How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Your System?

How long cocaine lasts in your system depends on several factors, including the amount ingested, the frequency of use, and the specimen type required of the drug test.
Jared Rosenthal
Published on

Great! You finally got that amazing job you have been angling for, and they want you to start right away. But, there’s just one problem: you recently snorted cocaine, and the job offer is contingent on a clean urine test. Perhaps you are a heavy user. Or maybe you are an employer or parent who suspects that someone in your company or family is abusing this powerful drug, and you wish to get them tested. The question that is almost certainly on your mind is, “How long is cocaine in your system?” The answer depends on a variety of factors.

5 Factors which affect how long cocaine stays in your system

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Quantity: How much was consumed?
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Mixing: Was it combined with other drugs or alcohol?
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Frequency: How often is it being used?
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History: How far back has this frequency of use been going on?
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Testing Method: Urine test vs. Hair test

Which Tests for Cocaine are more likely to detect usage?

We’ve developed a few guidelines to help you understand how far back the urine tests and hair tests can pick up coke.

Single Usage:

Typically, a person who uses cocaine one time will retain the metabolites of cocaine in his or her urine for three to five days. So, if you just partake once-in-a-blue-moon, but you just happened to be at a party the same week that you received a job offer, then you will probably fail the drug test. While hair testing is a method that goes back much further, if does not generally pick up a single usage of smoking cocaine, and it never picks up drugs used less than 5 days ago. Nevertheless, read on…

Higher Dosage:

Even if you only got high on a single night, the more lines you did, the longer cocaine in urine will last, and the more likely the cocaine in hair will be detected. Two lines last longer than one. Three lines of cocaine will remain in your system for a longer period of time than two, and so on.

Heavy User:

If you are regularly getting high, all bets are off. The time frame for detection in the urine becomes significantly longer as the frequency of use goes up. And hair samples will definitely pick up evidence of long term cocaine usage. In fact, that’s exactly what they are designed to do.

Why does dosage and frequency matter?

After smoking crack, snorting cocaine, or otherwise ingesting it in some form, the drug itself stays in the body and remains detectable for approximately 12 hours. During that time, it gets metabolized by your body. Otherwise known as sobering up, this metabolization process is what your body does to get the cocaine out of your system. The good news is that you return to normal functioning, but the metabolization process leaves distinct traces – called “metabolites” – in your system for a longer period of time.

The amount of time it takes for half of the quantity of a drug to be metabolized is called its “half-life.” Research has shown cocaine’s metabolites have a longer half-life than the drug itself. In other words, people who use cocaine at higher doses, and people who take it more frequently, increase the length of time that each usage stays in the body.

Mixing Cocaine with Alcohol

Let’s be clear about one thing: mixing alcohol with cocaine is extremely risky. As any high school gym teacher, part-time health instructor, or teenager who pays any attention at all to either of those adults in class can tell you: uppers and downers simply do not mix. You know the effects of cocaine – it speeds things up. You certainly know the effects of alcohol – it mellows things out. These things are opposites. Combining them tells your body to speed up and slow down at the same time.

Imagine you were driving a car and you hit the gas and the brakes at the same time. Not too safe, right? It’s bad news, dangerous, and potentially fatal to mix uppers and downers, especially alcohol and cocaine. A wickedly toxic chemical called Cocaethylene forms in the liver when cocaine and alcohol are taken together. This stuff is not a joke – it often makes the heart race so fast that users end up in the emergency room. Sudden death can occur. Furthermore, cocaethylene has a half life of its own, separate from the run-of-the-mill cocaine metabolites. That’s one more thing for a drug test to pick up, and it typically lasts even longer in the system than the cocaine metabolites themselves.

Testing Methods

Cocaine can be detected by various drug testing methods, such as urine tests and hair samples. The length of time that it lasts in your blood versus how long cocaine stays in your urine versus how long cocaine stays in your hair are very different.

Saliva tests are another option but is not widely available. Urine drug tests are easy and offered almost everywhere, and any 5 panel drug test or greater will detect cocaine for a few days, perhaps up to a week. Hair drug testing does not detect the last few days of usage, but it does go back 90 days or more, and cocaine stays in your hair until you cut it off. Blood testing can also detect cocaine, but it is rarely used in practice. A blood test for cocaine is only administered in certain extreme situations, such as a fatality, or at a hospital if the individual is unable to provide a specimen on their own.

WRITTEN BY

Jared is the Founder of Health Street, the creator of the Who's Your Daddy DNA truck, and the host of VH1's Swab Stories.

WRITTEN BY

Jared is the Founder of Health Street, the creator of the Who's Your Daddy DNA truck, and the host of VH1's Swab Stories.

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Drug Testing

Read Health Street's dramatic and informative drug testing stories.

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Drug Testing

Read Health Street's dramatic and informative drug testing stories.