Cocaine is a commonly abused recreational drug that isn’t well understood, especially outside the people who use it.
Unfortunately, cocaine is one of the most heavily stereotyped drugs, from who uses different kinds of cocaine to how it’s used, and it’s also one of the drugs that are easiest to signal and make fun of on TV and other media. It means many people have a false impression about what cocaine is, what it does, and how dangerous it can be.
To help people make informed decisions about their health and substance use, we want to talk about how long cocaine stays in the body actively, how long it’s detectable, and what kinds of long-term consequences come with cocaine use.
There’s much misinformation out there, which can hurt people and make active addiction harder to spot and even harder to intervene in.
Here’s what you need to know about how long cocaine stays in your system, what it does, and why it’s so addictive.
How Long Does A Cocaine High Last?
Cocaine is known to create a euphoric high and erratic behavior that can sometimes be dangerous to the user and the people around them.
What many people don’t realize is that cocaine actually has a very short ‘high’ and that this is typically a binge drug rather than something people take consistently.
That means someone who uses cocaine is likely to use large amounts relatively quickly rather than taking a few daily doses and staying high all the time, as you can see with other drugs.
Part of the reason that cocaine is a binge drug instead of a chronic use drug is that, for most people, a cocaine high only lasts between 15-30 minutes.
Sometimes cocaine highs last longer, depending on your metabolism, how much you use, and how you use it, but it’s not very common.
That means most people will take several doses in one night, taking more any time the drug starts to wear off.
One of the most dangerous parts of this kind of cocaine use is that people who use cocaine may also use other drugs, like alcohol, simultaneously. The combination can make dosing difficult and may make overdoses or long-lasting health consequences more dangerous.
People also may not be able to remember how long it’s been since they had their last dose or may not be able to judge quantities well, which can lead to an increased risk of overdose if someone continues a cocaine binge for a long time or has access to a large quantity of cocaine at once.
How Long Is Cocaine Detectible In Your System?
Cocaine doesn’t leave your system immediately because it no longer makes you high. But, like most drugs, some amount of cocaine persists, and byproducts of cocaine use last even longer.
That means cocaine is detectable in your system for several days after use, depending on what tests are run, your metabolism, how much you use, and other factors.
In general, cocaine can be detected in your saliva for up to 2 days and urine for up to 3-4 days after use. Hair follicle tests can detect cocaine use up to about 3 months after use, longer in some cases, and show any other drugs used in the same timeframe.
It’s important to remember that just because cocaine is no longer detectible, that doesn’t mean that your body isn’t still dealing with the aftereffects of the drug. Like almost all drugs, cocaine can have long-lasting and potentially permanent side effects.
Answering how long cocaine stays in your system doesn’t answer how long your body is potentially affected by cocaine and cocaine use.
What Are The Side Effects Of Cocaine Use?
We will focus on the primary side effects of cocaine use, which are most common and directly related to cocaine use (rather than secondary issues, like social conflict or relationship fallout). The primary side effects of cocaine can also be the most pressing and potentially dangerous.
There are a lot of potential side effects of cocaine use even in those categories, so we’ve broken up the side effects into short-term, the side effects that happen during and just after cocaine use, and long-term, the side effects that may linger days, weeks, or years after use and stopping use.
Short-Term Side Effects
Common short-term side effects of cocaine can include:
- Increased energy
- Decreased appetite
- Less need for sleep
- Being more talkative
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Flushed skin
- Stomach pain
Some of these side effects are more serious than others. If you have severe side effects, especially heart problems, seizures, or severe stomach pain, it’s important to seek medical care as soon as possible.
In addition to these side effects, it’s important to note that dehydration or combining cocaine with other drugs can cause more side effects than the ones we listed and that you may get more extreme versions of the side effects.
Long-Term Side Effects Of Cocaine Use
In addition to short-term side effects from cocaine use, there may also be long-term or long-lasting side effects.
