The length of time cocaine stays in your system depends on many factors – like the type of test, your metabolism, and how heavily you use coke. However, if you’re worried about a drug test, the only sure way to avoid a positive test is to quit the substance entirely.
This blog offers some information on how our bodies metabolise cocaine, different types of drug tests, and how you can stop taking cocaine for good.
What Is Cocaine?
Cocaine is a potent stimulant derived from the coca plant, native to South America. You can snort, smoke, sniff, or inject cocaine. People take cocaine to feel alert, confident, and energetic.
Cocaine is a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning it has a high potential for abuse. While doctors may use cocaine for limited medical purposes, its use is severely restricted.
Why Is Cocaine Addictive?
Cocaine is a highly addictive drug that causes long-lasting physical changes to the reward pathway in the brain.
The reward pathway is a natural part of how the brain works, reinforcing pleasure-seeking behaviours such as eating and having sex. When we engage in these activities, our brain releases a small amount of the chemical dopamine. Dopamine produces feelings of pleasure and makes us want to do the activity again.
Taking cocaine floods your brain with dopamine, hijacking the reward system and producing strong urges to reuse cocaine. The more you take cocaine, the stronger the connections and urges become. Resisting these urges can be extremely difficult and often requires external support.
How Do Drug Tests Detect Cocaine?
When you take cocaine, your body breaks it down into smaller molecules known as metabolites. You can find cocaine metabolites in your blood, urine, and saliva. Cocaine metabolites also reach hair follicles and can be found in the hair which grows around the time you take cocaine.
Cocaine drug tests may detect cocaine, cocaine metabolites, or both. In general, cocaine metabolites show up in drug testing for longer than cocaine itself.
How Long Can Drug Tests Detect Cocaine?
The length of time that cocaine is detectable by drug tests depends on various factors, including:
- The type of drug test
- Your metabolism
- Body fat levels
- Your drug use
Studies suggest that using cocaine regularly may lead to a build-up of the substance and its metabolites in your body. This may lengthen the drug detection window, increasing the chance of a positive drug test. Drinking alcohol while using cocaine may also slow down the speed at which it leaves the body.
The amount of time that a drug stays in your system depends upon the drug’s half-life. Half-life is the time a substance takes to reduce to half its value.
The average half-life of cocaine in your blood is around an hour and a half, and it may be detectable in your blood for around two and a half days after you last took cocaine.
The average half-life of cocaine in urine is around four and a half hours, so the detection window is typically longer than for a blood test. Moreover, urine drug testing often looks out for metabolites as well as the substance itself. The metabolite benzoylecgonine may be detectable in a urine test for four days after the last use – and possibly two weeks in heavy users.
A saliva test, also known as a mouth swab drug test, has a detection window similar to a blood test of around two and a half days. Saliva drug tests are often the cheapest and easiest type of test.
Hair Follicle Drug Test
Hair follicle drug tests can usually detect metabolites that your blood has deposited in your hair at least three months before the test. However, while hair tests offer a much longer test window than other types of tests, they may also detect cocaine that the environment has deposited on your hair, leading to false positives.
How Does Your Body Metabolize Cocaine?
When you take cocaine, it enters your bloodstream and travels around your body.
Cocaine passes through the blood-brain barrier and affects neurotransmitter receptors in your brain, accounting for its psychoactive effects. It also enters your liver, the main organ involved in cocaine metabolization.
Enzymes in the liver metabolize cocaine by breaking it down into metabolites it either uses or excretes in urine. Benzoylecgonine and ecgonine methyl ester are the main metabolites present in urine.
Why Does Cocaine Stay in Your System Longer If You Mix It With Alcohol?
Mixing cocaine and alcohol causes your liver to make a metabolite called cocaethylene (which is not present if you take cocaine by itself). Cocaethylene’s half-life in your blood is three to five times longer than cocaine itself. Moreover, taking cocaine with alcohol can increase cocaine levels in your bloodstream by 30%.
Both of these factors lead to a longer detection window in certain types of drug tests. Cocaethylene is also a very toxic chemical that may carry an additional set of health risks to those associated with cocaine.
How Can You Avoid A Positive Result?
The only way to avoid testing positive for a drug test is to stop taking cocaine. There’s no need to worry about how long drugs stay in your system if you’re not taking drugs in the first place. While this may seem hard, addiction treatment programs can offer compassionate and effective support to guide you to sobriety.
Cocaine Addiction Treatment
Decades of research into drug and alcohol abuse have uncovered a range of evidence-based treatment options proven to help you overcome drug addiction. Effective treatment programs usually combine a variety of approaches tailored to suit each individual’s needs.
Treatment approaches may include:
- cognitive-behavioural therapy
- individual counselling
- group programming
- support groups
- family therapy
- couples therapy
Effective addiction treatment programs aim for long-term recovery, focusing on the underlying causes of addiction to foster meaningful and long-lasting change. Individual and group therapy equips you with the skills you need to overcome cravings and other challenges while laying broader foundations that support overall well-being. Skills such as open communication, acceptance, and distress tolerance can improve your relationship with yourself and others, building strong support systems and inner resilience.
Many people who are addicted to cocaine and other drugs also live with co-occurring mental health conditions like anxiety or depression. Co-occurring disorders can drive addictive behaviour as people turn to drug abuse as a coping mechanism. Dual diagnosis programs treat co-occurring disorders alongside addiction, promoting holistic and comprehensive recovery.
The Revoke Programme
The Revoke Programme is a visionary service working at the forefront of mental and behavioural healthcare. We design our outpatient programs to fit around your daily life, so you can recover while maintaining home and work responsibilities. Our evidence-based treatment approaches are grounded in the latest scientific advances, providing you with the best service available.
Our treatment facility is located in Central London and is staffed by a team of licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, medical doctors, and nurses. We’re specialised, experienced, and compassionate – and invested in your future.
If you are living with addiction or another mental health concern, contact us today to begin your new future.