Cocaine, classified as a stimulant, is known today as an illicit drug, but it has legitimate roots in the medical field. Originally used as a medical-grade pain reliever or anesthetic, cocaine eventually came to be phased out as its addiction potential outstripped its therapeutic value. However, pharmaceutical grade cocaine remains in use today in prescription drugs such as Esterom for myalgia. The black market production of cocaine involved refining the drug from coca leaves of a plant of the same name. Cocaine is said to have experienced its heyday in the 1980s and 1990s, but this stimulant continues to be a drug of abuse today.
When a person takes cocaine, the ensuing high typically lasts 30 minutes to two hours. Cocaine typically circulates through the body in a 12-72 hour period. When a person consumes cocaine (chemically known as benzoylmethylecgonine), the liver converts it to the metabolite benzoylecgonine. Many individuals may think that the focus of cocaine screening is for cocaine, but usually it is for benzoylecgonine, which usually takes longer to be eliminated from the body. To provide clarity on this distinction, cocaine has a one-hour half-life whereas benzoylecgonine has a six-hour half-life.
The length of time benzoylecgonine takes to be eliminated from a person’s body depends on the following factors:
- Volume of cocaine consumed
- How regularly or frequently cocaine is used
- Individual physiological factors, such as weight and body type
- A person’s rate of metabolism
In terms of an estimated timeline, the minimum time benzoylecgonine takes to be removed from the body is 4-5 days. If a person has been using cocaine heavily, benzoylecgonine may take approximately 10 days to exit the body. In regular users, even if they have a pattern of consuming modest amounts of cocaine, it may take approximately 20 days for benzoylecgonine to leave the body. Certain factors may cause the elimination time of benzoylecgonine to take longer, including consumption of alcohol or caffeinated beverages.
Detecting Cocaine Use
Detection methods are sensitive to the presence of cocaine or benzoylecgonine in different ways. A saliva test can reveal cocaine use as soon as 5-10 minutes after consumption and for up to four days. In urine, cocaine is detectable within 2-5 hours of use, and it can be detected for up to four days. Blood testing can identify cocaine within 5-6 hours of use and for up to seven days or more. Benzoylecgonine usually shows up in the hair 5-7 days after first use and will remain detectable for up to 90 days. All of the foregoing timeframes are based on estimates; individual cases may vary.
Among chronic users of cocaine, the drug has been shown to store itself in different fatty tissues in the body, including the liver. After each use, a small portion of the drug is stored in the body, leading to a higher inventory with each use. But the drug does not remain stored; it is continuously released into the bloodstream even after a person stops consuming it. For this reason, former chronic users who become abstinent may still test positive for this drug for up to six months. After cocaine is entirely eliminated from the body, a person can then be said to be fully detoxed.
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Does the method of consumption affect how long cocaine stay in your system?
According to the University of Arizona’s MethOIDE illicit drug education site, the method of cocaine use – whether smoking, injecting, snorting, or ingesting the drug – does not affect how long the drug stays in the body. Regardless of the method of use, the drug begins to be eliminated from the body about 3-6 hours after use. It is usually fully eliminated within about 1-3 days, according to a study from the Journal of Analytical Toxicology. The amount of time it takes the drug to clear is based the drug’s half-life, or the amount of time it takes the body to metabolize and excrete half of the drug from the body.
The misconception that the method of use might affect how quickly it moves through the body could be based on the fact that people feel the effects of the drug much more quickly when it is smoked or injected than when it is snorted or otherwise ingested. Nevertheless, this only reflects how quickly the drug gets to the brain, not how quickly the body can break it down and eliminate it. The half-life cannot be changed by the method of use.
Is there a safe way to flush your system of cocaine?
While an increasing number of websites and products claim that cocaine can be quickly flushed from the body using certain kits or methods, the fact is that these methods don’t work to clear the drug from the body any faster than the half-life allows for, as described above. The best way to get cocaine out of the body is simply to stop using it and wait for the body to eliminate it naturally.
The way that flushing kits work is not by eliminating the drug from the body, but by either diluting the urine, which some believe will make the drug harder to detect, or by masking the drug with other substances, such as vitamins and minerals. However, this doesn’t mean that the drug isn’t still in the body; it just makes it harder to detect. Validity Screening Solutions describes the fact that most modern drug testing programs measure additional elements during a drug test; these non-drug elements can help the tester “see” past attempts to cheat and determine the test is invalid.
That said, the following can help an individual get through the detox and withdrawal period while minimizing withdrawal symptoms:
- Drink water.
- Eat healthy meals.
- Get enough sleep.
- Engage in moderate exercise.
Do drug tests usually screen for cocaine?
One of the major drug testing organizations, Quest Diagnostics, tests for cocaine as a matter of course in its basic testing procedure. This is quite common, as cocaine is one of the more commonly abused drugs. As such, it is usually included in most basic tests.
There are several types of drug tests used by employers or others to determine whether someone is using drugs. According to the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association, the most simple, common test is the 5-panel test, which picks up the following:
- Amphetamines or other stimulants
Other types of tests expand on this simple panel, testing for additional drug types.
Are there foods that can possibly provide a false positive for cocaine?
There are rumors that certain foods, medicines, or other consumables can result in a false positive on a cocaine test. These items include:
- Amoxicillin, an antibiotic medicine
- Topical anesthetics, if derived from cocaine
- Leaves from the coca plant (where cocaine comes from)
- Various physical diseases, such as diabetes or liver or kidney conditions
At least one study from the Journal of Analytical Toxicology has shown that it is unlikely that amoxicillin would result in a false-positive for cocaine. In addition, an article from WebMD indicates that there’s really no such thing as a false positive or false negative when testing for cocaine.
That said, if the person who has taken the test insists that there’s a false positive, it is prudent to have another test done professionally to verify that there’s an error; some types of tests may not be reliable. In the case of a health condition interfering with the results, getting the advice of a doctor may be vital for the individual’s health.
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