If you are concerned about how long cocaine stays in your system—perhaps because you worry how long the drug’s effects are noticeable or even detectable if you have to take a drug test—it is likely you are struggling with a cocaine addiction. Cocaine is one of the most addictive drugs in the world, and because it has damaging short-term and long-term effects on your mind and body, especially if you mix cocaine and alcohol, you should seek addiction treatment, possibly starting with detox, to flush the drug from your system.
In the meantime, here are some facts about cocaine and its effects and traceability in your body.
Detecting the Effects of Cocaine in Your Body
How long will cocaine stay in your body? The answer depends on several factors, including how much cocaine you consumed, the method you used to consume it (snorting, smoking, injecting or ingesting), how long you have been using cocaine, how often you take it, and whether you took it with alcohol or another drug.
While the possible side effects of cocaine (euphoria, increased energy, alertness and confidence, faster heart rate, agitation, anxiety, increased body temperature and sweating, the symptoms of a cold or the flu, dilated pupils) tend to wear off in roughly 20 to 60 minutes, the drug can be traced in your saliva, urine and blood for 12 hours to three days or longer. It should be noted that cocaine can be detected in sweat for several weeks, and in hair for several months or even years. For those who use cocaine frequently or who have used it long-term, the drug can be traced in your system for up to three months.
Urine testing is the most common method used to detect cocaine in a person’s system as it has a fairly wide detection window (three days to two weeks after use) and is relatively easy to administer.
The Half-Life of Cocaine
Cocaine, as with other drugs, can be traced in your blood or urine by something called its “half-life.” This is a measure of the time it takes for the drug’s concentrated presence in the blood or urine to be reduced by half. It is estimated that cocaine’s half-life in blood (plasma) is 1.5 hours, while its half-life in urine is 19 hours — the half-life in either case is still traceable in most drug tests. Keep in mind that as it is broken down, cocaine has other properties that are metabolized by your body as metabolites. Roughly 40% of the drug will be processed as metabolites. These cocaine metabolites have an even longer half-life than the drug itself, extending the time that cocaine stays in your system by another 15 to 52 hours.
Based on mode of use, here is a breakdown of how long it might take for cocaine to be eliminated from your body (though cocaine metabolites will linger longer):
Injecting: The half-life after each use is estimated to be five minutes, so cocaine would be eliminated from your body in roughly 30 minutes.
Snorting: The half-life after each use is estimated to be 30 minutes, so cocaine would be eliminated from your body in roughly three hours.
Smoking (freebase): The half-life after each use is estimated to be 45 minutes, so cocaine would be eliminated from your body in roughly four to six hours.
Ingesting (oral): The half-life after each use is estimated to be 60 minutes, so cocaine would be eliminated from your body in roughly five to six hours.
Again, people who have used cocaine long term will require longer to eliminate cocaine from their bodies because the drug has been stored in the liver and other fatty tissue. It takes time for fatty tissue to eliminate drugs. This is why long-term cocaine users are more likely than short-term users to test positive during drug testing.
Alcohol Combined With Cocaine Stays in Your System Longer
When you combine cocaine and alcohol, your liver forms a chemical metabolite called cocaethylene, which stays in your body longer than cocaine or alcohol alone. When cocaine and alcohol are metabolized at the same time, alcohol impedes the progress of cocaine elimination from your body.
Cocaethylene also has more toxic effects on your body than either cocaine or alcohol alone — cocaethylene’s toxicity level is estimated to be 30% greater than cocaine on its own.
The combination of cocaine and alcohol is quite dangerous, and often deadly. Unfortunately, these are often taken together because the cocaethylene chemical that results from the combination makes the desired side effects more powerful and longer lasting. However, the levels of cocaethylene peak roughly two hours after cocaine and alcohol are taken together, raising the user’s risk of a heart attack and sudden death.
“How Long Does Cocaine Stay In Your System?” – Mental Health Daily, Mental Health Blog, 2015.
“How long does cocaine stay in your system after snorting it?” – Georgia Diebelius. Metro, 2016. http://metro.co.uk/2016/09/27/heres-how-long-it-takes-cocaine-to-leave-your-body-6155167/