What are the effects of cocaine on the brain, how long does cocaine work, and is cocaine detectible in body fluids (cocaine in blood, hair, or urine)? Here, we review the way cocaine affects the brain and body, its duration and determinants of intensity. Your questions about finding help for cocaine addiction are invited at the end.
Cocaine effects on the body and brain
Acting as a strong central nervous system stimulant, cocaine increases the levels of dopamine (a neurotransmitter in the brain), which helps regulates both pleasure and movement. When cocaine is present, it causes serious disruption of the neurons and their activities in the brain and central nervous system. Cocaine prevents dopamine from being brought back to the cell that released it, which allows dopamine build up in the nerve synapse (the space between nerve cells). In this way, dopamine released by cocaine acts as a destructive signal, manifesting malfunctions in internal brain communication with transmitters. This is the main reasons why users feel euphoric when high on cocaine.
However, repeated use of cocaine can cause many short and long-term effects on the body and brain, each requiring medical attention. Furthermore, one of the most common mistakes that cocaine users make, especially relatively new ones, is to try to achieve the highest level of euphoria with first dose. However, fatalities from cocaine overdose can occur, even within previous drug dosing and considering tolerance levels.
Cocaine duration of action
Cocaine duration of action depends first upon mode of administration. Cocaine effects are different when administered by smoking, snorting, or iv injection. In fact, these methods becomes even more dangerous for the short and long term effects on your health, due to the rapid absorption of cocaine into your system. The basic relationship is this: the faster the absorption, the faster the high from cocaine but the shorter the duration of effect. Here are some key points to consider:
- Despite the fact that main cocaine metabolites, such as ecgonine methyl ester, are centrally inactive, cocaine manages to be bound in plasma up to 90%.
- Injecting cocaine produces effect within 30 seconds, but after oral administration, general effects will last for 2 hours.
- Post-effects of cocaine may continue for days, especially with binge use.
- Bioavailability reaches up to 70% after smoking cocaine, meaning that the brain is affected almost instantly.
Additionally, the presence of cocaine in the bloodstream can not directly be associated with a certain level of impairment or specific effects without additional information. The level of individual tolerance to cocaine and minor artificial changes to cocaine during storage also act their role in the length and strength of effects.
How long do cocaine effects last?
Dosing of cocaine is differentiated from the significant overlap of between therapeutic, toxic, and lethal cocaine concentrations in patients and addicts. Furthermore, repeated doses, also called binge use, can make a big difference on cocaine effects in the system. For a comparison, here is a list of cocaine doses taken through different routes, reaching plasma concentration peak levels at different time windows.
- A single dose of 30mg taken through intravenous injection, reaches peak levels only after 5 minutes.
- After snorting a dose of 100mg cocaine, peak levels in plasma concentrations are reached 30 minutes later.
- When 50mg of cocaine base are smoked, peak plasma concentrations are produced within 45 minutes.
- After orally taking 140 mg/70 kg of cocaine, peak levels are reached after 1 hour.
Cocaine time in the body
Cocaine has a very short half-life of only 0.2 -0.8 hours. However, that does not mean that effects or evidence of cocaine are eliminated during this time. Benzoylecgonine, one of the main cocaine metabolites, can be present in urine for up to 4 days. This number is more than double for heavy chronic cocaine users, mainly following a binge use. Up to 2% of cocaine manages to leave the body unchanged through urine and about 70% of the initial amount of cocaine is recovered after 3 days.
Learn more about drug testing methods and drug detection times in our guide to drug testing knowledge.
How long does a cocaine high last?
The intensity and duration of high effects of cocaine depend on the way it is administered. In order to prolong their high pleasurable effects, user often practice binge use, where doses of cocaine are repeatedly taken within a relatively short period of time. While the user is still high from the last dose, he decides to go for another one. However, practicing this dangerous technique can often lead to addiction, a chronic relapsing disease. Addiction to cocaine is caused by drastic changes in the brain, of which the user is not aware, which results in strong cravings and constant compulsion for cocaine use, neglecting the negative consequences to health and environment.
Cocaine high effects
Cocaine high effects are almost nothing like any other drug, according to users. The high from cocaine usually consists of two phases. The early phase is mainly psychological and consists of euphoria, excitation, feelings of well-being, general arousal, increased sexual excitement, dizziness, self-absorbed, increased focus and alertness, mental clarity, increased talkativeness, motor restlessness, offsets fatigue, improved performance in some simple tasks, and loss of appetite.
Higher doses may exhibit a pattern of psychosis with confused and disoriented behavior, delusions, hallucinations, irritability, fear, paranoia, antisocial behavior, and aggressiveness. Physiological effects of cocaine use include increased heart rate and blood pressure, increased body temperature, dilated pupils, increased light sensitivity, constriction of peripheral blood vessels, rapid speech, dyskinesia, nausea, and vomiting.
The late phase of cocaine effects include psychological symptoms such as dysphoria, depression, agitation, nervousness, drug craving, general CNS depression, fatigue, or insomnia. Physiological symptoms of late phase cocaine use include itching/picking/scratching, normal heart rate, normal pupils.
Cocaine duration questions
After reading this article, do you still have some questions about cocaine? If you would like to know more about how long cocaine lasts, please post your question(s) and share your comment(s) in the next section. We will try to answer you personally and promptly.