How Long Does Cocaine Stay In Your System?
To understand how the body processes cocaine, and how long cocaine typically stays in the body, it is useful to think about ants at a picnic. When ants come upon a pile of food on a blanket or picnic table, they swarm over that food. Some of the food is eaten right away, and some of the food is brought back to the hill to be eaten. There will also be morsels of food socked away for future use, and small crumbs of that food might be scattered during this storage process. If ants could talk and they were asked how much food they had, based on the above, they might find it a difficult question to answer. Additionally, the answer would depend greatly on the amount of food they found at the picnic.
The human body works in a very similar way. When a user takes in cocaine, some of the cocaine is immediately processed. However, some of that cocaine can be deposited for future use, and sometimes, tiny crumbs are deposited in unlikely places. It is those crumbs that might be detectable at a much later date.
Cocaine in Your System: Immediate Use
There are many methods to use cocaine, with the most popular being snorting, or sniffing, the drug. Cocaine users can also dissolve cocaine in water to make it injectable, smoke it, ingest it, or massage it into their gums. Those who snort cocaine may feel the drug’s effects for up to 30 minutes, while cocaine users who opt for smoking the drug may only feel its effects for five to 10 minutes, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Often, to prolong the amount of time in which they feel the pleasant experience of cocaine, users will take in dose after dose in what is known as a binge session, or simply “cocaine binge.”
Cocaine moves through the body and is metabolized and turned into benzoylecgonine. This substance is then excreted by the body through urine. Standard tests that screen for cocaine usage look for benzoylecgonine (the half-life of benzoylecgonine is about six hours), but standard tests aren’t always very effective at spotting cocaine. In fact, some standard tests can only find benzoylecgonine within a few days of use.
In the end, how long cocaine stays in a person’s system involves a process that is deeply personal, and the length of time can vary dramatically, depending on a person’s:
- Kidney health
- Liver health
- Physical Activity
- Amount of Cocaine Used
Cocaine in Your System: Later Storage
More advanced tests, such as a GCMS machine, can be more useful in detecting benzoylecgonine in the urine. The GCMS machine subjects the urine to heat and several spinning cycles, which splits off individual molecules and runs them through a computer program where they can be identified. According to an article published by ESPN, GCMS can detect cocaine in the urine up to 22 days after the user has taken a hit. It’s possible that these tests are capable of finding cocaine so long after usage because the body tends to store excess cocaine in fatty tissues during a binge session. It doesn’t need all the cocaine it has access to in that moment, so it packs the extra away and continues to metabolize it for days or even weeks.
Additionally, the hair and nails of the cocaine user may contain tiny particles of drugs or the enzymes used to break down those drugs. Since these tissues are fed by the bloodstream, if the bloodstream contains any drug particles, they will naturally move up and remain trapped in the hair and nails until they’re cut away. In a sense, drugs remain in the person’s system for an extremely long time, especially if that person has long hair.
So how long does cocaine stay in your system? It is safe to say that cocaine stays in the user’s system in some way for days, weeks or even months after the physical sensations caused by the drug use have faded away.