How Long Do the Effects of Cocaine Last?

Cocaine is a stimulant drug that can produce euphoric feelings when taken; however, its effects are relatively brief.

Read on for more information about the effects of cocaine, the associated withdrawal timeline, and how to get help for a cocaine addiction.

How Long Do the Effects of Cocaine Last?

hands lighting up a pipe with crack cocaine in itThe way that cocaine is used impacts when the effects of the cocaine start:

  • Smoking: immediate
  • Intravenous (IV) injection: immediate
  • Snorting: about 3 to 5 minutes
  • Oral use: about 10 minutes

For the most part, after a person takes cocaine, its effects do not last very long. Like onset of action, the duration of action depends on the mode of cocaine use:

  • Smoking: about 15 to 20 minutes
  • Intravenous (IV) injection: about 15 to 20 minutes
  • Snorting: about 45 to 90 minutes
  • Oral use: about 90 minutes

Side Effects of Cocaine Use

Short-term effects of cocaine use may include:

  • Euphoria or extreme happiness.
  • Elevated energy levels.
  • Mental alertness.
  • Hypersensitivity to sight, sound, and touch.
  • Irritability.
  • Paranoia.

How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Your System?

The length of time cocaine stays in a person’s system varies. But generally, cocaine is detectable for a few days to weeks.

Several different factors influence the amount of time that cocaine remains in an individual’s system.

  • An individual’s metabolism has an important influence on the amount of time that cocaine or any drug remains in an individual’s system.
  • The amount of cocaine a person uses and how often they use it can impact how long the drug remains in their system. Cocaine and its metabolites may be detectable for longer periods of time in heavy users.
  • Since most individuals who use cocaine obtain it from illicit sources, there is no regulation of the purity of that cocaine. Thus, the actual dosage of cocaine that a person uses can vary greatly. As aforementioned, the amount of cocaine that a person uses can affect how long it is present in their body.

How to Test for Cocaine Use

doctor handing a contained for urine drug test to patientThe liver is responsible for metabolizing cocaine. It breaks down the drug into smaller compounds called metabolites.

A major metabolite for cocaine is called benzoylecgonine, which is often measured during urine analysis to determine if someone has used cocaine recently. Benzoylecgonine can be detected in urine for a longer period of time than cocaine itself.

Different Types of Drug Tests for Cocaine

There are several different methods to test if cocaine is present in a person’s system.

  • Sweat: Cocaine can be detected in perspiration for up to a few weeks after last use.
  • Urine: Cocaine metabolites can typically be detected in urine samples for 2–3 days after last use, but individuals who are heavy users may have detectable metabolites in their urine for up to 2 weeks.
  • Blood: Cocaine in blood samples is often detectable for 12 hours after last use. Benzoylecgonine can be detected in blood for about 48 hours after last cocaine use.
  • Hair: Hair samples may have detectable levels of cocaine for months and even years after last use.
  • Saliva: Cocaine or its metabolites can be detected in saliva for about 1–2 days after last use.

What to Expect During Cocaine Withdrawal

Regular use of cocaine can lead to tolerance and dependence:

  • Tolerance is when more of the drug is needed to produce the effects that were once produced at lower doses.
  • Dependence is when a person needs the drug to function normally.
  • If someone who is dependent on cocaine suddenly stops taking the drug or drastically reduces their use, they may experience withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms may occur after consistent use of cocaine. A heavy user of cocaine may experience worse or longer-lasting withdrawal symptoms.

When a person takes cocaine, dopamine levels are increased in the brain’s movement and reward circuits. A build up of dopamine in the synapses (the space between nerve cells) occurs due to cocaine preventing dopamine from being recycled back into the cells that release it. This excess dopamine contributes to the feelings of euphoria that cocaine produces.

The reward circuit becomes used to larger amounts of dopamine, so if the person stops using cocaine, they experience withdrawal, sometimes referred to as a “crash.”

It is common for individuals who use cocaine to do so in binges, where they use the drug multiple times in short periods to sustain their high. Once a person becomes dependent on cocaine, they are even more compelled to use the drug repeatedly because it helps them avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Depression and cocaine cravings can persist for months after heavy users stop using cocaine.

Signs of Cocaine Withdrawal

Cocaine withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Cravings.
  • Irritation/Anxiety.
  • Restlessness.
  • Paranoia.
  • Depression.
  • Tiredness.
  • Increased appetite.
  • Slowed activity.
  • Vivid nightmares.

Interestingly, withdrawal from cocaine often does not produce many observable physical symptoms. It is typically not as dangerous as the withdrawal process for drugs like alcohol or benzodiazepines.

Some researchers conceptualize cocaine withdrawal as occurring in 3 phases:

  • The crashThe first phase starts quickly after heavy cocaine use is stopped, typically beginning within hours or a few days. Symptoms during this phase include anxiety, irritability, fatigue, increased appetite, and unhappiness. There is reportedly decreased craving during this phase.
  • Withdrawal:  The second phase involves increased cravings. Other symptoms include lethargy, trouble concentrating, and irritability. This phase is purported to last as long as 10 weeks.
  • Extinction:  During the last phase, the individual may experience cravings when they encounter certain triggers. These triggers may include stressful situations, certain friends with whom they used the drug, or certain places where they used cocaine. This phase is asserted to last up to 28 weeks.

However, several later studies indicated that there are not distinct phases, but instead a gradual decrease in withdrawal symptoms.

Cocaine withdrawal can cause depression, which can persist for months in previously heavy users. Individuals experiencing depression are at risk of self-injury and suicide. The cravings and other unpleasant symptoms an individual experiences during withdrawal may prompt them to relapse, and this puts them at risk of overdosing.

Do I Need Medical Detox to Quit Cocaine?

Even though going through withdrawal from cocaine is typically not associated with severe physical symptoms, there are several reasons for an individual to choose a medical detox center as opposed to trying to quit the drug on their own. These reasons include:

  • Relapse after stopping cocaine use is common. According to a study of individuals addicted to cocaine, a quarter of participants relapsed in less than a week. Medical detox programs involve close supervision, which can prevent relapse. Furthermore, medications and other treatments may be available to help manage withdrawal symptoms, which may lower the risk of relapse.
  • Many individuals with substance use disorders also have co-occurring mental health disorders. Based on data from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), it is estimated that over 43 percent of American adults with a past-year substance use disorder also had a mental illness in the past year. Medical detox programs can potentially identify comorbid mental illnesses, monitor for safety, and provide some treatments. Subsequent addiction rehab programs can provide more thorough assessments and treatments for mental illnesses alongside substance use disorder treatment.
  • Medical detox programs involve monitoring the person’s health and safety, and medical providers are on hand to intervene if needed.

Laguna Treatment Hospital provides inpatient rehab in Orange County as well as medical detox and co-occurring disorder addiction treatment in a beautiful environment staffed with doctors, nurses, and licensed clinicians.

To learn more about how we can help you address your cocaine use and other issues you may be struggling with, call us at . Our admissions navigators can answer any questions about the rehab admissions process and how to pay for rehab or using insurance to pay for rehab.

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