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How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Your System

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Medically reviewed: 12/17/2018
Last updated: 05/13/2019
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Cocaine can be detected in the system anywhere from 12 hours to 4 days after use. The length of time cocaine stays in your system depends on the dosage amount used, the route of administration, and the frequency of use.

The liver metabolizes cocaine into a metabolite called benzoylecgonine, which is then excreted in urine. This metabolite is what’s detected in drug testing for cocaine long after the drug itself may no longer be present in the body.

Cocaine Metabolism

Cocaine is a fat-soluble substance, which accounts for its high absorption rate in almost every area of the body. Once ingested, cocaine easily crosses cell membrane surfaces and gains access to:

  • The brain
  • The small airways in the lungs
  • The alveoli of the lung
  • The bloodstream

Consequently, cocaine can accumulate within the central nervous system as well as within the body’s adipose or fat tissues. In effect, the body’s ability to metabolize and store coke has a considerable influence on how long this drug stays in the system.

Factors Affecting How Long Cocaine Stays in Your System

Cocaine is an illicit drug produced and marketed on the streets — meaning its quality and purity can vary from batch to batch. Each batch of cocaine is unique from the next and may be purer or less pure than others. These differences also affect how long cocaine will stay in the system.

People who have used cocaine regularly for months or years may store cocaine residues in their bodies long after stopping drug use, which means metabolites are kept in the system for longer.

Other factors to consider include:

  • Your overall health
  • Your age
  • Your body’s metabolism rate
  • Your tolerance levels

Routes of Administration

Its various routes of administration affect how quickly cocaine reaches the brain, as well as how quickly the body absorbs the drug.

Cocaine can be:

  • Snorted
  • Smoked
  • Injected
  • Ingested

Ingestion of cocaine is generally for the coca leaves rather than the powder, and usually only happens when the drug can be combined with alkaline substances such as limes. Alternately, cocaine powder would be deactivated by the acidic contents of the stomach.

A less popular method of cocaine use is by “plugging,” where a suppository is made with cocaine and then inserted either into the anus or the vagina. Plugging offers slower absorption of cocaine, but a longer duration of effect.

When ingested through the mouth, cocaine reaches the bloodstream after 30 minutes and hits peak concentration within 50 to 90 minutes. However, only about one-third of cocaine ingested is effective.

When snorted, cocaine can reach the bloodstream in as soon as 3 minutes and hits peak concentration within 15 minutes. Between 30 and 60% of the cocaine that is snorted is effective, though this method of use reaches peak concentration far more quickly than other methods.

When injected into the bloodstream, a person feels the drug’s effects within one minute and hits peak concentration within 5 to 10 minutes. The route of administration used also affects how long coke stays in the system.

Peak concentrations of coke in the system:

  • Ingested: 50-90 minutes
  • Snorted: 15 minutes
  • Injected: 5-10 minutes
  • Inhaled: Less than 60 seconds

Half-Life of Cocaine

Cocaine’s lipid-like material allows for a quick half-life that averages around 60 minutes. This time frame can increase considerably in cases of chronic cocaine use due to the way metabolites produced by the drug tend to accumulate throughout the body.

As with most drugs, the liver metabolizes or breaks down cocaine into metabolites. Once in metabolite form, cocaine can easily lodge inside fat tissue and membrane linings throughout the body. But cocaine metabolites are typically stored in fat cells only with prolonged use or by using higher doses.

How Do You Test How Long Cocaine Metabolites Stay in Your System?

  • Urine
  • Hair
  • Fingernails
  • Blood

Saliva and sweat may also be used to test the level of coke in your system. Drug tests using saliva and sweat are becoming more common with roadside drug tests carried out by law enforcement.

Urine Testing

Urine tests, also known as urinalysis, look for benzoylecgonine — the primary metabolite cocaine is broken down into. A urine test can detect low concentrations of benzoylecgonine during the first few hours after using cocaine.

For people who use the drug on a sporadic basis, benzoylecgonine can remain in the urine for up to 5 days following infrequent use, up to 7 days with high doses, and for up to 14 days with chronic use. If a cocaine user has also been drinking alcohol, the amount of time it takes for cocaine to clear the system can double.

In the case of injection use, urine testing can detect metabolites for up to 1.5 five days. However, metabolites can show up for as long as one week after snorting or smoking cocaine.

Hair and Fingernails

On average, the body metabolizes and excretes cocaine metabolites within 4 hours. As coke moves through the bloodstream, tiny particles get left behind in the hair and fingernails. These metabolites will remain in hair and fingernails until they’re cut away, which means someone with long hair will likely carry cocaine residues around in their systems for a very long time.

Hair drug testing remains somewhat controversial, as it is unclear whether cosmetic hair treatments and other factors impact results.

How Can I Remove Cocaine From My System?

If you want to remove cocaine from your system for good, a professional detox treatment program is recommended. Here you will have medical oversight to ease withdrawal symptoms and will be able to transition into long term treatment programs.