Cocaine, also known as coke, is a stimulant drug that increases alertness, energy levels, heart rate and metabolism. Coke is used recreationally by millions of people worldwide, and its popularity is due in part because the drug creates a fast-acting high. In our home state of Colorado, SAMHSA estimated that 121,000 adults over 18 had used cocaine in the past year in 2017. However, cocaine is a highly addictive drug and its possession or distribution is illegal in most countries.
A standard drug test that uses a hair or urine sample can almost always detect cocaine use. Are you wondering how long coke stays in your system? Many factors affect the length of time cocaine is detected by drug tests, from the way cocaine is consumed to the drug’s half-life and the type of drug test.
How Is Cocaine Consumed?
Cocaine appears as a fluffy or grainy white powder, which can be inhaled (snorted) or absorbed through mucous membranes. It is also produced as a rock crystal (known as crack), which is used by melting the crystals and smoking the resulting vapors. All forms of cocaine can be melted and injected into a vein. The frequency of consumption has a role in determining how long coke stays in your system. Sporadic cocaine use can be detected for a few days following the drug’s use. Chronic cocaine use can be detected for longer.
What Is the Half-Life of Cocaine?
Half-life refers to the time it takes for one-half of an amount of cocaine to get eliminated by the body. What is the half-life of cocaine? On average, it is about six hours in the bloodstream or urine, and about one to one and a half months in hair. It takes the body four to five half-lives to effectively clear a substance. The different routes of administrating cocaine have the same effect on half-life as they do on how quickly the drug starts working. Smoking cocaine results in a shorter half-life, injecting cocaine results in a slightly longer one and snorting cocaine creates the longest half-life.
Detection Times for Cocaine
Cocaine detection time depends on metabolites because they provide the most reliable measure of recent cocaine use. Metabolites are breakdown products of the body’s natural chemical reactions when cocaine is taken. These metabolites are used in drug tests to show recent cocaine use, especially in urine, because they last longer than cocaine itself does. The most common metabolite has a half-life in urine of about 12 hours. Because of that metabolite, cocaine can be detected up to one week in a urine sample and up to six months in a hair sample.
Sporadic use of cocaine has a shorter detection time than chronic cocaine use because cocaine eventually builds up in fat tissues and is released into the bloodstream.
How Long Does Cocaine Remain in My Urine?
With an understanding of half-life and metabolites, it’s easier to answer another common question: “How long does cocaine remain in urine?” Cocaine itself doesn’t last long in the urine, but detectable metabolites last longer, and that’s what a urine test detects. Cocaine metabolites can remain detectable in urine for up to four days, and if the person has used cocaine frequently, the detection time for the cocaine metabolites can be up to one week.
How Long Does Cocaine Remain in My Hair?
Compared to urine, cocaine remains in hair much longer because cocaine dissolves better in fat and oils (which are the majority of a hair follicle) than it does in water. The half-life for cocaine in hair is about one month to 45 days, meaning that cocaine can be detected in a hair strand for up to six months.
Find Help for Cocaine Addiction
If you or a loved one live with cocaine addiction, consider seeking treatment. The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake can help you begin a treatment plan customized to your unique needs. Our plans address addiction and any co-occurring disorders. Take the first step toward a healthier future today.
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Garcia-Bournissen F., Moller M., Nesterenko M., Karaskov T., Koren G. “Pharmacokinetics of disappearance of coc[…]nuation of drug use.” Forensic Science International, 2009. Accessed March 22, 2019.
SAMHSA. “Colorado.” 2017. Accessed October 29, 2021.
The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.