Cocaine: How Long Does It Stay In Your System, What Does It Do, And More

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Cocaine: How Long Does It Stay In Your System, What Does It Do, And More

Cocaine is one of those drugs that started as medicine, but that was later reclassified as doctors and scientists realized that the risks of cocaine use outweighed almost all of the potential benefits.

These days, cocaine is mostly a recreational drug and is illegal in the United States. There are still a few medical uses, like as a local topical anesthetic.  Use as an anesthetic is low risk in almost all cases, but other uses of cocaine come with some serious risks.

Let’s talk about what cocaine is, how long cocaine lasts in your system, and other key details that you need to know if you or someone you care about is considering using this illegal drug.

What Is Cocaine

Cocaine is a drug that is derived from and refined from, the leaves of the coca plant. Coca leaves have been used for a long time, as a stimulant, a recreational drug, and later, once they had been refined into cocaine, as a local anesthetic to help relieve the pain of surgery.

For a while cocaine was legal, but as the risks and likelihood of addiction become more clear, it was made illegal and is now a schedule II drug, the second highest level of restriction.

Cocaine is available in a wide variety of forms and purity levels, but all of them are illegal unless provided and used by a medical professional, and there are strict restrictions even on medical use of the drug.

One of the reasons that cocaine is so tightly controlled is that this drug, which can cause a euphoric high when used, isn’t simply addictive. It can also cause changes to your brain structure and the way your brain functions when used repeatedly, and especially with chronic use.

It’s important to understand how long cocaine is in your body both because the duration of cocaine can change how and when people use the drug, impacts how it effects people, and because you need to know how long the drug is active to prevent taking too much and having even more side effects and worse risks associated with use.

how is cocaine typically used

How Is Cocaine Typically Used

Cocaine is a drug that can be ingested (eaten or drunk), snorted, or injected depending on the form of the drug and how it’s prepared. Some people prefer different methods of taking cocaine either for ease of use or because the different ways of taking the drug can lead to a different kind of high, and a shorter or longer high.

That said, there is no safe way to use cocaine except by a doctor in very specific circumstances. Even when cocaine is used as an anesthetic by a doctor, there can still be risks associated with the cocaine use specifically, above and beyond any other risks of the procedure or other drugs used.

Different methods of using cocaine also cause different kinds of damage in most cases. For instance, snorting cocaine, which is a commonly chosen method because it’s easy, requires relatively little preparation depending on the form of cocaine being snorted, and because it provides a faster and more intense high, can also cause a wide variety of damage to your respiratory system.

Respiratory complications of cocaine abuse can include relatively mild symptoms, like wheezing, shortness of breath or more frequent and more severe nose bleeds, all the way up through more serious damage like greater risk of respiratory infections, changes in how your lungs process air during breathing, and other permanent alterations to the form or function of the respiratory system.

Many of these problems get more severe with more frequent or prolonged use of cocaine, and many of them may also be permanent or only able to partially recover after you stop using cocaine.

How Long Does Cocaine Stay In Your System?

Cocaine is a relatively short-lived drug in your body. It has a very short active period, followed by a longer, but still short, inactive but detectable period while the cocaine and derivatives of the cocaine are being processed in your body.

In general, the high from a single dose of cocaine can last as little as 10-30 minutes, and very rarely longer.

Cocaine may be detectible for several days after use, up to several months depending on the drug test used and whether it’s looking for active signs of the drug in your system, or alterations to hair follicles or other cells as a result of drug use.

Because cocaine highs are generally very short-lived it’s common for people using cocaine to take several doses over the course of a few hours, which is often called a cocaine binge.

The Difference Between An Active Drug And A Detectable Drug In Your System

It’s important, when it comes to most drugs, to understand the difference between an active drug and a drug, or its components once broken down or absorbed by the body, that can still be detected.

Almost all drugs and medications can be detected long after their active effects, or the primary ways the drug changes how your body functions, have stopped. For instance, if you take over-the-counter cough medicine, your body will still have evidence that you took that cough medicine for a few hours or days after you stop taking it.

The same is true of most medications and most illegal drugs as well.

That’s why you don’t have to be actively on a medication to fail a drug test, and why you generally have to provide information about what drugs you are taking on prescription or over the counter before the drug test begins.

Is Cocaine Addictive?

Yes, cocaine can be extremely addictive, but people who have a cocaine addiction may not seem like other people dealing with an addiction.

For one thing, since cocaine has a relatively short active period, people who take the drug aren’t typically high all or even most of the time. Instead, they are more likely to have specific cocaine binges, which might be days or weeks apart depending on how they get their cocaine and how many resources they have available to spend on the drug.

In between binges, someone who is addicted to cocaine may seem mostly normal, or they might seem like they are having a bit of a hard time or even like they could be depressed. That’s because cocaine withdrawal can cause severe low moods and other mental side effects.

Unfortunately, those mental health symptoms may also contribute to the addictive potential of cocaine, because users might feel like they need to use cocaine again in order to feel better from the withdrawal symptoms.

Cocaine withdrawal is sometimes called a cocaine crash for this reason, and symptoms can last hours or weeks.

Unfortunately, because cocaine can also change the way your brain functions and how much your brain produces certain neurotransmitters, the low mood and other symptoms of cocaine withdrawal may become permanent for some people, and the risk of permanent alterations to brain function increases with each use of cocaine.

We’ll talk a little more about the signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction a little further on.

Cocaine Side Effects

There are a lot of side effects from cocaine use, some of which are dependent on how you take the drug. We can’t list all of them here, but we can list some of the more common or universal side effects to help make it easier to spot when someone might be using cocaine.

    • Sudden intense euphoria

    • Agitation

    • Tremors

    • Increased irritability

    • Risk-taking behavior

    • Sometimes, increased aggression or anger

    • Panic

    • Vertigo

    • Abdominal pain

    • Dilated pupils

    • Sudden weight loss

    • Repetitive behaviors, especially new repetitive behaviors

signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction