How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Your System?

Cocaine is a very fast-acting central nervous system stimulant that produces an intense but short-lived euphoric high, lasting for only 15 minutes to an hour.
Cocaine levels peak in the blood an average of 30 minutes after it’s ingested, usually via smoking, snorting, or injection. However, this depends largely on how it’s taken.

  • Intravenous use: Effects felt within 5 minutes.
  • Snorting: Effects felt within 30 minutes.
  • Smoking: Effects felt within 45 minutes.
  • Oral ingestion: Effects felt within 60 minutes.
  • Other factors include the amount taken at once, body chemistry, and how long and heavily the individual uses it. Though it takes time for the levels of the drug to peak, the effects can be felt almost instantly with injection or snorting, and very soon with smoking. This initial high is often referred to as a rush. This fades after a short period of time, resulting in an unpleasant crash. The cycle of high, crash, and then seeking more of the drug to counter the crash can easily lead to an increased tolerance and eventually addiction. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, there were 1.4 million people in the United States who could be considered to have an addiction to cocaine in 2008.

    How Cocaine Is Detected on Drug Tests

    cocaineCocaine’s half-life is nearly just as short at only an hour. This means that it takes about an hour for half of the cocaine consumed to leave the body. However, heavy, long-term use will cause the drug to start to accumulate in body tissues, allowing certain tests to detect the drug in the system for an extended period of time.

    For example, after a single use of cocaine, agents created by the metabolization of the drug can be detected in a person’s urine for 2-4 days. However, for chronic users, or if it follows a heavy binge, cocaine can be detected in urine for up to 12 days. The length that urine tests are effective also depend on the size of the dose and the purity of the substance. Extremely high doses can cause cocaine metabolites to be detectable for up to 3 weeks.

    Cocaine can also be detected in the blood and saliva for an average of 12-48 hours after last use. Unlike many other intoxicants, cocaine will stay in a person’s sweat for an extended period of time, up to several weeks. It can also be found in a user’s hair for years after an individual stops taking the drug. However, urine is the preferred method of testing for most medical facilities and in legal situations.

    Anyone who regularly needs to be tested for cocaine is likely to have an addiction disorder.

    Cocaine is a particularly addictive intoxicant, and its intense stimulant effects can cause long-term damage to the body and brain.

    This means that those addicted to cocaine are in serious need of treatment as soon as possible.

    Possible long-term health effects of cocaine include:

    • Blood vessel damage
    • Cognitive impairment
    • Reduction in brain gray matter
    • Impairments in logic, critical thinking, and attention span
    • Anxiety or depression
    • Aggression
    • Anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure)
    • Paranoia
    • Psychosis

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