Cocaine: How Long Does It Stay In Your System?

So you used cocaine when you partied last night, or maybe you use it regularly to get through the day? Either way, certain people who use cocaine worry about how long cocaine stays in the system and how long it will continue to affect them. Others are concerned about traces of the drug registering on a mandatory drug test. So, how long does cocaine stay in the system?

How long does cocaine stay in your system if you lick it?

An approximate amount of time that you will continue to experience the effects of cocaine varies by the route of administration—in other words, how you used it:

  • Intravenous (IV) administration = 15-20 minutes.  If you inject cocaine, it obviously allowed direct entry to the bloodstream. Injecting cocaine gives heightened intensity when compared to snorting cocaine nasally.
  • Inhalation (smoked) = 15-25 minutes. If you smoke cocaine, the drug is vaporised. The vapours of cocaine enters the blood through the lungs. Smoking cocaine is similar to injecting in terms of the amount of time it takes to enter the bloodstream.
  • Intranasal use (snorted) = 45-90 minutes. When cocaine is consumed intranasal, the drug is then absorbed into the blood via the nasal tissue.
  • Taken by mouth = 90 minutes. This is the longest. 

How long does cocaine stay in your system if taken with alcohol?

Many individuals choose to consume cocaine for social and recreational reasons. The drug helps to keep people alert and fight off fatigue. This is particularly beneficial for people who want to continue to drink alcohol into the small hours of the night.

Drinking alcohol and drinking cocaine will cause your body to store benzoylecgonine formed from the metabolization of cocaine. 

If get subjected to drug tests and you consume cocaine, do not drink alcohol or caffeine as this will only slow down the process where benzoylecgonine is removed from your system via the urine.

How long does cocaine stay in your system when breastfeeding?

A mum who has used cocaine may feel ‘normal’ soon afterwards but her breast milk could contain the drug for 72 hours and so would need to pump and discard her breast milk until after that time has elapsed.

Euphoric highs are brief but breastmilk and urine remain cocain positive for long periods.

An infant’s urine samples following exposure to cocaine through breast milk may remain positive for up to 60 hours. Mothers who snort cocaine should pump and dump breastmilk for at least 48 hours and arguably 72 hours. Passive inhalation of crack and cocaine smoke may also result in babies with positive toxicology. 

Dangers to the baby:

When a mother uses cocaine in any form, the drug can get into the breast milk. Exposing your baby breastmilk after cocaine is serious and can be dangerous for a baby. A newborn baby cannot inactivate cocaine and infants can have cocaine intoxication following nursing. Symptoms include difficulty breathing and seizures in the infant. Never apply cocaine on your nipples to treat soreness. IT IS HIGHLY DANGEROUS for the baby and is known to cause seizures. Talk to your healthcare provider about all your question related to breastfeeding.

Consequences of exposure to crack cocaine by passive inhalation:

Four children were hospitalised after exposure to freebase crack cocaine smoked by their adult caregivers. Two of the children had transient drowsiness and two experienced seizures (Bateman and Heagarty 1989).

Case Study

This case study Chasnoff (1987) is very informative. A 26-year-old mother took her 2-week-old daughter to the emergency room with symptoms of extreme irritability over the previous 4 hours. She admitted that she had snorted “large amounts” of cocaine in the first 2 months of pregnancy but had then stopped. She had however continued to binge drink large volumes of alcohol and smoke cigarettes throughout her pregnancy. The baby was born at 38 weeks weighing 3.136Kg with no abnormalities reported at delivery. Mother and baby were discharged home within 3 days exclusively breastfeeding.

When the baby was one week of age the mother stated that she had applied a “dab” of cocaine to her lower gum and then breastfed as normal. She noted no changes in the baby’s behaviour or sleep.

At 2 weeks she had snorted 0.5g cocaine between 10am and 2 pm and during this time breastfed around five times. At 1pm the baby girl became markedly irritable and began to vomit and have diarrhoea. Her pupils became dilated and the mother noted that she “wouldn’t focus on her face”. She took the baby to the hospital at 5pm.

