Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant drug. For thousands of years, people in South America have chewed and ingested coca leaves (Erythroxylon coca), the source of cocaine, for their stimulant effects. The purified chemical, cocaine hydrochloride, was isolated from the plant more than 100 years ago. In the early 1900s, purified cocaine was the main active ingredient in many tonics and elixirs developed to treat a wide variety of illnesses. Before the development of synthetic local anesthetic, surgeons used cocaine to block pain.1 However, research has since shown that cocaine is a powerfully addictive substance that can alter brain structure and function if used repeatedly.
Today, cocaine is a Schedule II drug, which means that it has high potential for abuse but can be administered by a doctor for legitimate medical uses, such as local anesthesia for some eye, ear, and throat surgeries. Dealers often dilute (or “cut”) it with non-psychoactive substances such as cornstarch, talcum powder, flour, or baking soda to increase their profits. They may also adulterate cocaine with other drugs like procaine (a chemically related local anesthetic) or amphetamine (another psychoactive stimulant). Some users combine cocaine with heroin.
cocaine does not remain in one’s system very long, especially when it is the only drug taken. Read on to learn more about the general timeline for cocaine detection and how this timeline may be affected if a person mixes cocaine with other drugs or alcohol.
Worrying often about how long cocaine stays in your system may mean you have a problem. Combining cocaine with other drugs is a very dangerous practice and puts your health and life at risk.
If you’ve found yourself unable to control your cocaine use, you may need controlled substance use disorder.
How the Body Rids Itself of Cocaine
The primary organ responsible for breaking down cocaine in the body is the liver. This process is known as metabolism, where enzymes transform the substance into other compounds called metabolites that are easier to eliminate from the body.
The major metabolite for cocaine is called benzoylecgonine, and it is often measured in urine drug testing since it is detectable for a longer period after cocaine use than cocaine itself is.
Benzoylecgonine has a half-life of about 12 hours and is typically detectable in urine for 2–3 days (or longer for heavy users) after the most recent use.
How Long Is Cocaine Detectable in the Body?
General timelines for the detection of cocaine and/or its metabolites in the body can be estimated as:
- Saliva: Cocaine or its metabolites can be detected in saliva for about 1–2 days after last use.
- Blood: Cocaine can be detected in blood samples for about 12 hours after the last use. Benzoylecgonine can be detected in blood for about 48 hours after the last cocaine use.
- Urine: Cocaine metabolites can usually be detected in urine samples for 2–3 days after the last use. However, urine drug tests might be positive for up to 2 weeks after the last use for heavy cocaine users.
- Hair: Drugs may be detected in hair for a long time.
All of the above figures are estimates. The length of time that cocaine will remain in a person’s system depends on several factors.
Factors That Impact the Cocaine Detection Timeline
Several elements can influence the amount of time it will take a person’s body to eliminate cocaine. These include:
- The amount of cocaine used and how long it has been used: As mentioned above, individuals who use cocaine chronically and in greater amounts may have traces of cocaine and/or its metabolites in their systems for longer periods.
- The purity of the cocaine: If there are significant differences in the purity of the cocaine, it could result in different elimination times from the body, since it could contain drastically different amounts of actual cocaine.
- Individual differences in metabolism: Genetics, age, gender, and some physical health issues may also influence the metabolism of cocaine and thus the amount of time that cocaine and/or its metabolites remain in the body.
- Other substances consumed: Medications, alcohol, and other chemicals consumed may speed up, slow down, or otherwise alter the body’s processing of cocaine, which could impact how long cocaine and/or its metabolites remain in the body.