Cocaine, classified as a stimulant, is known today as an illicit drug. But it has roots in the medical field. Originally used as an anesthetic and vasoconstrictor, cocaine was eventually phased out as its addiction potential exceeded its therapeutic value. However, it is still used to anesthetize mucous membranes of the oral, laryngeal, and nasal cavities.1
Cocaine is said to have experienced its heyday in the 1980s. But it continues to be a drug of abuse today.1
The high from snorting cocaine lasts from 15 to 30 minutes. The high from smoking has a more rapid onset but may last only 5 to 10 minutes. Effects include euphoria, enhanced mental alertness, dilated pupils, and increases in body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate.2
How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Your System? When a person consumes cocaine, the liver primarily converts it to the metabolites benzoylecgonine and ecgonine methyl ester. Many individuals may think that drug tests screen for cocaine, but they actually test for benzoylecgonine because its concentration in urine is 50 to 100 times greater than that of cocaine.3
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Detecting Cocaine Use
The length of time it takes for cocaine to be eliminated from a person’s body depends on the following factors:4
- Volume of cocaine consumed
- How regularly or frequently cocaine is used
- A person’s rate of metabolism
Below are timeframes for cocaine detection in drug tests. All of these timeframes are based on estimates; individual cases may vary.
- A saliva test can reveal cocaine use within minutes after consumption and for up to 2 days.5
- Cocaine use may be detectable in hair for up to 90 days.6
- In urine, cocaine is often detectable for about 3-4 days, though it may be detectable up to 10 days after a binge.3,4 In heavy users, cocaine can show up on a urine test for up to 2 weeks.7
- Blood testing can identify cocaine for up to 2 days.7
Does the method of consumption affect how long cocaine stay in your system?
The method of cocaine use – whether smoking, injecting, snorting, or ingesting the drug – does not affect how long the drug stays in the body.3
It is usually fully eliminated within about 1-3 days, according to a study from the Journal of Analytical Toxicology.8 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?
An increasing number of websites and products claim that the person can dilute or add a substance to the urine to get a negative test result.7
Sometimes, testers will watch people while they urinate in the cup to keep them from cheating. Or they may use a saliva test because the tester commonly watches you during the whole process, and it is harder to cheat.7
Another way that drug users try to cheat on a test is to use synthetic urine or urine from a clean person. However, labs are increasingly testing for additional markers to make sure that the urine sample is from the actual donor.9
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.10 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:11
- 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.12
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.
- The University of Arizona MethOIDE. Cocaine: Origin and History.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. What are the short-term effects of cocaine use?
- Nickley, J., Pesce, A. J., & Krock, K. (2017). A sensitive assay for urinary cocaine metabolite benzoylecgonine shows more positive results and longer half-lives than those using traditional cut-offs. Drug testing and analysis, 9(8), 1214–1216.
- Redwood Toxicology Laboratory. Cocaine Drug Information.
- Redwood Toxicology Laboratory. (2014). Laboratory Testing Reference Guide.
- Concentra. (2018). Hair Drug Testing 101.
- University of Rochester Medical Center. Cocaine Screen.
- Jufer R.A., Wstadik A., Walsh S.L., Levine B.S., and Cone E.J. (2000). Elimination of cocaine and metabolites in plasma, saliva, and urine following repeated oral administration to human volunteers. Journal of Analytical Toxicology, 24(7), 467-77.
- Validity Screening Solutions. (2016). How the Drug Testing Lab Catches Cheaters.
- Quest Diagnostics. (2018). Frequently Asked Questions: Urine Drug Testing.
- Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association. Workplace Drug Testing.
- Reisfield G.M. et al. (2008). Failure of amoxicillin to produce false-positive urine screens for cocaine metabolite. Journal of Analytical Toxicology, 32(4), 315-8.