On admission, the baby was well hydrated and well nourished. She was tremulous and irritable with frequent startling to even minimal noise. Her weight was 3.55Kg and she showed no signs of neglect or abuse. There were some signs of exposure to high levels of alcohol in utero.

She was admitted and put on an intravenous drip whilst being monitored. She took bottles of artificial formula but was still irritable with a high-pitched cry 12 hours after the last breastfeed (exposure to cocaine). This went on for 24 hours. Irritability and tremulousness persisted throughout the first 48 hours and it wasn’t until 72 hours post-exposure that the heartbeat returned to a more normal 130 beats per minute from the peak at 160 beats.

Results of toxicological studies showed cocaine and its metabolite in the mother’s milk and the infant’s urine initially. Milk samples were negative at 36 hours after the mother’s last cocaine use and the infant’s urine was negative at 60 hours after the last breastfeed.

The case was reported to the Department of Children and Family Services and was discharged home with the parents under court supervision. No mention is made of how the infant was fed at that stage and there is no long-term follow-up data other than that physical and neurological findings were normal on discharge. 

How long does cocaine stay in your system during pregnancy?

During the early months of pregnancy, cocaine intake will increase chances for miscarriage. Chances of this happening may be related to the amount the woman uses during pregnancy.

  • Intravenous (IV) administration = 15 to 20 minutes. 
  • Inhalation (smoked) = 15 to 25 minutes. 
  • Intranasal use (snorted) = 45 to 90 minutes.
  • Taken by mouth = 90 minutes. 

Cocaine goes into the placenta and enters your developing baby. The drug can be found in the urine, stool, umbilical cord and hair of newborns exposed during pregnancy. Cocaine is cleared very slowly from the developing baby in a pregnancy when compared to as a newborn than it does in an adult. That’s why cocaine stays in a baby’s body for a longer time.

Expectant mothers struggling with cocaine addiction while pregnant should seek medical help, as misuse of the drug can lead to many adverse health effects. Cocaine causes the mother to experience health risks such as: 

  • High blood pressure
  • Migraines
  • Seizures
  • Spontaneous miscarriage
  • Cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heart rhythm)
  • Serious psychiatric health problems
  • Respiratory problems.  

Side effects to your baby

Birth defects:

Cocaine use include abnormalities of the brain, face, eyes, heart, skull, limbs, intestines, genitals, and urinary tract. That being said babies exposed to cocaine during pregnancy do not have a birth defect. However, the risk of a birth defect is more likely when the mother has used cocaine frequently during her pregnancy.

Death:

Cocaine lowes the supply of food and oxygen that need to reach the developing baby. The babies whose mothers use cocaine while pregnancy tend to have growth problems (weigh less, be shorter in length, and have smaller heads) than babies born without exposure to cocaine. Babies with low birth weight are more likely to die in their first month of life than are normal weight babies.

Mothers who use cocaine during their pregnancy are 2.2 times more likely to experience a stillbirth than mothers who do not.

Labour: 

Cocaine can cause the placenta to pull away from the wall of the uterus before labor naturally starts called placental abruption. This can lead to heavy bleeding and can be fatal for both the mother and baby. 

Permanent Brain Damage:

Cocaine also increases the risk for premature delivery before week 37. Babies who are born prematurely often start life with serious health problems, especially breathing difficulties. These babies may also have an intracranial hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain) before or soon after birth, and this can cause permanent brain damage and other disabilities.

Cocaine also causes significant central nervous system problems that may not be seen until the child is older. These effects may include problems with attention and behavioral self-control. Delays in learning, slower growth rate, language difficulties and an increased need for special education in school have been reported.

Born Addicted:

When a mother continues to abuse cocaine during the later stages of her pregnancy, the risk of addiction in the infant is big. Most babies that are born from women suffering from cocaine addiction are premature, which causes them to have a smaller head circumference, shorter in length and are underweight.

A study listed on the National Institute of Health’s website states that children who were exposed to cocaine before they were born have a much higher risk of developing learning disabilities.

What you can do

When you discover that you are pregnant, start prenatal care and tell your healthcare provider about your cocaine use and ask for help. If a pregnant woman is not using cocaine at the end of her pregnancy, then no increased risk for these symptoms would be expected for the newborn.

