Last updated: February 24, 2020
After using cocaine, the metabolites stay in your system anywhere from 12 hours up to four days. The length of time varies for several reasons. The liver metabolizes cocaine breaking it down for excretion from the body. After this process, it changes to a drug metabolite named benzoylecgonine. It escapes the body in the urine. However, it also travels in the bloodstream dispersing in various areas of the body.
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There are four drug tests that employers use to test employees. Namely, the urine, blood, hair follicle, or saliva test. You can detect cocaine for varying lengths of time depending on the type of drug test used.
Urine drug test
The most widely used employee drug test is the urine test. It’s been so since the 1980s when President Regan instituted the “War on Drugs.” It allowed employers to implement employee drug testing. Civil rights activists went crazy! However, many employers realized the benefit of drug testing. Employers regulated by the Department of Transportation (DOT) used a urine test and employers of the general workforce followed suit. The tests are accurate and the most economical choice.
Cocaine, one of the most commonly abused illicit drugs, is in the workplace. It can be detected on the urine test from two to five hours after use. The length of time it remains in the system is from two to four days for occasional users. Chronic users risk a positive drug test for up to two weeks after discontinuing use.
Blood drug test
The blood test is expensive. Employers don’t generally use this testing method. However, in extreme circumstance, as in a post-accident situation, for instance, they are very beneficial. The blood test detects recent drug use.
Cocaine remains in the blood for up to twelve hours after use.
Hair follicle drug test
The hair follicle test detects any type of drug for a solid ninety days. It creates a permanent “record” in the hair because the drug metabolites stored in the hair grow out and become a part of the hair itself.
The hair follicle drug test picks up on cocaine five to seven days after its used for the first time. It takes that long for the drug metabolite to begin to grow out into the hair. Every use from that point forward is accounted for, however, one and a half inches is all that is used for the test yielding the 90-day result.
The DOT requested changing its testing method to the hair follicle instead of urine. It is expected to pass each level of the chain-of-command process. This fact may influence employers of the general workforce to make the switch too.
Saliva drug test
The saliva test while having the shortest window of detection is beneficial to employers and law enforcement alike for impairment testing. These types of tests would include post-accident testing, random, or reasonable suspicion testing.
Cocaine is detected by the saliva drug test just five to ten minutes after use. The detection window is open for 24 hours.
The length of time drug tests detect cocaine’s presence in the body varies due to the method used. However, why does the drug remain in some people longer than others?
Our DNA is unique so it makes sense that one person’s body would process and eliminate cocaine differently than the next.
The length of time cocaine stays in the body’s system directly relates to the dose amount. Unfortunately, the body develops a tolerance to cocaine quickly. It requires the user to increase the dosage to obtain the desired effect. This leads to addiction more often than not.
Frequency of use
Some people use cocaine as a recreational drug. If it is only used occasionally, it stands to reason it would exit the body sooner than someone who is a more frequent user. Still, the difference is only a couple of days between the two. Someone addicted to the drug, then, naturally holds the drug in their system for the longest period of time.
Manufactured and marketed on the street, there is no way to determine the strength of each batch. This fact impacts the length of time the drug remains in a person’s system.
Even more concerning is that other drugs, such as fentanyl or methamphetamine, are often “cut” into cocaine to both increase the users high and to increase the dealer’s profit. However, users often have no idea of the added drugs which makes them even more susceptible to an overdose.
Method of use
This pertains more to the length of time that it takes for the drug to enter the bloodstream. The user begins to experience the effects of the drug then. Just the same, it stands to reason, that the sooner it cycles through the body, the sooner it’s excreted.
- Snorting cocaine releases it to the bloodstream in 15 minutes.
- Injecting the drug warrants a 5-10 minute reaction.
- Smoking cocaine is nearly instantaneous. The time frame is less than 60 seconds.
- The person that ingests cocaine by mouth takes the longest to experience the peak of their experience. It takes 50-90 minutes for it to enter the bloodstream.
Peak of impairment
We mentioned that cocaine users start feeling the effects of the drug as soon as it hits the bloodstream. They experience a euphoria because it stimulates the brain to release a flood of dopamine. Along with feelings of euphoria, users feel extremely focused. Users in the workplace, for example, may feel their job performance excels.
The effects are short-lived, however, only lasting about 30 minutes or so. This tempts the person to use again. Each use increases the likelihood of addiction.
Cocaine users are in it for the rush. They don’t consider the long-term effects that the drug has on the brain. Because of the tolerance factor, the brain also develops a dependence on the drug. Dependence greatly increases the risk of addiction.
That is not all, though. Long-term effects also include an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Binge use of the drug can induce severe paranoia, mood disorders, and hallucinations.
Some users of CBD oils who tested positive for marijuana proclaimed they had no idea there was THC in the product. With no testing methods in place, manufacturers have no way to determine an acceptable level or if there even is one. These employees learned the hard way that the extraction process collects THC along with the CBD.
Cocaine manufacturers don’t have any regulations in place either, but users know what’s up from the start.
Cocaine is an illicit drug.
If you suspect that an employee is using cocaine, follow your reasonable suspicion policy and do so immediately.
Illicit drug use in the workplace is a safety concern for every employee. Determining if someone is using drugs is an employer’s right whether they suspect cocaine use or some other drug entirely. The employee’s drug of choice isn’t the issue here.
Keeping everyone safe is the top priority.