How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Your System?

Last Updated: May 26, 2023

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

Cocaine is a stimulant drug that is often used recreationally for its pleasurable effects. Although it can also work as an anesthetic, its use is often avoided in medical settings. The FDA has classified cocaine as a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning it has some medical purposes but carries a high risk of abuse, dependence and addiction.

Cocaine use often has profoundly negative physical, psychological and social consequences. As a result, cocaine is frequently tested for by employers, courts and parents. Although the effects of cocaine typically last around 30 minutes, the drug can remain in the system and be detectable on drug tests for a much longer period of time.

What Is Cocaine?

Cocaine is an extremely addictive stimulant drug that may be consumed in several different ways. The powder can be snorted through the nose or rubbed on the gums. Some users dissolve the powder and inject it directly into the vein or muscle. Others may heat the rock crystal form of cocaine — known as freebase cocaine or crack — and inhale it into the lungs.

Cocaine produces its effects by blocking the reuptake of a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Also known as the “feel-good” hormone, dopamine provides an individual with feelings of pleasure. By blocking its reuptake, cocaine intensifies the effects of dopamine, allowing the user to have strong euphoric sensations.

What Are the Immediate Effects of Cocaine?

The effects of cocaine are experienced very quickly and last for a short period of time. Immediate effects that are perceived to be pleasurable include:

  • Happiness
  • Increased energy
  • Ability to perform tasks at a fast pace
  • Mental alertness

There are also immediate physical signs and negative effects resulting from cocaine use. These effects include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased sensitivity to sight, sound and touch
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Rise in body temperature
  • Nausea
  • Restlessness
  • Body tremors
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia and violent behavior (at high doses)

How Long Does Cocaine Last?

Cocaine has a rapid onset that can be felt immediately or within a few minutes and has a short duration of action. Snorting cocaine will result in a high that lasts approximately 15 to 30 minutes. Smoking or inhaling the vapors of freebase cocaine creates a high that lasts five to 10 minutes.

Cocaine substantially increases levels of the brain neurotransmitter dopamine, which regulates the “reward pathway.” When these effects begin to subside, the reward pathway signals that more cocaine is needed, leading to intense cravings.

Cocaine Side Effects

Cocaine use can lead to a variety of physical and mental side effects, and some can remain over the long term. Physical side effects of cocaine include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Tremors and muscle twitches
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Headaches
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure and body temperature
  • Nose bleeds, runny nose, difficulty swallowing (if snorted)
  • Cough, asthma, increased risk of respiratory infections (if smoked)
  • Movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease
  • Heart attack
  • Seizures
  • Stroke

Mental side effects of cocaine include:

  • Restlessness
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Erratic or violent behavior
  • Cravings, dependence and addiction

Cocaine Half-Life

Cocaine has a short half-life of approximately one hour. A drug’s half-life refers to the time it takes for half of the drug to be eliminated from the body.

It is important to keep in mind that the half-life of cocaine does not represent how long it can show up on a drug test. In addition, how long cocaine’s effects last is usually different from how long cocaine can be detected by a drug test. Most drug tests screen for metabolic byproducts of cocaine, which remain in the body longer than the effects of cocaine last. The detection time also varies depending on which type of test is given.

Cocaine Drug Test Detection Times

Drug screenings to detect cocaine can test for the drug by taking a sample of an individual’s urine, saliva, blood or hair. These tests detect the presence of cocaine as well as its metabolites. Metabolites are substances that are created as the body works to eliminate cocaine, and they may stay in the body longer than cocaine.

Drug tests are performed in a clinical setting, and results can be obtained in different ways. Urine is used more commonly than blood because it is easier to acquire. Performing a saliva or hair test is less common because it tends to be more expensive.

How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Your Urine?

A urine screening for cocaine will typically test for the metabolite benzoylecgonine, as it remains in the body longer than cocaine. This metabolite’s detection time in urine ranges between 31 and 106 hours. This means that cocaine may be detectable in the urine for up to 4.5 days.

How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Your Blood?

Although cocaine has a short half-life and is completely eliminated from the body quickly, its metabolites stay in the body longer. In fact, the half-lives of cocaine’s metabolites range from 14.6 hours to 52.4 hours. This means that cocaine can technically be detectable in the blood for three to eleven days.

How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Your Hair?

In general, hair testing for drugs is complicated and expensive, so it is rarely performed as a routine drug test. Hair samples can detect cocaine use for up to three months.

How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Your Saliva?

Although it is easy to obtain an individual’s saliva for a drug screen, it tends to be expensive. As a result, it is not used as often as a urine test. Saliva testing can detect cocaine and its metabolites for up to 24 to 48 hours.

Factors Affecting How Long Cocaine Stays in Your System

There are a variety of factors that can influence how long cocaine stays in the body. Some individual factors that affect cocaine’s metabolism include a person’s age, weight, health status and efficiency in metabolizing drugs. Other factors that can influence how long cocaine stays in your system include:

  • Dosage: This is critical in determining how long cocaine stays in your system. The greater the amount of cocaine ingested, the longer it will take to be metabolized and eliminated from the body.
  • Route of administration: Cocaine can last for different amounts of time depending on whether it is smoked, snorted or injected. For instance, snorted cocaine will last longer than smoked cocaine.
  • History and frequency of use: Compared to occasional or short-term cocaine use, chronic and frequent cocaine use will cause the drug to remain in the system longer.
  • Combining cocaine with other substances: Using cocaine with other substances, such as alcohol, may cause cocaine to stay in your system longer. Mixing cocaine with other substances can also increase the risk of overdose and other dangerous outcomes, such as seizures or death.

Cocaine False Positives

Receiving a false positive from a cocaine drug screening is extremely rare. This is because drug testing for cocaine includes cocaine’s most common metabolite, benzoylecgonine. This metabolite is not present with drugs that are structurally similar to cocaine, such as Novocaine. However, there are instances when a false positive may occur. There was a documented case where a false positive for cocaine was established upon subsequent testing. The cause for the false positive was not able to be determined.

How Is Cocaine Metabolized in the Body?

Regardless of the route of administration, cocaine is metabolized by the liver, which filters the blood in the body. People with liver disease will have impaired metabolism, so elimination of cocaine may take longer for these individuals. It is also important to note that there can be genetic differences in a person’s ability to metabolize drugs. Some may be able to eliminate cocaine more quickly, while others eliminate it more slowly.

How To Get Cocaine Out of Your System

There is little evidence supporting the theory that drinking large amounts of water and performing vigorous aerobic exercise makes cocaine leave your body more quickly. Alcohol does slow cocaine clearance, so avoiding simultaneous use of both substances is a good idea.

The only reliable way to get cocaine out of your system is to stop using the drug. However, because of uncomfortable and dangerous withdrawal effects that may occur — especially for chronic users — this should be done under medical supervision.

Cocaine Detox Center Near Ridgefield, WA

Detoxification (detox) is the process of allowing the body to eliminate a drug from its system. Because quitting cocaine can cause withdrawal symptoms like increased cravings, inability to sleep and agitation, detox should be performed at an accredited rehab facility under the direct supervision of licensed medical professionals. These experts provide around-the-clock support and can address any uncomfortable symptoms that may arise throughout the detox process.

The Recovery Village Ridgefield is a full-service rehab center committed to helping those with addiction begin a healthier, substance-free life in recovery. If you or someone you love needs cocaine addiction treatment, our experts are here to help. Contact us today to speak with a knowledgeable representative who can help you learn more about our treatment programs.


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