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.
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.
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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 four 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 days3
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.
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.
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 half-life is around five minutes, which means it would clear from the system within 30 minutes.
For people who snort cocaine, a high may last from 10 to 30 minutes, and it would take just under three hours for it to be completely eliminated in most cases. If you smoke freebase cocaine, the half-life is around 45 minutes. It could take more than four hours for the freebase version to be eliminated from their body.
Cocaine can also be ingested orally. With this method, it can take an hour to feel the effects of the drug, and they may last for two hours. The elimination half-life is about an hour, and it could take up to 5.5 hours for it to be entirely eliminated. 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 cocaine screen) can detect the drug by using urine, blood, hair, saliva or sweat. 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 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.
Chen, X; et al. “Metabolic Enzymes of Cocaine Metabolite Benzoylecgonine.” ACS Chemical Biology, June 9, 2016. Accessed June 20, 2020.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Drug Testing.” April 30, 2020. Accessed June 20, 2020.
Cone, EJ; et al. “Cocaine disposition in saliva following intravenous, intranasal, and smoked administration.” Journal of Analytical Toxicology, October 1997. Accessed June 20, 2020.
Garcia-Bournissen, F., et al. “Pharmacokinetics of disappearance of cocaine from hair after discontinuation of drug use.” Forensic Science International, August 2009. Accessed June 20, 2020.
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