Cocaine is a stimulant drug that can be snorted, injected, or smoked. Cocaine is a powerfully addictive substance that can lead to adverse health consequences, and even alter brain structure and function in case of repeated use.1
Cocaine: Speed of effects and length of detection in the body
Cocaine is metabolized faster than most drugs. However, the exact period of time during which it can be detected in one’s system and show up on a drug test can’t be determined with precision. A lot of variables influence the speed at which it can be eliminated from one’s system. Cocaine detection in the body depends on factors like:2
- Dose and method of use.
- Frequency of use.
- Purity level.
- Hydration level.
- Physical activity.
- Height, weight, and body fat.
- Alcohol and caffeine consumption.
- The type of test used to detect cocaine in the system.
How Does the Body Metabolize Cocaine?
Metabolization is a chemical process of transforming a drug into its breakdown products called metabolites. Enzymes in the liver and blood metabolize cocaine. The most significant cocaine metabolite is called benzoylecgonine – usually screened for in testing, aside from cocaine itself.3
Cocaine metabolism takes place mainly in the liver, within 2 hours of use. Benzoylecgonine and ecgonine methyl ester account for more than 80% of cocaine’s known metabolites.4 Cocaine metabolites can be passed out of the body through urine, sweat, saliva, or breast milk.5
How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Different Body Parts?
Various parts of the body or body fluids retain cocaine or its metabolites for different amounts of time:6
- Hair: Cocaine can be detected in hair for months after use.6 Even after a period of abstinence, both cocaine and its metabolite, benzoylecgonine, might be detected in hair for several months. Cocaine half-life in hair is calculated to be over a month, which suggests that 3–4 months must pass for cocaine hair tests to become negative.7
- Blood: Blood usually holds cocaine for about 12 hours while its metabolite benzoylecgonine can be eliminated out of the system in 48 hours.6 Cocaine blood testing can detect the drug shortly after use, depending on the amount, purity, and route of administration. Blood has a shorter detection period than urine.8
- Saliva: Both cocaine and its metabolites can be detected in saliva for only a day or two after use.6
- Urine: This type of test can detect cocaine metabolites for 2-3 days after use. Depending on the dosage, frequency of use, and metabolism, cocaine urine detection time for benzoylecgonine can be as long as 96 hours.9 However, in case of severe, heavy use, this test could be positive for up to 2 weeks after use.6
- Sweat: Cocaine or its metabolites are detectable in sweat for up to a few weeks (if the cutoff value is very low).10
What Does Cocaine Half-Life Mean?
The half-life of cocaine is the time it takes to eliminate half of the drug dose from the body. However, cocaine half-life is not identical for all body fluids. It takes 0.5 to 1.5 hours to clear half of the cocaine from the bloodstream.11 Less than 5% of cocaine in urine remains unchanged, and that’s why its metabolite benzoylecgonine is used in drug testing.10
Studies found that average half-lives for cocaine are:12
- 1.5 hours in plasma.
- 4.1 hours in urine.
- 1.2 hours in saliva.
Cocaine’s metabolites have a longer half-life of 14.6-52.4 hours. Chronic use causes a build-up of cocaine in the body and increases the amount of time that both cocaine and its metabolites can remain in one’s system.12
Can I Sweat out Cocaine?
