Cocaine Drug Testing Explained
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Cocaine is one of the world’s well known illicit drugs. It increases dopamine levels in the brain and creates a false sensation of happiness. People who use this drug commonly act as very social and have a tendency to talk a lot. They also tend to be agitated, nervous, anxious, dissociated and even psychotic.
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Cocaine Drug Test Working Principles
Cocaine drug tests work not by searching for the presence of cocaine, but for proof that the body has recently metabolized (proving the ingestion of) cocaine. While cocaine takes roughly 6-24 hours to leave the body, the product created when the body metabolizes cocaine, Benzoylecgonine, can be detected up to 5 days after the last consumption.
While it may sound counterintuitive at a first glance, when a cocaine drug test is conducted the substance that a person is tested for usually isn’t cocaine, but rather its metabolite Benzoylecgonine.
Metabolites are substances that our bodies create after metabolizing a certain toxic substance. The process of metabolizing cocaine usually takes between 6 and 24 hours depending on the height, weight and metabolism speed of an individual.
Another factor that plays an important role in cocaine drug testing is the consumption of alcohol during and after consumption of cocaine. Unlike most other drugs, cocaine reacts with alcohol in a way that creates a new substance called cocaethylene. This substance has a longer half-life than benzoylecgonine, meaning it will be detectable in one’s system for a longer period of time.
In most cases, it takes up to 7 days for cocaethylene to be completely cleaned out of a person’s body, provided they do not consume more cocaine or alcohol and remain properly hydrated during this period.
Different types of Cocaine Drug Tests
Another factor that plays a decisive role in determining the amount of time that cocaine will be detectable for is the type of drug test being carried out.
What kinds of drug tests are used to test for cocaine?
Drug tests used to test for cocaine:
- Urine— can detect use for 2-5 days after ingestion
- Saliva— shortest detection time (2 days); easy to adulterate
- Blood— can be detected up to 48 hours after use; impossible to adulterate
- Hair follicle— can detect use up to 90 days prior for regular users; less common because of high cost
Each of these has different pros and cons and deciding on one over the other usually, depends on the situation and context under which the test is being carried out.
- A urine test is the most common one and is usually performed as a routine test in a company. Its non-invasiveness and ease of administration have made it an industry standard when it comes to company-wide scheduled drug testing. It is quite accurate with most urine tests being able to detect levels of 300ng/l. A urine test will usually give positive results if the person being tested has ingested cocaine 2-5 days prior to the test giving a urine sample.
- A blood test is the most accurate one if administered during a detection period. It, however, requires and invasive method to collect a sample and the samples provided are generally small, which means that confirmation testing usually isn’t possible. Another benefit to this method is that it is virtually impossible to adulterate a sample for a blood test
- A saliva test has the shortest detection time, but is the easiest and least invasive one to administer. The sample is taken with a cotton swab from the area between gums and lower cheek and it takes around 10 minutes to produce a result. The saliva test is rising in popularity among the employers as it can be administered at random and on the spot. The downside is that it can be adulterated relatively easily and its detection time rarely exceeds 2 days when testing for cocaine use.
- A hair sample test has the longest detection time, usually up to 90 days, but it usually takes 5 to 7 days for traces of cocaine metabolites to start accumulating in the hair. Another downside to this method is that hair cocaine drug test requires specialized equipment to carry out so it cannot be completed on the spot.
Passing Cocaine Drug Test?
The one sure-fire way to pass a cocaine drug test is to stop consuming cocaine and wait out the period needed for the body to clean itself from it. This usually takes 3 to 5 days depending on a person’s metabolism and during this period it is important to stay properly hydrated.
The best way to pass a drug test for cocaine is to stop using immediately and let the body flush out the toxins naturally. This should happen within 3-5 days. DO NOT DRINK ALCOHOL under any circumstance; mixing cocaine with alcohol causes the body to produce a metabolite called cocaethylene, which takes even longer to get out of the system.
One should also abstain from drinking alcohol altogether as mixing alcohol with cocaine in the liver causes the creation of cocaethylene, a substance that takes up to 50% longer to metabolize than benzoylecgonine and will also be detected by a cocaine drug test.
It was also reported that eating fruit and drinking fruit juice as well as abstaining from cigarettes and caffeinated drinks for a period of time has helped in speeding up the cleansing process.
While cleaning the body from cocaine and its metabolites takes a relatively short amount of time and is a very important process after using this drug, it is equally as important to stop using cocaine altogether after it is done. It is important to note that cocaine is very neurotoxic and harmful to the liver, which usually causes big health problems after a period of consistent use. And being as hard to come by as it is, it usually gets diluted with different substances that are equally as toxic or even worse, further increasing heath risks to the user.
- Huestis M. A., Darwin W. D., Shimomura E., et al. Cocaine and metabolites urinary excretion after controlled smoked administration. Journal of Analytical Toxicology. 2007; 31(8): 462–468. doi:10.1093/jat/31.8.462. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3128807/.
- University of Rochester Medical Center Rochester. Cocaine Screen. 2019. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=167&contentid=cocaine_screen.
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