Cocaine can stay in a person’s system for as little as two to three days. Heavy cocaine users may have cocaine in their system for up to two weeks. Cocaine can be detected in urine tests for one to two days and in hair tests for 90 days.
While hair follicle testing can detect cocaine for months or even years after last use, a heavy user can test positive on a urine test for up to two weeks.
Breaking Down Cocaine Half-Life
A drug’s half-life refers to the length of time it takes for the active substance in a drug to reduce by half in the body. When four to five half-lives have passed, the drug is effectively removed from the body.
Cocaine’s half-life is about an hour. That means the drug should be removed from the body within about five hours.
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A cocaine dose, no matter how it’s administered, moves through the liver. In the liver, cocaine is processed into two inactive metabolites (benzoylecgonine and ecgonine methyl ester). Inactive metabolites get excreted from the body, primarily via urine.
Some drug testing methods don’t check for cocaine, but they do check for its metabolites. Tests like this can detect cocaine for much longer, especially in heavy users.
In one study conducted in 2000, researchers gave cocaine users the drug and tested their urine for benzoylecgonine. Three subjects in this test had the substance in their urine for an estimated 52.4 hours. Researchers said these results proved that cocaine accumulates in the body with chronic use.
Drug Tests Used to Detect Cocaine
The most common tests used to detect cocaine include the following:
Urine is often the preferred testing type. It’s easy and noninvasive to get a sample, and experts say drug metabolite concentrations tend to be high in urine. That allows them to detect drugs like cocaine for longer time frames than seen in blood tests.
Urine tests for cocaine are also remarkably accurate, experts say, as the results are rarely contaminated by the foods people ate or the other drugs they took.
Blood tests involve a sample of blood being taken and tested for cocaine and its metabolites. A healthcare professional must conduct this test, which makes it less attractive for businesses and other professionals. Blood analysis is most often utilized in scenarios where the individual is suspected of being actively under the influence of cocaine.
Hair tests provide accurate detection of drugs taken within about 90 days. The length of the hair and the processes it’s been subjected to can change the results and, in some cases, make testing difficult.
Saliva tests are the least expensive and generally consist of a swab test where saliva is collected from the inner cheek. Some saliva tests offer instant results, but they’re most successful when used to identify cocaine itself and not its metabolites.
How Long Does Cocaine Last in Your System?
|1–2 days to 2 weeks, depending on use
|90 days or longer
While cocaine can only be detected in the blood for 0.7 to 1.5 hours after use, benzoylecgonine can be measured via blood for anywhere from 5.5 to 7.5 hours.
Blood tests are often used to determine if the individual is currently under the influence of drugs. Due to cost and manpower, blood tests are done far less frequently than urine and saliva testing.
Cocaine can generally be detected via a saliva test for up to 24 hours. Saliva tests are less reliable than other tests, but they are often used due to their cost-effectiveness.
The hair test can detect cocaine use for around 90 days after last use. However, this can be very dependent on the amount of cocaine taken during that time. Some heavy users will test positive on a hair test for months or years after last use.
For light users, cocaine can only be tested in urine for less than one day, but benzoylecgonine can be detected in the urine for one to two days. Heavy users will test positive during a urine test for cocaine for up to two weeks in some cases.
Factors That Determine How Long Cocaine Stays in the System
There are certain factors that can affect how long cocaine stays in the system, including frequency and duration of use, the testing method used to detect cocaine use, the amount used, as well as the body’s ability to flush the drug out of the system.
What if You Fail?
Cocaine drug testing is conducted for all sorts of reasons. The consequences you’ll face for failing a test can vary by the reason you were asked to give a sample.
If an employer asks you to submit to a cocaine test, the consequences of failing should be detailed in your employee handbook. If you were asked to take the test on condition of employment, you may not get the job you were hoping for.
If law enforcement officials conduct your cocaine test, your consequences could be more severe. Cocaine is a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning it has an accepted medical use but can’t be a recreational drug. If police officers test your blood for cocaine after a car accident and you fail, you could face legal consequences like jail.
If doctors test your blood for cocaine, they may be searching for a medical reason for the symptoms you’re demonstrating. The results can guide your treatment, and they may lead to a conversation about the need for addiction care.
Signs of Cocaine Abuse You Should Know
Signs of cocaine abuse include increased tolerance to the drug, which results in using the drug more often and in higher amounts. Those who are abusing cocaine may exhibit sudden bursts of energy, paranoia, extreme irritability, and other behavioral symptoms.
Cocaine abuse often manifests itself in drug-seeking behavior, where the individual puts themselves in compromising or even dangerous situations in order to gain access to the drug.
If you or someone you know is abusing cocaine, it’s important to seek professional help as soon as possible before the abuse turns into a cocaine use disorder. If you are already struggling with addiction, know that it is a manageable condition. With the right help, you can successfully stop using cocaine and enjoy a healthier future.
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