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How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Your System

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Last updated: 06/4/2021
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Reading Time: 6 minutes

Cocaine is a highly addictive central nervous system (CNS) stimulant that is often used for its euphoric and energizing effects.1 Every drug is metabolized at a different rate, and thus, stays in your system for a varying amount of time. Cocaine can be detected in your urine for approximately two to four days after use.2 Read on to learn how long cocaine can be detected in your saliva, blood, and hair follicles, and how to find cocaine addiction treatment if you are wanting to quit.

Table of Contents

How Long Do Cocaine Effects Last?

The onset and duration of cocaine effects largely depend upon how you’re using this stimulant. Here’s the breakdown:1,3

  • Swallowing powder or a pill: Cocaine effects felt within 10 to 30 minutes and last for up to 90 minutes
  • Snorting cocaine: Effects felt within 3 to 5 minutes and persist for up to 20 minutes
  • Smoking crack cocaine: Effects experienced within 5 to 10 seconds and last for up to 20 minutes
  • Injecting cocaine: Effects experienced within 5 to 10 seconds and persist for up to 20 minutes

What Are the Short-Term Effects of Cocaine?

When you use cocaine, you may experience a number of short-term effects, such as:4

  • Increased energy
  • Euphoria
  • Increased alertness or focus
  • Sensitivity to certain stimuli
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature
  • Dilated pupils
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety and panic
  • Paranoia
  • Muscle twitches
  • Tremors
  • Vertigo

Some of the most dangerous side effects of cocaine use and intoxication include:4

  • Heart attacks
  • Seizures
  • Strokes
  • Hyperthermia
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Coma

If you or someone else is experiencing severe side effects of cocaine use, call 911 immediately and provide the operator with as much relevant information as possible—how much cocaine was used, when it was used, and whether any other substances were used.

If you or someone you love is addicted, call our helpline toll-free at 800-926-9037 to speak with a caring treatment specialist that can help you get sober. Who Answers?

Drug Testing for Cocaine

Many types of institutions use toxicology laboratories for drug tests. For example, those receiving treatment for substance use disorders will often be required to submit urine samples to have urine analyzed to detect the presence of certain drugs and/or the associated metabolites.5 Certain jobs may also subject employees to drug tests. To test for the presence of cocaine in the body, screening detection methods may be applied to either urine, saliva, blood, or hair follicles.

Urine Testing

In a urinary analysis test, lab technicians or medical professionals will be looking for the metabolite of cocaine, which is called benzoylecgonine. Cocaine elimination occurs in two phases: the first phase, which is very rapid, and the second, slower phase, which could take weeks.6

For most people who have used cocaine, the cocaine will be detected in urine for between two and four days after use.2 However, the amount and frequency of cocaine use affects how long cocaine stays in your system—if you engage in heavy cocaine use, it’s possible cocaine could be detected in your urine for up to 21 days after use.2

Saliva Testing

Oral swabs may also be used to screen for the presence of cocaine in the body. Generally, cocaine can be detected in saliva or oral fluid for a much shorter time than urine—between five hours and 48 hours, although this detection window may be longer for chronic cocaine users.5,7

Blood Testing

Although urine and saliva tests for the detection of cocaine are perhaps more commonly known, blood tests may also be used to determine the presence of cocaine in the body. Similar to oral fluid, cocaine can typically be detected in blood for up to two days after most recent use, although heavy cocaine use will likely lengthen the amount of time cocaine stays in your system.7

Hair Follicle Testing

Cocaine can be detected in your hair follicles much longer than in your urine, blood, or saliva. According to research, cocaine can be detected in your hair follicles for up to four months after your last use.8

Factors Affecting How Long Cocaine Stays in Your System

Everyone’s physiology is different, so the length of time cocaine stays in your system may differ from that of someone else. Many factors affect how long cocaine stays in your system, such as:2

  • Urine concentration
  • Urine pH
  • Body mass
  • Amount of cocaine used
  • Frequency of cocaine use
  • When you last used cocaine
  • Liver or kidney impairment

Signs of a Cocaine Addiction

If you have concerns about drug detection testing, you may meet the criteria for a cocaine addiction or stimulant use disorder, which is characterized by a compulsive pattern of cocaine use regardless of negative consequences. Signs of a cocaine addiction include:9