Not everyone who uses cocaine will deal with these side effects, but the more you use, the more often you use, and the longer you use cocaine, the more likely these long-term side effects become.
One of the biggest things you need to know is that using cocaine can cause significant and sometimes permanent changes in your brain.
Over time, cocaine users may experience both sensitization and tolerance, where they need more of the drug to get the same euphoric high, but at the same time, are more sensitive to it and more likely to get a headache, nausea, tremors, and other negative side effects at smaller doses.
Snorting cocaine can also have long-term effects not entirely because of the chemistry of the drug but rather from the method of use. In the same way, heroin users have an increased risk of hepatitis and HIV, not because of the drug but because of the needles. Cocaine users are often at higher risk for respiratory and nasal issues, including nosebleeds, loss of smell, and increased risk of sinus infections.
Lastly, cocaine users are at higher long-term risk of mental health disorders, partly because of how using cocaine can change, and sometimes lower, your long-term production of serotonin and other important neurotransmitters. Cocaine use can change your sensitivity to these chemicals and make your body less able to or less likely to produce them, which can cause long-term low mood, anxiety, and depression.
Unfortunately, the mental health effects of cocaine use can make it harder to avoid using since cocaine produces large amounts of those neurotransmitters and offers short-term relief from its long-term consequences.
Signs Of Cocaine Addiction
There are a lot of potential signs of addiction when it comes to cocaine. One of the things you need to know about cocaine is that, unlike some other drugs, cocaine use disorder isn’t necessarily about having a physical need for the drug. Cocaine can certainly make users crave its effects, but it rarely, if ever, causes a physiological need for the drug.
Instead, cocaine addiction is more about losing control over your use, using more often, and how much your cocaine use interferes with the rest of your life.
It’s just like how some people can develop addictions to specific behaviors like gambling, there might not be a physiological need, but there is still a very real craving and loss of control that defines addiction.
That’s one reason substance use disorders are considered mental health disorders more than physical ones. The physical side effects and consequences of most addictions are secondary to the addiction, which is behavioral and psychological.
The most common signs of addiction to cocaine are using more than you used to, using more often, using at work/school or other inappropriate settings, and feeling depressed or anxious between uses. You may also feel preoccupied with cocaine, getting more cocaine, and planning your next binge.
Some people with cocaine addiction report not even liking how the drug makes them feel, especially as the side effects worsen. However, they use cocaine because it provides a mental relief that they feel they need or that they don’t feel like themselves if they go too long without using cocaine.
How To Get Help Overcoming Cocaine Addiction
If you or someone you love is dealing with a cocaine addiction, the good news is that there is help out there for you. The bad news is that overcoming addiction is an ongoing process, and you probably won’t get better immediately.
Fortunately, treatment centers like Absolute Awakenings are here to provide mental and physical support while you’re learning to overcome addiction. People addicted to cocaine rarely have a withdrawal period because of how the drug is used and how quickly cocaine leaves your system. However, having a safe low-stress environment to recover from addiction is still huge for making a faster, better recovery.
Absolute Awakenings is here to help you understand addiction, why it happened to you, and how you can rebuild your life so that you don’t need to use it to feel happy and fulfilled. If you’re ready to start your recovery journey, contact us to learn more about the program and how Absolute Awakenings can help.
- Santos-Longhurst A. How Long Does a Cocaine High Last? What to Expect. Healthline. Published July 14, 2022. Accessed January 10, 2023. https://www.healthline.com/health/how-long-does-cocaine-high-last
- Santos-Longhurst A. How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Your System? What to Expect. Healthline. Published December 6, 2021. Accessed January 10, 2023. https://www.healthline.com/health/how-long-does-cocaine-stay-in-your-system
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. What are the short-term effects of cocaine use? National Institute on Drug Abuse. Published May 2016. Accessed January 11, 2023. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-are-short-term-effects-cocaine-use
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. What are the long-term effects of cocaine use? National Institute on Drug Abuse. Published May 2016. Accessed January 11, 2023. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-are-long-term-effects-cocaine-use
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