Cocaine (benzoylmethylecgonine) is considered to be among the world’s most addictive drugs and is most often used on a recreational basis to achieve a dopaminergic euphoria. Those that use cocaine feel an increased sense of pleasure, attain a pro-social effect (wanting to socialize), and quicker conversational wit (due to enhanced thought speed; beta waves). These effects are primarily derived from cocaine’s ability to increase dopamine concentrations and stimulate the reward centers within the brain.
In addition to the temporary favorable psychological effects derived from cocaine usage, some potentially unfavorable effects include: agitation, anxiety, depersonalization, dissociation, drug-induced psychosis, and restlessness. Physical effects of cocaine usage tend to include: increased blood pressure, elevated body temperature, sweating, and pupil dilation. Depending upon the modality in which cocaine is administered (snorting, injection, smoking) – the duration of effects can span from seconds to over an hour.
Those that use cocaine recreationally often realize that the drug is not worth the legal risk, financial costs, nor the deleterious long-term neurophysiological effects. Furthermore, if you are looking to get a job (or keep your current job), you’ll likely be subject to random drug testing. If any trace of cocaine is found within your system, you’ll get turned down for the job offer or you may get fired from your current employer.
How long does cocaine stay in your system?
Although it may be unpleasant to stop using the drug and face cocaine withdrawal symptoms, it is necessary to completely discontinue if you want it to clear from your system. Upon cessation of usage, cocaine is known to stay in your system between 3.3 and 5.5 hours. However, the primary active metabolite within cocaine known as “benzoylecgonine” takes considerably longer (between 1 and 2 days) to get fully eliminated from the body.
This is due to the fact that when you take cocaine, an estimated 40% is hydrolyzed to form “benzoylecgonine,” whereas another 40% is metabolized by liver enzymes to form “ecgonine methyl ester.” Cocaine itself has a half life of 1 hour, resulting in much quicker elimination than benzoylecgonine, which has a half life of an estimated 6 hours. If you’re worried about a drug screening test, you should be most concerned with benzoylecgonine – as this is what will be tested.
- Source: https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/5760
Factors that influence how long cocaine stays in your system
That said, elimination of both cocaine and benzoylecgonine will be subject to significant variation based on the individual. Most people mistakenly assume that cocaine stays in the system for an equal amount of time among all users. The problem with that assumption is that there is often significant variability in factors that influence clearance from the body. These factors include things like: dosage, administration modality, time span and frequency of usage, purity of cocaine, and individuality.
Dosage (30 mg to 150 mg)
The dosage of cocaine ingested will influence how long it stays in your system. Specifically, those who ingest a greater quantity of cocaine will generally notice that it takes longer for cocaine (and its active metabolite benzoylecgonine) to fully clear from the body. On the other hand, someone who ingests an extremely low dose of cocaine may notice that it clears from their system more rapidly than expected.
Modality of administration
The modality in which cocaine is administered will also influence how long it stays in your system. This is due to the fact that certain modalities of administration are associated with quicker absorption and a rapid “high,” with a shorter duration of effect – compared to others with a slower absorption and a longer-lasting “high.” Various modalities of administration are associated with quicker elimination half-lives than others.
- Intravenous injection (50 mg>): Those who inject cocaine intravenously may notice a “high” within seconds or minutes of usage with a duration of effect spanning between 5 and 15 minutes. As a result of this quicker onset of action and shorter duration of effect, cocaine is cleared quicker from the system among those who inject it. The elimination half life associated with intravenous injections of cocaine is an estimated 5 minutes; this means it would be cleared from the body within 30 minutes.
- Snorting cocaine (50 mg to 150 mg): Those who snort cocaine may notice a relatively quick high that lasts between 10 and 30 minutes. Snorting cocaine is associated with an elimination half life of approximately 30 minutes. This means that it would take an hour for nearly 75% of the cocaine to have been eliminated from your system if you snorted it, and up to 2.75 hours for 100% elimination. Since the dosages among those who snort cocaine are often greater than those who inject, the drug is often detected in the body for a longer time span.
- Smoking “freebase” cocaine: Individuals that resort to smoking “free base” may notice that the onset of action is much quicker than oral ingestion. The “free base” form is considered cocaine that has been converted from its salt to base form via heating or boiling with sodium bicarbonate. Those who smoke freebase cocaine may find that the elimination half life of cocaine is approximately 45 minutes. Meaning, it would take over 4 hours for the body to eliminate the drug.
- Oral ingestion: Those who orally ingest cocaine may notice a gradual onset of action following administration. It may take nearly an hour to fully notice the effect of the drug and the effects may last for up to 2 hours, depending on the dosage administered and individual tolerance. The elimination half life associated with oral ingestion of cocaine is an estimated 1 hour. This means that it could take approximately 5.5 hours to eliminate it from your body.
Those who have been using cocaine for a long-term may notice that the drug stays in their body for a longer duration, compared to those who have used for a shorter-term. Long-term users may discover that the drug is stored within fatty tissues such as the liver. With each consecutive usage, the drug continues to accumulate within these fatty tissues.
It takes considerably longer for the body to fully detoxify from cocaine among long-term users. This is due to the fact that it takes time for the tissues to slowly release the drug within the blood stream. For this reason, long-term cocaine users may test positive on certain drug tests compared to shorter-term users.
Those that have only used cocaine for a short-term may find that their body efficiently processes cocaine and clears it from their system. In part this may be due to the fact that short-term users take smaller dosages compared to long-term users because they aren’t dependent or tolerant to its effect. Shorter-term users don’t usually have significant amounts of cocaine within their liver tissues either, meaning their body can restore homeostatic functioning following cocaine withdrawal.