  • Experiencing strong cravings for cocaine
  • Trying and failing to control cocaine use
  • Using more cocaine than originally intended
  • Mixing cocaine with other substances, such as alcohol
  • Continuing to use cocaine despite the knowledge that use is worsening or causing physical or mental health problems
  • Continuing to use cocaine despite problems at work, home, or school
  • Giving up important social or recreational activities in favor of cocaine use
  • Spending a considerable amount of time obtaining and using cocaine, as well as recovering from its effects
  • Needing higher doses of cocaine to get high (tolerance)
  • Needing to use cocaine to avoid withdrawal symptoms (physiological dependence)

If you are dependent on cocaine and suddenly quit use, you’ll likely experience some unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, which may include:1,9

  • Depression
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Nightmares
  • Inability to sleep or sleeping too much
  • Increased appetite
  • Psychomotor agitation (restlessness and purposeless movements like pacing)
  • Psychomotor retardation (slowed thoughts and movements)

If you are attempting to quit cocaine and find the withdrawal symptoms very distressing, you may want to seek out a detox program. Professional detox can help you stay safe and comfortable while withdrawing from cocaine. If you’re interested in finding a detox program near you, call 800-926-9037 Who Answers? to speak to a treatment support specialist about options.

Treatment for Cocaine Addiction

If you or someone you care about may have a cocaine addiction and is looking for treatment options, consider some of the levels of care that are available to treat substance use disorders:10,11

  • Residential Treatment Programs: While in a residential treatment program, you will be able to stay away from the people, places, and situations you have previously associated with drug use. For some people, the change in physical location does help to encourage long-term drug abstinence and recovery.
  • Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs): This type of program is more intensive than a standard outpatient program, requiring you to attend treatment for several hours per day before returning home in the evening.
  • Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs): Much like PHPs, IOPs offer different options for the number of hours of treatment per week and often offer either three- or five-day-per-week options for engagement.
  • Outpatient Therapy: Outpatient therapy is often considered the longest-term treatment for substance addiction. If you have a cocaine addiction and additional mental health concerns, you may benefit from a longer-term option of outpatient therapy. Most often, you will have the option to meet with your therapist weekly, biweekly, or monthly.

If you think that cocaine addiction treatment could be right for you, call 800-926-9037 Who Answers? today and speak to a treatment specialist about your options.


Resources

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021). Cocaine DrugFacts.
  2. Moeller, K., Kissack, J., Atayee, R., & Lee, K. (2017). Clinical interpretation of urine drug tests: what clinicians need to know about urine drug screens. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 92(5), 774-796.
  3. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Treatment for Stimulant Use Disorders. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 1999. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 33.) [Table], Figure 5-1: Effects of Route of Administration for Cocaine and MA.
  4. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (1999). Chapter 5—Medical Aspects of Stimulant Use Disorder. Treatment Improvement Protocols. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). What are the short-term effects of cocaine use?
  6. Allen KR. (2011). Screening for drugs of abuse: Which matrix, oral fluid or urine? Annals of Clinical Biochemistry, 48(6), 531-41.
  7. Nickley J, Pesce AJ, Krock K. (2017) A sensitive assay for urinary cocaine metabolite benzoylecgonine shows more positive results and longer half-lives than those using traditional cut-offs. Drug Testing and Analysis, 9(8):1214-1216.
  8. Verstraete, A. G. (2004). Detection times of drugs of abuse in blood, urine, and oral fluid. Therapeutic Drug Monitoring 26(2), 200-205.
  9. Garcia-Bournissen, M. Moller, M. Nesterenko, T. Karaskov, & G. Koren. (2009). Pharmacokinetics of disappearance of cocaine from hair after discontinuation of drug use. Forensic Science International, 189(1–3), 24-27.
  10. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). American Psychiatric Publishing.
  11. Stallvik, M., Gastfriend, D.R., & Nordahl, H.M. (2015) Matching patients with substance use disorder to optimal level of care with the ASAM Criteria software. Journal of Substance Use, 20(6), 389-398.
  12. Lieberman, P. B., & Frederick, G. G. (2016). Reasons for patient nonattendance during acute partial hospitalization. Psychiatry Online.

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