Cocaine can be a difficult drug to quit because of severe withdrawal symptoms associated with it. But quitting is important to clear it out of your system. Cocaine is a fast acting potent central nervous system stimulant that produces an intense high as soon as it is ingested. However, the high is short lived and usually lasts from 15 minutes to an hour.
Cocaine has a short half life of 1 hour. It means that half of the cocaine consumed is removed from the system within an hour of last use. So on average, cocaine tends to stay in the system for 3.5 to 5.5 hours. However, an active metabolite from cocaine, ‘benzoylecgonine’ tends to stay in the system for much longer. On average, it takes 1-2 days to completely remove it from the body.
When cocaine enters the system, about 40% of it is broken down to its metabolite benzoylecgonine. Another 40% is broken down by liver enzymes into ‘ecgonine benzoylecgonine’. Benzoylecgonine has a much longer half life as compared to cocaine itself. It has a half life of 6 hours so it tends to stay in the system for much longer than cocaine. For the same reason, the metabolite benzoylecgonine is tested on a drug test rather than cocaine.
The time duration cocaine and its metabolite stay in the system for may vary greatly depending upon a number of factors. When it is taken orally in high doses, combined with alcohol, the elimination time will be extended compared to when it is taken in low doses, intravenously, without combining with any other substance.
Since on a drug test, it is usually benzoylecgonine that is tested so the frequent question asked by the users is ‘how long benzoylecgonine stays in the system’. When cocaine is taken in small doses, it is cleared out from the system within 2 days, however, when it is taken frequently in high amounts, it may take between 5 to 10 days to completely remove it.
When cocaine is consumed with alcohol, the elimination time is further increased. When these two substances are combined, a metabolite ‘cocaethylene’ is formed that may take 15 days to completely eliminate from the system.