Using cocaine for a prolonged period can alter your brain’s behavior and structure and cause severe health, emotional, and social problems to arise.
Determining how long cocaine stays in your system can be complex. Many variable factors, such as the severity of your addiction and the length of time you have been using cocaine, contribute to how long the drug takes to leave your body.
Cocaine is a powerful Schedule II drug with a high potential for abuse. As a fast-acting central nervous system stimulant, cocaine produces rapid effects, making it dangerous, not to mention addictive.
Extracted from the coca plant, which originates in South America, cocaine use has ebbed and flowed since the original discovery of the fatigue-fighting properties of the plant. Although cocaine hydrochloride was used widely for medical and recreational use in the mid-1900s, restrictions were put in place surrounding the use of the drug when adverse side effects were noticed.
Today, cocaine is occasionally used in health care settings, but recreational cocaine use is illegal. Despite this, a 2016 study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that nearly two million individuals over the age of 12 use cocaine almost every year.
In its pure form, cocaine is a fine, white powder. However, illegal use of cocaine often sees the drug mixed – or cut – with substances such as cornflour or talcum powder to increase the quantity. More dangerously, cocaine can sometimes be cut with other substances, such as amphetamine or fentanyl – two severely potent synthetic opioids.
This combination of synthetic opioids and cocaine is extremely risky, and recent increasing rates of overdose deaths are thought to be partly attributed to this practice.
The immediate effects of cocaine are wide-ranging and can vary from person to person. However, most of the symptoms are emotional, behavioral, physical, and psychological.
Emotional side effects of cocaine include:
Behavioral side effects of cocaine include:
Physical side effects of cocaine include:
Psychological side effects of cocaine include:
Cocaine increases the amount of dopamine within the brain, which is naturally produced when we experience something that causes us pleasure. It helps motivate us to do things that keep us alive such as eating, moving, working, feeling emotions, and reproducing.
In a correctly functioning brain, dopamine neurons expel into gaps between themselves and other brain cells when pleasure is experienced. Dopamine then travels to receptors on nearby cells, triggering communication to induce specific feelings or sensations. From here, it is then reprocessed back into the cell that initially released it. In doing this, it shuts off signals between nerve cells.
However, when cocaine is present in the brain, it prevents dopamine from being reprocessed. In turn, dopamine gathers and collects in the spaces between nerve cells, inhibiting their communication.
The build-up of dopamine binds with other receptors, sending out repeated pleasure signals. This creates the intense high you may experience when using cocaine.
Your brain recognizes these pleasurable experiences and tries to repeat them, which explains why you may experience cravings when you are unable to use cocaine. Additionally, dopamine is responsible for the decrease in motivation, distress, and emptiness you may feel following high levels of cocaine use.
The brain’s reward system adapts to prolonged substance abuse, becoming more tolerant to the substance. Therefore, if you frequently use cocaine, you will gradually find yourself needing to increase the dosage to feel the same intense high as you initially did.
Some people believe that cocaine leaves the system quickly compared to other drugs with similar effects, which contributes to the high rates of cocaine use. However, this is not always the case.
Depending on how cocaine is used, it can remain in the body for weeks or longer.
However, it is almost impossible to accurately determine how long cocaine stays in the body as there are many variables to consider, such as the following:
Screening tests for cocaine detect benzoylecgonine, a metabolite produced in the body. There are several common ways of testing for cocaine. Below, we look at the average timelines for the varying tests.
Cocaine’s metabolites can typically be detected in urine for up to three days after the last use. However, if you use cocaine regularly, it can be detected in your urine for up to two weeks.
Urine tests are the most common drug testing method because it proves to be the most sensitive and accurate when testing specifically for the presence of cocaine.
Depending on how cocaine is used, metabolites can be detected in your hair follicles for up to three months after last use. Hair tests are not commonly considered, but they have the advantage of a long detection time.
In some situations, a saliva test may be used to detect cocaine. This test sees saliva extracted from the mouth before being tested in a tube. This particular drug test can detect cocaine for up to two days.
Blood tests may be used to detect cocaine in a hospital setting. Here, cocaine can typically be detected up to 12 hours after it was last used.
Determining how long cocaine stays in your system is complicated, especially as multiple factors must be considered. The good news is that support is available. With comprehensive cocaine addiction treatment, you can recover from your drug addiction and the severe psychological and physical effects of taking cocaine.
If you have a physical dependence on cocaine, seeking addiction treatment and professional medical advice is the most effective way to tackle the problem. At our rehab centers, our treatment facilities and experienced staff can help you take the first step in overcoming your addiction.
Typically, the first stage in treatment is detox. This removes all traces of cocaine from your body in a safe space, enabling you to begin to recover from your physical addiction. Following detox, additional treatments, such as therapy and counseling, will help you understand your addiction and develop coping strategies.
At Empowered Recovery, we treat every individual who walks through our doors with utmost respect and dignity. We know that everyone’s journey is different, and we have a treatment process that reflects that.
Contact us today if you require cocaine addiction treatment for drug abuse or any co-occurring disorders. Doing so will help you learn more about our treatment options and how we can guide you along your recovery journey, so you can live the life you deserve.
Contact our team to find out how we can help you