As a general guide:
- Most people feel the effects of cocaine anywhere from 3.3 to 5.5 hours after taking it.
- If someone has used cocaine only once, it’s usually detectable in urine for around three to five days.
- For someone who takes a larger dose of cocaine or uses it occasionally, it may show up in urine for three to seven days.
- For frequent or heavy cocaine users, a urine test can show the drug for five to 14 days after the last dose.
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How Long Does Cocaine Stay In Your Hair, Saliva & Urine?
Even though cocaine metabolizes within about four hours, a cocaine screen can detect the drug in:
- Urine for around two to five days
- Saliva for around two hours, but there have been some traces of cocaine found in saliva as long as 19 hours
- Hair for up to 90 days
However, for someone who is a long-term or heavy user of cocaine, the drug can stay in their system and be detectable on a cocaine test for longer. In certain types of drug screens, most notably hair follicle sampling, cocaine can show up in the results for up to three months after someone uses it.
Some of the specific factors that determine how long cocaine stays in the system of a user include the amount they use, whether they mixed it with other substances, how often they use cocaine, and the method of drug testing they’re undergoing.
Cocaine can stay in your system anywhere from 3.3 to 5.5 hours after you take it but cocaine also has an active metabolite called benzoylecgonine, and that takes longer to be expelled from the body completely. It’s usually between one and two days before this metabolite leaves the system.
Estimates show that when someone takes cocaine, about 40% hydrolyzes to form benzoylecgonine. Then, another 40% is metabolized by the liver, producing ecgonine methyl ester. Cocaine has a relatively short half-life of around an hour, while the benzoylecgonine has a half-life of around six hours.
Factors That Impact How Long Cocaine Stays in the System
There are quite a few things that can determine how long cocaine will remain in the system of the person using it. Dosage is a significant factor. The larger the dose, the longer it will take to be fully eliminated from your system.
People who use cocaine long-term tend to have it stay in their bodies for longer periods of time because it gets stored in fatty tissues. Detoxifying can take significantly longer than it would for those who use it short-term, and the substance may show up in drug tests for a longer period.
The more often you use cocaine, the harder it is for your body to eliminate it because your body’s elimination systems lose functionality and efficiency with frequent use. The purity of the drug must also be considered. The purer the cocaine, the more potent its effects will be, and the longer it will stay in the system.
Factors That Impact How Long Cocaine Stays in the System
There are quite a few things that can determine how long cocaine will remain in the system of the person using it.
Dosage is a significant factor. The larger the dose, the longer it will take to be fully eliminated from your system. When a person takes a higher dosage of cocaine, it takes longer for the body to remove it. Also, cocaine tends to be a drug that people binge on, so usage for a long stretch can significantly increase the time it takes to leave the body.
The purity of the drug must also be considered. The purer the cocaine, the more potent its effects will be and the longer it will stay in the system.
History of Use
People who use cocaine long-term tend to have it stay in their bodies for longer periods. Detoxifying can take significantly longer than it would for those who use it short term, and the substance may show up in drug tests for a longer period. Part of the reason for this is a longer history of use means a person has a higher tolerance and may take higher doses.
Frequency of Use
The more often you use cocaine, the harder it is for your body to eliminate it. Your body’s elimination systems lose functionality and efficiency with frequent use.
Other Substances Used
For a person who abuses additional substances in addition to cocaine, the danger can be significantly greater. For example, taking cocaine while drinking produces a drug in the body called cocaethylene. This substance is significantly more dangerous than either substance by itself. It stays in the body longer than cocaine and has a higher risk for seizure, liver damage, compromised immune system and immediate death.
Methods of Ingestion
The method of ingestion is another important factor in how long it will take for cocaine to leave your system.
If you inject cocaine, you may get a very fast high that lasts for a shorter period of time, which means the substance leaves the body faster. When someone injects cocaine, the peak concentration in the body occurs within five to ten minutes.
It’s important to remember that even after cocaine is eliminated, the body produces active metabolites from the cocaine that can still create effects and be detected for a long period after use.
What to Expect During a Cocaine Screening
A cocaine drug test (often called a drug screen) can detect the drug by using urine, blood, hair or saliva.
It will show whether or not cocaine or its metabolites are present in the system. Metabolites are chemicals produced by the body in response to processing cocaine. The two metabolites that can show up in a cocaine drug test include benzoylecgonine and ecgonine methyl ester. A drug test for cocaine use is included as part of a wider drug screening that also looks for opioids, marijuana, amphetamines and PCP.
Drug tests can be done in a doctor’s office or clinical setting, and the results can be shown in just a few minutes when a rapid screening is done. The most common ways for a cocaine drug test to be conducted include urinating in a cup or giving a saliva sample from the mouth. While urine and saliva tests are more popular ways of doing a drug test for cocaine, hair can be used as well. It can detect the use of cocaine for months after the person has actually done the drug, but it’s not always an accurate process.
If you or a loved one are struggling with cocaine abuse and addiction, help is available. The Recovery Village offers compassionate, evidence-based treatment with professional addiction specialists. Contact us today to discuss cocaine addiction treatment programs that can meet your needs.
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- Garcia-Bournissen, F., et al. “Pharmacokinetics of disappearance of cocaine from hair after discontinuation of drug use.” Forensic Science International, August 2009. Accessed August 28, 2021.
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- Gryczynski, Jan; Schwartz, Robert P.; Mitchell, Shannon D.; et al. “Hair Drug Testing Results and Self-reported Drug Use among Primary Care Patients with Moderate-risk Illicit Drug Use.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence, August 1, 2014. Accessed August 28, 2021.
- ARUP Laboratories. “Drug Plasma Half-Life and Urine Detection Window.” January 2019. Accessed August 28, 2021.
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- Medical Disclaimer
The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.