If you are worried that your baby may have health problems due to cocaine use, speak to your healthcare provider. He/she can discuss with you any available tests. An ultrasound can be used to screen for birth defects, growth of the baby and the location of the placenta. However, there are no tests that can be done prenatally to check for developmental disability. Choose a pediatrician who will care for your baby and make you feel comfortable to talk about any concerns you have.

How long does cocaine stay in your system for drug test? 

You have asked this question, most likely because you have consumed cocaine recently and are worried if you may become subject to drug testing. Maybe the fear of losing your job is probably motivating you to seek out a solution.

  • Urine: 2-3 days (or up to 2 weeks, for heavy cocaine users)
  • Saliva: 1 to 2 days 
  • Sweat: around a few weeks for cocaine or metabolite (when cutoff value is very low)
  • Blood: 12 hours for cocaine or 48 hours for metabolite
  • Hair: it stays for months 

If you are a heavy cocaine user then, chronic use of cocaine leads to a buildup of cocaine. 

This buildup increases the amount of time that cocaine and its metabolites stay in your system. 

It is not only detectable by the amount of time, cocaine can last in your body depending on 

on how long you’ve been using, quantity of cocain, and the type of detection method. Urine testing is the most often used testing method. Blood and saliva tests tend to have the shortest detection times, while hair tests is the longest as it can stay in the keratin of hair for months.

Cocaine is quickly absorbed after smoking with plasma concentrations peaking around 5 minutes, or 30-40 minutes if taken nasally. Cocaine is highly metabolized by enzymes in the liver and blood, and benzoylecgonine is the major metabolite of cocaine found in the urine. What matters is the amount taken, how frequently it is used, and metabolic variation, benzoylecgonine can be detected in urine for 48-96 hours after use. 

Occasional User:

For an occasional cocaine user, cocaine typically remains in your body for around 2-4 days following consumption. Following this amount of time, drug tests generally will not detect cocaine in your urine. 

Long Term User:

  • For long-term cocaine user, it’s difficult to say how long cocaine will remain in your system. 
  • The drug could be detectable in your urine after 7+ days of non-use. Cocaine’s by-products such as benzoylecgonine have been detectable in urine when cocaine was consumed several weeks ago. For this reason, urine tests are popular amongst drug test facilities to employers.
  • The amount of time is also influenced by how you consume the drug: Orally, By snorting (intranasal), By inhalation, and Intravenously (injecting). 
  • Traces of cocaine remain in the hair for around three months after consumption. In some instances, cocaine can remain in the hair until the hair falls out or is cut. Some drug tests will ask you to submit a hair sample for this reason.

Benzoylecgonine

The presence of benzoylecgonine in your system is what companies look for during drug testing. So, when your urine is shipped off to a laboratory for testing, the lab technicians will test for benzoylecgonine. But why specifically this? 

  • Benzoylecgonine is one of cocaine’s many by-products. The second cocaine is consumed via injecting, snorting or smoking, cocaine travels to your liver. Here, the liver process cocaine into several metabolites. One of which is benzoylecgonine. This then allows the body to purge cocaine from your system via your urine.
  • By looking for the presence of benzoylecgonine, blood and urine tests are able to detect cocaine weeks after it has left the body. It’s presence in your urine is an accurate means of proving that you have taken cocaine recently. Even if cocaine leaves your urine within 2-4 days, benzoylecgonine can linger in your urine for longer periods of time, and in some instances up to 14 days after cocaine was last consumed.
  • Long time users will have larger levels of benzoylecgonine in their system than those who rarely use it. People who use it infrequently typically flush benzoylecgonine from their systems in a matter of a couple of days.
  • However, some drug tests can detect benzoylecgonine months after the last cocaine consumption, no matter what amount of cocaine was taken. These tests usually look for signs of drug use by examining hair samples.

Furthermore, cocaine kills hundreds of thousands of people each year, so it’s never worth the risk because you could ultimately end up losing something much more valuable than just your job.If you feel you may be addicted to cocaine, get in touch with an AA meeting and also try a cocaine detox kit. 

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