cocaine tends to ‘stick’ itself to darker hair more than slighter hair.

This is down to the pigment in an individual’s hair, with some studies showing that darker hair can contain more cocaine than lighter hair.

As you can see, there are a few reasons why false positives can occur with drug testing. However, it is important to remember that the majority of drug testing is accurate.

If you are consuming drugs and are worried that you might test positive, then it is really important to seek help.

You can speak to your local GP, attend a rehab programme or call one of the many helplines available.

At a professional rehab centre, you will receive around the clock care and support from medical professionals. You will also receive a personalised treatment programme, with treatments including private therapy, group and family therapy, detoxification and relapse prevention.

For lots of people struggling with an addiction to cocaine, they might believe that it’s too late to get help.

However, we believe that it’s never too late to start putting your health first.

Cocaine False Positive & Other Medications

As discussed above, most testing for drugs such as cocaine is accurate. However, there may be some cases where a false positive occurs.

Some tests may be deemed less reliable than others. Additionally, there are a number of other substances and medications that if consumed, may also lead to a false-positive result when testing for cocaine [10].

This is because they may contain a certain amount of metabolites also present within cocaine.

These other substances and foods include [10]:

  • Lidocaine
  • Novocaine
  • Coca leaf tea
  • Large amounts of poppy seeds

However, it is important to remember that these cases are very rare and most testing processes for cocaine are widely used by professionals and are accurate.

If you’re struggling with an addiction to cocaine or any other drug or substance such as alcohol, then it’s important to seek help as soon as possible.

Cocaine fingerprint testing

Fingerprint testing is a popular way to determine whether someone has simply touched cocaine, or if they have actually consumed the drug.

This form of testing is very popular as it only takes two minutes, making it far quicker than the likes of blood tests.

Fingerprint testing works by detecting a molecule called benzoylecgonine present in cocaine which excretes through the skin. The body will continue to excrete benzoylecgonine for some time, even if the individual washes their hands.

Long-Term Effects of Cocaine

There is no doubt that consuming cocaine has long term effects on your body and mental and physical health.

Some of these long term health concerns include (but are not limited to) the following [1]:

  • Frequent nosebleeds
  • Frequent runny nose
  • Severe weight loss
  • Issues swallowing and consuming food and drink
  • Increased risk of an aortic rupture
  • Increased chances of a seizure or stroke
  • Heart problems such as inflammation
  • Increased chances of getting Parkinson’s
  • Difficulty with your memory, attention and decision-making ability.
  • Losing your sense of smell
  • Increased chances of contracting HIV or Hepatitis

Effect on Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

There is no doubt that consuming cocaine has an effect on your pregnancy.

When an individual consumes cocaine when pregnant, the cocaine ends up reaching the fetus, meaning that it could cause a miscarriage or premature birth [7].

Additionally, it also puts the baby at risk of being very small when born and of having some behavioural and cognitive issues as they get older.

Therefore it is really important that you do not consume cocaine when pregnant.

Unfortunately, it’s believed that on average, around 5% of all pregnant women are addicted to at least one or more substances [7].

However, if you stop consuming cocaine in the early stages of pregnancy, although the chances of premature birth or a miscarriage is still possible, you may still be able to give birth to a healthy child.

Effect on Breastfeeding

If you’re breastfeeding, then consuming cocaine can be very dangerous for your child.

Cocaine enters breast milk very quickly. Therefore, if you’ve consumed cocaine (just once) then you should wait at least 24 hours before breastfeeding again [8].

However, if you are a frequent cocaine user then it is important that you wait at least 3 months before breastfeeding your child.

However, we advise that if you’re currently consuming cocaine or if you have done recently, then you should always talk with your doctor.

There are also other options, such as talking to a confidential and private helpline, attending a rehab centre or therapy.

Breastfeeding your child will always benefit them, therefore there’s no reason why anyone who has previously consumed or been addicted to cocaine should avoid breastfeeding [8].

This is fine as long as you wait at least 3 months and do not consume the drug whilst breastfeeding [8].

Long term Factors that Affect how Long Cocaine Stays in your System

If you’re consuming cocaine and wondering how long the drug will stay in your system, then it’s important to remember that there are a number of factors that will influence this. [9]

These factors include but are not limited to:

1. Your Current State of Health

Cocaine will stay in your system longer if you have health problems. These health problems include liver and kidney issues, which are often caused by consuming excessive drugs and alcohol.

The worse condition your body is in, the longer it takes for cocaine to leave the body.

2. Gender

Women process and eliminate cocaine a lot slower than men due to the fact that women simply have more body fat than men do.

3. Your BMI

The higher an individual’s BMI, the higher the body fat percentage. Cocaine stores itself in fat cells. Therefore, individual’s with a higher BMI tend to process cocaine a lot slower than individual’s with a lower BMI.

4. How Old You Are

Your age also plays a large part in influencing how long it takes your body to process cocaine and other drugs.

This is mainly down to the fact that as your body ages, it takes longer to metabolise drugs. Therefore, drugs will tend to stay in the body for longer as you get older.

5. Your Genetic History

Your genes also play a large role in determining how long drugs, such as cocaine stay in your body. This is because the genes and enzymes that run through your family influence how you as an individual process substances.

Conclusion

It’s a challenge to know how long cocaine stays in your system because many factors will influence the time that cocaine remains in the body. But one clear thing is that cocaine is a highly addictive drug that can impose terrible health threats.

The potential for this drug to harm someone’s life should not be taken lightly. The best solution would be staying away from it, but if you are dealing with addiction or know someone who is, then the warning should be raised and understood.

The next step is to ask for help and seek treatment. There is a solution to this problem, and the good news is that no one has to face it alone. Reach out for help.

References

[1] https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/cocaine

[2] https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/publications/publishing.nsf/Content/drugtreat-pubs-modpsy-toc~drugtreat-pubs-modpsy-2~drugtreat-pubs-modpsy-2-3~drugtreat-pubs-modpsy-2-3-pcoc

[3] https://jhu.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/pharmacokinetics-and-pharmacodynamics-of-cocaine-3

[4] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2688863/

[5] https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/drugs-abuse-tests/drugs-abuse-home-use-test

[6] https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000947.htm

[7] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23314721/

[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3498013/

[9] https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/366511

[10] https://www.winchesterhospital.org/health-library/article?id=13837

boris

Boris is our editor-in-chief at Rehab 4 Addiction. Boris is an addiction expert with more than 20 years in the field.  His expertise covers a broad of topics relating to addiction, rehab and recovery. Boris is an addiction therapist and assists in the alcohol detox and rehab process. Boris has been featured on a variety of websites, including the BBC, Verywell Mind and Healthline.