In addition to time span over which a person has used cocaine, frequency of usage plays an important role in determining clearance from the system. Someone who uses cocaine 24 times per year may find that cocaine stays in their system for much longer than someone who uses cocaine just 3 times per year. The greater the frequency of usage, the less efficiently the body is able to clear the drug.
With greater frequency of usage, neurophysiological adaptations take place that slow the process of drug clearance. Frequent, long-term users tend to accumulate and retain greater concentrations of cocaine within various tissues (e.g. the liver). Furthermore, frequent users often build up a tolerance to lower doses of the drug and end up administering larger doses – which can lengthen the amount of time cocaine stays within the system.
Infrequent users may notice that their body efficiently processes cocaine and that it is rapidly cleared. Frequency of usage should always be considered with cumulative time span of usage to speculate how long cocaine will stay in the system.
Unlike other drugs that have different “strains” (e.g. cannabis), cocaine isn’t modified to have these effects. Cocaine is generally sold as: cocaine hydrochloride (powder) or freebase (crack). It can sometimes be “cut” with another chemical (e.g. amphetamine) to elicit a different effect among users. That said, regardless of the chemical that cocaine is “cut” with, the amount of time it stays in your system shouldn’t be significantly affected.
The specific factor that will have the greatest influence on how long cocaine stays in your system is the purity. In general, the greater the purity – the greater the potency of effect. Ingesting a highly purified cocaine will contain a greater amount of the active ingredient, and thus will be retained within the body for a longer duration. Ingesting an impure “diluted” cocaine (with filler) means you’ve ingested less of the active ingredient and should be cleared quicker from your system.
It is also important to consider that there is likely some individual variation in regards to drug elimination. Someone with a fast metabolism, taking detoxification supplements, who ingested a small amount of cocaine per pound of bodyweight – may end up clearing cocaine at a quick rate. On the other hand, someone with a slow metabolism who took a large amount of cocaine per pound of bodyweight – may end up clearing cocaine at a slower rate.
It is important to consider that things such as: genetics, body size (weight and height), exercise, supplements, other drugs (especially alcohol), water intake, dietary intake, etc. – may influence how long cocaine stays in your system. Furthermore, consider that the aforementioned factors such as: dosage, administration modality, time span, frequency, and source of cocaine – are likely all slightly different based on the individual and may influence the drug’s elimination.
Note: Those that ingested cocaine along with alcohol will likely have an extended clearance of metabolites from the body. Cocaine and alcohol form “cocaethylene,” which can take some extra time to eliminate.
- Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11043648
What is the average time benzoylecgonine stays in your system?
As was mentioned, cocaine may stay in your system for a duration of 6 hours. In other words, it takes about 1/4 of a day to eliminate cocaine from your body. If you took a high dose, orally, along with alcohol, the elimination timeline will be extended compared to if you took a low dose, intravenously, without any other substances.
Since drug tests generally check for cocaine’s active metabolite “benzoylecgonine,” most people want to know how long benzoylecgonine stays in the system. Those who took a small amount of cocaine may find that the benzoylecgonine is cleared from the body within 2 days. However, among frequent cocaine users (or those ingesting large dosages), it could take between 5 and 10 days to clear benzoylecgonine.
To further complicate things, if a regular user consumes alcohol with cocaine, it could take up to 15 days to fully eliminate the “cocaethylene” metabolite that is formed. Clearance of benzoylecgonine may be slightly expedited with avoidance of alcohol and/or other drugs, healthy diet, and exercise. Furthermore, staying hydrated by consuming plenty of water is thought to aid in the elimination of benzoylecgonine.
Different types of drug tests to detect cocaine
There are many different types of drug tests (or screenings) that are used to detect whether an individual has recently used cocaine. These tests include: saliva tests, urine tests, blood tests, and hair tests. Among these tests, the most popular is urine testing simply due to the fact that it is considered low cost and is simple.
- Saliva tests: These tests are capable of detecting cocaine metabolites within saliva within just 10 minutes of using the drug. Saliva samples may detect cocaine in your system for an estimated 2 days following complete cessation of cocaine. While not often as accurate as urine tests or blood tests, saliva tests are commonly utilized by some companies.
- Urine tests: Some drug screenings may attempt to detect cocaine via collection of urine samples. Urine tests can detect cocaine usage within just several hours of ingestion. They also can determine whether an individual had used cocaine within a 2-day span.
- Blood tests: A blood sample is among the most accurate ways to screen the body for cocaine and its active metabolite. Blood tests can detect the presence of cocaine within 5 hours of ingestion. Assuming you’ve stopped using cocaine, the results from a blood test will show whether you’ve used cocaine within the past 24 hours.
- Hair tests: Hair tests are best to detect whether someone has used cocaine within the past several months. In some cases, hair samples can accurately determine whether an individual has used cocaine within the past 90 days. That said, new cocaine users may not be caught via a hair test because it often takes up to 7 days (a full week) to detect the drug within hair samples.
Keep in mind that certain organizations may require a combination of saliva, urine, blood, and/or hair tests. Administering a combination of these types of tests ensures that results aren’t subject to inaccuracies. In most cases, an individual will be said to test “positive” for cocaine if levels of the active metabolite (benzoylecgonine) are present at 300 ng/mL (or greater); 150 ng/mL (for GC/MS confirmation).
How long has cocaine stayed in your system?
Assuming you’ve used cocaine, mention how long you believe it has stayed in your system. Discuss the dosage of cocaine you used, modality of administration, and frequency of usage. If you were subject to a mandatory drug test, share the type of testing, as well as whether the test was able to accurately detect your cocaine usage. Do you believe there are steps that can be taken to expedite the clearance of cocaine from the body?