Since cocaine can be detected in sweat, among other bodily fluids, this is one of the methods used for cocaine screening. This is done by placing a patch with a sweat-collecting pad on the skin. Patches are usually worn from 1 to 3 days for higher accuracy. Cocaine itself is usually found in sweat, but metabolites may also be detected.13
Therefore, some individuals might try to sweat cocaine out of their bodies. Some users attempt to do so by drinking substantial amounts of water, having an intensive workout, or going to a sauna to “sweat it out.” Even though drugs are excreted when you sweat, it’s unlikely that you’d be able to get it all out. Besides, drugs and their metabolism byproducts that get excreted through sweat bind to the hair, where they can remain detectable for months.14
Cocaine Detection in the Body Through Drug Tests
Cocaine screening can involve several different approaches. Most tests look for metabolites of cocaine, usually benzoylecgonine because it’s detectable in the body longer than cocaine itself.15 It has a urine concentration 50 to 100 times higher than that of cocaine.10
Test results are positive when cocaine or its metabolites are found, or negative if the sample is clear of cocaine. Results are determined according to a cutoff number that presents the concentration of the substance in one’s blood, urine, sweat, saliva, or hair. Different types of cocaine tests use different cutoff numbers.6
- Hair test: As cocaine circulates through the body, the hair follicles absorb the drug and/or its metabolites from the bloodstream and gland secretions. A cocaine hair test is the most reliable screening method for frequent, heavy use of cocaine in the previous months. Cocaine is detectable in hair for up to 3 months after last use.16
- Urine test: This is typically one of the most frequently used cocaine drug tests. Urine testing is fast and easy, and it provides quick results. It can identify cocaine metabolites for 2-3 days after use. However, when it comes to frequent, heavy use, a cocaine test might show traces of the drug for up to 2 weeks after the last use.6
- Blood test: A cocaine blood test can detect the drug shortly after use, depending on the amount, purity, and method of use. It generally has a shorter detection period than urine. Cocaine can be detected in blood for up to 2 days.2
- Saliva test: This is used frequently since it’s more comfortable than collecting a urine sample, you’re being watched while you provide the sample so it’s more difficult to cheat. A special device is usually used to collect saliva from someones’ mouth or the person being tested can deposit the sample directly into a test tube. A cocaine saliva test can only detect the drug (or its metabolites) for 1-2 days after last use.6
How to Get Cocaine out of the System?
The only reliable and, therefore, the best way to get cocaine out of your system is to discontinue its use and wait for the body to metabolize and eliminate all the remains of the drug itself and its metabolites.2
There are ways to speed up the elimination of cocaine metabolites from your body, like drinking lots of water, eliminating alcohol and caffeine, or consuming fresh fruit. Some people try to clear cocaine out of their bodies by using natural herbs or detox pills, but none of these methods have been proven scientifically.2
Can I Quit Cocaine Cold Turkey?
Some people can give up cocaine abruptly or “cold turkey”. However, this method can be unsafe since users’ withdrawal symptoms could be severe. Individuals struggling with cocaine abuse may have a harder time managing cravings and achieving lasting sobriety.17
Since cocaine half-life is short (90 minutes), withdrawal symptoms occur rapidly after the last dose. Cocaine withdrawal typically consists of 3 phases:18
- ‘The Crash’ develops rapidly (within hours to a few days) and is characterized by irritability, anxiety, restlessness, and general exhaustion.
- ‘Withdrawal’ (1-10 weeks) is characterized by an increasing craving to use, poor concentration, irritability, anxiety, erratic sleep pattern, lethargy, and depression.
- ‘Extinction’ usually lasts up to 28 weeks and includes episodic cravings to use cocaine in the context of external cues.
How Can I Get Help With Battling Cocaine Addiction?
If you’re struggling with cocaine addiction or you’re experiencing an acute crisis and want to get into treatment as soon as possible, you might want to consider undergoing a professional substance abuse evaluation and getting help.
In this case, seeking out reliable cocaine drug tests and treatment options might be the best solution. Those who use cocaine regularly might benefit the most from allowing their body to naturally eliminate the drug in the safe environment of evidence-based cocaine addiction programs.19
To get accurate information about available options, approximate costs of addiction treatment, or referral to licensed rehab centers, you can call a cocaine addiction hotline or contact a reputable SUD treatment center. American Addiction Centers (AAC) is one of the top-rated addiction treatment providers, offering both outpatient and inpatient programs, customized to the specific needs of each patient. Rehab programs vary in length since some users may undergo a safe, medically supervised detox followed by outpatient care, while others need a longer stay at a treatment facility to achieve lasting results.19
Some may benefit from support groups and 12-step programs like Cocaine Anonymous, while others might need specialized treatment for co-occurring mental health issues. There are also rehab centers for couples who want to work through their issues together and facilities with luxe amenities for those who need complete comfort in a stress-free environment to be able to devote themselves completely to recovery.
You can easily verify your insurance coverage and ask about payment options by calling a provider such as American Addiction Centers. They can also guide you through the intake process and provide general information about addiction to substances. Another way to check your benefits is to call your health insurance provider and ask about coverage for cocaine rehab and treatment. Make sure to have your insurance card with you when you call.
Frequently Asked Questions