In: Drug Testing25 Feb 2013
How long cocaine stays in your system is a very difficult proposition to calculate. The reason for this uncertainty is due to several different factors, most of which have to do with the person ingesting it. A person’s body weight, a person’s body mass index, a person’s metabolic rate, the amount of the cocaine substance used, the frequency of cocaine use, and the potency of the cocaine ingested are just some of the variables to consider when figuringhow long does cocaine stays in your system.
However, the major problem to consider when calculating how long cocaine stays in your system is which part of your system are we talking about. Apparently there is new data to suggest that cocaine by-products more commonly known as metabolites “Benzoylecgonine” can linger in certain parts of your body for periods of time far greater than the 2 to 3 day timeframe that most people believe to be accurate.
The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 divided substances to be regulated into 5 schedules or groupings. These schedules govern the legal distribution and use of most substances with a significant abuse potential. Schedule 1 substances have a high abuse potential and have no approved medical use. Most of the popular street drugs like marijuana and heroin are grouped into Schedule 1. Cocaine is grouped in Schedule 2, which means that drugs in this grouping have some known medicinal value. This is significant because once a drug has an established medical usage it is studied much more thoroughly. Because Marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug and determined to have no known medical use, there is a definite lack of scientific data on many of its properties, and therefore it is incredibly difficult to determine how long it stays in your system. Cocaine however has been examined by scientists and has had numerous studies published on its medical value in some of this country’s most esteemed journals of medicine.
Drug testing can detect the presence of cocaine in your system for a few days, but most drug tests don’t actually test for the drugs by themselves, they test for the metabolites that our bodies produce after the ingestion of drugs. Cocaine is similar to all substances that enter the body in the regard that they all must be digested, broken down, separated, and then delivered to the appropriate place within the body for processing and finally, removal. Once it enters your system, your body begins to break it down through the metabolism process. Metabolism is the series of processes that occur in our bodies by which food and other substances are converted into the energy and products needed to sustain life. Metabolites are the by-products left over after substances go through the metabolic process. So even though cocaine might fully exit the body after 2 to 3 days, its metabolite “Benzoylecgonine” can still be detected for weeks in many cases depending on some of the previously mentioned variables. There is also a recent study that found that the presence of Benzoylecgonine can be retained in the human body for a period of 25 years. However, the cost of a drug test that would actually be able to detect Benzoylecgonine for such a long period of time after ingestion would be far too cost prohibitive to be utilized by drug testing companies today or in the near future.
The metabolite “Benzoylecgonine” produced after the ingestion of cocaine differs from that of marijuana in the regard that Benzoylecgonine is water soluble and therefore passed out of the body more quickly. Benzoylecgonine is primarily metabolized by the liver and then excreted through our kidneys and then out of our system in our feces and urine. The remaining metabolites that do not easily pass through our body’s excretion process ultimately end up stored in our body’s fat cells. A person’s body mass index or more commonly, their body fat percentage, is a major factor to consider when figuring out how long cocaine and its metabolites stay in our system. The more fat a person has in them directly correlates into how many metabolites reside in our body, and hence, how long the evidence of cocaine use will continue to show up in our urine.So to be clear, people that carry a higher percentage of body fat will continue to excrete evidence of cocaine usage for longer than someone who is relatively skinny with a low percentage of body fat.
The frequency of cocaine use and the potency of the particular cocaine used are the next major factors to consider when calculating how long does cocaine stays in your system. A person who uses cocaine on a daily basis is going to have more metabolites stored in whatever percentage of body fat that they have, as opposed to someone that uses cocaine less frequently than every day. Since the body is always removing these metabolites through the metabolism process, someone that is constantly reinforcing the amount of cocaine metabolites stored and removed from their fat fells is going to show signs of cocaine usage for longer than the casual user. The potency of the cocaine is also an important factor to consider when determining how long cocaine stays in our body. The cocaine currently found in the United States has a purity level of around 60%, which is significantly lower than the 72% back in 2000. Since cocaine comes in so many different strengths, and since these strengths or potency levels are not printed on a label, it is relatively impossible to know exactly what degree of purity of cocaine a person is ingesting when using cocaine. If a casual user were to ingest an incredibly potent strain of cocaine, it would have the same effect in a person’s fat, as if a daily user were to ingest a less potent strain of cocaine. This is one of the reasons that nobody can accurately predict how long cocaine actually stays in the body.
Now that we have covered the major factors that contribute to how long cocaine stays in your system, we can now extrapolate with a clearer degree of certainty how long the body will continue to show evidence of cocaine usage. It has been suggested that evidence of cocaine usage can be detected by drug testing for up to 3 days in most instances. This time frame is not accurate in many cases. Some people can show evidence of cocaine usage for periods of time far greater than 3 days, in some cases up to 30 days. The graph below shows how long most users can expect to see evidence of cocaine use in their body. The graph presumes an average cocaine purity level of around 60% ingested by the user.
How long cocaine and its metabolites “Benzoylecgonine” can be detected in a person’s hair is an easier proposition to calculate. Human hair is like a record of what we eat, drink, inhale, and even where we live. As mentioned previously, cocaine and its metabolite Benzoylecgonine are all eventually excreted through our urine and feces. The presence of metabolites in the hair is based on the same premise. The bloodstream circulates metabolites throughout the body, and since our bloodstream nourishes developing hair follicles, metabolites are deposited in the hair follicle where they become trapped in the hair shaft as it grows out from the follicle. Hair on average grows a ½ inch every 30 days. So if your hair is 1 ½ inches long, cocaine and its metabolites will be detected for up to 90 days. However, if you have long hair, cocaine usage can be detected for quite a bit longer. You may have stopped using cocaine a long time ago, but evidence of your usage will still be detectable until you cut your hair and start over again.
Please consider that there is no definitive time table on how long evidence of cocaine usage stays in the body. As previously mentioned, many factors contribute to how long we store and expel cocaine metabolites in and from the body. We understand how important it is for people to know exactly when they are clean and free from evidence of cocaine usage due to the intrusive nature of corporations and the criminal justice system. We hope that this article has shed a little light on this important subject.