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October 24, 2021 by THE BALANCE
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Cocaine or “coke” is a naturally occurring, highly addictive, stimulant drug that is extracted from the leaves of the coca plant. It is grown mainly in the Andean region of South America. It is used as a local anesthetic during medical procedures but has been used widely for drug abuse. It is available as a white crystalline powder and is often mixed with cornstarch or talc to increase the profit margin. It is a common street drug and may also be available in combination with amphetamines or opioids. Most of the cocaine-related deaths occur due to cocaine being tempered with synthetic opioids. 

Cocaine Addiction Symptoms and Side Effects

Cocaine can be rubbed on the gums, snorted, injected, or smoked. Freebase cocaine is known as “crack” and is processed to make rock crystal. This rock crystal is then heated and vaporized and inhaled directly into the lungs. It gets its name from the cracking sounds made by the rock as it is heated. Other street names include snow, flakes, twinkie, nose candy, white dragon, and rock. 

Cocaine produces an immediate high after its use followed by rapid crash. Within a few minutes of taking the drug, there is an intense feeling of euphoria, mental alertness, sexual arousal, and a feeling of being invincible. However, the user feels low within a short time resulting in panic, depression, and anxiety. 

Cocaine disappears rapidly from the body as it has a half-life of only sixty minutes. It means that half of the cocaine will be removed from the bloodstream after one hour. Cocaine is rapidly metabolized by the various enzymes in the liver and blood so most tests detect the metabolites or breakdown products of cocaine rather than the actual drug. Benzoylecgonine is one of the metabolites that is commonly detected by drug toxicology screening tests. 

Side Effects of Mixing Cocaine And Alcohol

Cocaine can be detected in the blood, urine, saliva, and hair. According to the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association (DATIA), it can be detected in the body from two to ten days. The following shows an estimated time during which cocaine can be detected by various tests. 

Tests which detect cocaine in the urine are very accurate due to an absence of cross-reactivity between cocaine and non-cocaine substances. Cocaine may be detected in the urine for up to three days after using it. However, for habitual users who consume a heavy dose, it may be detected up to two weeks after the last dose. It also depends on the kidney and liver function and the age of the patient. 

Cocaine may be tested positive in the saliva for up to two days. However, the exact number of days is influenced by various factors including the amount of drug consumed, body weight, metabolism, and how frequently the drug is used. Drinking alcohol may significantly decrease its removal from the body and it can be detected for longer periods.

The amount of time cocaine stays in the system depends on the route through which it is taken and how potent the preparation is. Cocaine may be snorted, mixed in a powder and injected, rubbed on the gums, or inhaled. Cocaine usually shows it’s effects of euphoria and mental alertness almost immediately, giving the users an immediate high. However, the effects are short-lived.

The high from smoking begins within seconds and lasts only for 5-10 minutes. While snorting cocaine, the drug has to be absorbed through the mucus membranes and the high from the drug occurs within 2-3 minutes instead of seconds and lasts up to 15-30 minutes. Injecting the drug into the veins produces intense but short-lived effects when compared to snorting. The “kick” or feeling of euphoria occurs immediately as the drug is directly absorbed into the bloodstream. Factors that influence the time cocaine stays in the body include the following: 

  1. Body fat 
  2. Individual’s own metabolism 
  3. Duration of cocaine usage 
  4. Strength of the drug 
  5. Liver and kidney functions 
  6. Alcohol and caffeine 
  7. Amount of water consumed 
  8. The route of administration 
  9. Age 

The amount of body fat directly influences the amount of time cocaine stays in the body. The higher the body fat, the higher is the time the drug is retained in the body. In the same way, every individual has their own metabolism which may affect the time of elimination. People who use it for an extended period of time tend to retain it longer. The more pure or potent the cocaine is, the longer it stays in the body. Cocaine mixed with flour or talc is retained for a shorter period. It is metabolized by the liver so any problems in the liver or kidneys can affect its metabolism and elimination respectively.

Alcohol and caffeine can both dehydrate the body so it is retained for a longer time while water chugging has been shown to quicken its elimination from the system. The route by which cocaine is used is also important. Intravenous injections and smoking cocaine produce rapid results within seconds with quick elimination while the oral or nasal route produces delayed effects with relatively slower removal from the body. Elderly people have a slower metabolism as compared to young users and will metabolize the drug more slowly. 

Blood tests can detect cocaine use for twelve hours but its active metabolite benzoylecgonine can be detected for up to 48 hours after last using the drug. 

Cocaine can be concentrated in the hair follicles, and its metabolites can be detected in the hair for up to three months or even longer. However, normally hair follicle testing is not done for cocaine use. 

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