How Long Does Cocaine Last?

Cocaine levels peak anywhere from 5-45 minutes after dosing (depending on mode of administration), but metabolites can last for days in your system. Personal tolerance, use, and exposure patterns also determine how long cocaine lasts. We examine more here.

minute read
Reviewed by: Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS

ARTICLE SUMMARY: How long cocaine lasts depends upon mode of administration. We review factors that influence duration of effects. Plus, we’ll look at how getting high changes the brain.


How Cocaine Works

Cocaine produces its psychoactive and addictive effects primarily by acting on the brain’s limbic system, a set of interconnected regions that regulate pleasure and motivation. An initial, short-term effect is triggered by a buildup of the neurochemical dopamine. This gives rise to euphoria and a desire to take the drug again.

What are the effects of cocaine on the brain, how long does cocaine work, and is cocaine detectible in body fluids? 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.

Brain Effects

Cocaine is a strong central nervous system stimulant. It unnaturally increases levels of dopamine, which helps regulates both pleasure and movement.


When cocaine is present, it causes disruption of the brain’s neurons and their activities. Cocaine prevents dopamine from being brought back to the cell that released it. This allows dopamine to 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 reason why you feel high on cocaine.

Cocaine acts on numerous regions in the brain, including:

  • The amygdala, a center for memory
  • The frontal cortex, a center for weighing options and restraint
  • The hippocampus, a center for memory
  • The nucleus accumbens (NAc), a pleasure center
  • The ventral tegmental area (VTA), another pleasure center

However, repeated use of cocaine can cause many short and long-term effects on the 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 possible. However, fatalities from cocaine overdose can occur, even within previous drug dosing levels.

Body Effects

Cocaine triggers the brain to makes change in the body. 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. Some of the short-term effects of cocaine may include:

  • Anger or irritability
  • Decreased appetite
  • Extreme sensitivity to touch, sound, and sight
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate

People who use cocaine often may also have more serious side effects and health problems, like:

  • Bowel decay if you swallow it
  • Convulsions and seizures
  • Headaches
  • Heart disease, heart attack, and stroke
  • HIV or hepatitis if you inject it
  • Loss of smell, nosebleeds, runny nose, and trouble swallowing
  • Lung damage
  • Mood problems
  • Sexual dysfunction

Cocaine users may also experience what’s called “co-morbidities”. These are other medical or health conditions that occur alongside use. The most commonly reported health problem is related to cardiac trouble. Increased heart rate, blood pressure, arrhythmia, and heart attacks can occur in people with otherwise healthy hearts who also use cocaine. But cocaine can also trigger problems in:

The Brain, such as strokes and seizures

The Gastrointestinal System, such as ulcers or perforation of the stomach or intestines

The Kidneys. Cocaine can cause sudden kidney failure due to rhabdomyolysis.  Cocaine also can damage the kidneys by increasing renal blood pressure.

Cocaine Duration Of Action

Cocaine duration of action depends upon mode of administration. Cocaine effects are different when administered by smoking, snorting, or IV injection. These methods of use are dangerous to 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:

  • Bioavailability reaches up to 70% after smoking cocaine, meaning that the brain is affected almost instantly.
  • Injecting cocaine produces effects within 30 seconds
  • After oral administration, general effects last for up to 2 hours.
  • Post-effects of cocaine may continue for days, especially with binge use.
  • 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%.



Additionally, the presence of cocaine in the bloodstream cannot directly be associated with a certain level of intoxication 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?

Cocaine effects last for different amounts of time, based on how to you take it. Here is a list of cocaine doses taken through different routes. You’ll notice that cocaine levels reach plasma concentration peak levels at different time windows.

  • After intravenous injection, a single dose of 30mg reaches peak levels only after 5 minutes.
  • After snorting 100mg cocaine, peak levels are reached about 30 minutes later.
  • After smoking 50mg of cocaine base, peak levels are produced within 45 minutes.
  • After orally taking 140 mg/70 kg of cocaine, peak levels are reached after 1 hour.

Repeated doses of cocaine, also called binge use, can make a big difference on cocaine effects in the system. More on this below.

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 evidence of cocaine is 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 for cocaine and drug detection times in our EBOOK : The Guide to Drug Testing.


Many people who are addicted to cocaine go through a phase called “withdrawal” when they try to quit using the drug or miss a dose. The length of time it will take cocaine to leave a person’s system depends on how frequent and heavily they used cocaine. Cocaine acute withdrawal symptoms commonly last for 1–10 weeks, and some symptoms like cravings, sleep problems, or mood disorder can last for months or years later.

Symptoms can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Chills
  • Cravings for the drug
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Increased hunger
  • Muscle aches
  • Nerve pain
  • Nightmares
  • Trouble concentrating

Although you may be tempted to go “cold turkey” or use home remedies when you quit coke, withdrawal can be dangerous without medical supervision. If you attempt to detox at home…you can relapse, overdose, or trigger severe medical complications such as cardiac concerns or seizures. Or, the depression that happens during withdrawal can end in suicide if you’re not supervised.

A physician or doctor can monitor withdrawal to be sure you’re safe. Medical detox can also help relieve some of the unpleasant symptoms. Call us to talk about safely getting of cocaine. Our compassionate hotline operators can describe the treatment process…and let you know what to expect.


A cocaine overdose is more difficult to treat than withdrawal. Physical signs include:

  • Chest pain
  • Confusion, seizures, or tremors
  • Increased body temperature
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased sweating
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Trouble breathing

Watch for these mental signs of overdose, too:

  • Anxiety
  • Delirium
  • Hallucinations
  • Panic
  • Paranoia

Call 9-1-1 if you think it’s a coke overdose.

An overdose often leads to a stroke or heart attack. Seek emergency medical help if you think you’re going through overdose. An ER doctor will test for those conditions and try to treat them first. S/He may also use medication to treat other complications you have.

How Long Does A Cocaine High Last?

The intensity and duration of high effects of cocaine depend on the way it is administered.

Injection = Up to 15 minutes

Oral administration = Up to 2 hours

Smoking = 15-30 minutes

Snorting = 15-45 minutes

In order to prolong their high pleasurable effects, users 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. Usually, you’re not aware of these changes. But you do experience strong cravings and constant compulsion for cocaine use. The brain changes are causing this! Then, you can start to neglect what’s going on around you. Most people tend to ignore the negative consequences to their own health…leading to desperate measures.

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.

The second phase of cocaine effects include psychological symptoms such as dysphoria, depression, agitation, nervousness, drug craving, general fatigue, or insomnia. Physiological symptoms of late phase cocaine use include itching/picking/scratching, normal heart rate, normal pupils.

Signs of a Cocaine Problem

Being around someone using coke can be scary. They are often volatile, aggressive, or even violent. So, if you suspect someone’s under the influence of cocaine, how can you be sure? Some of the signs someone’s using include:

  • Acting nervous
  • Animated or exaggerated mannerisms
  • Constant talking
  • Dilated pupils
  • Facial tics
  • Jerky, erratic movements
  • Rapid eye movement
  • Twitching

Any regular use of cocaine is a problem!

Cocaine is a highly addictive drug. It’s not a drug that will bring you anywhere good. You can end up financially desperate. Some people turn to activities that they never dreamt of in order to keep using. So, the following signs are red flags. Anyone who’s exhibiting the following signs needs immediate help.

  • Angry outbursts or mood swings
  • Borrowing money often, selling possessions, or stealing
  • Not caring about personal appearance or grooming
  • Obsessively picking at hair or skin
  • Strange sleeping patterns, staying up for days or even weeks at a time
  • Psychotic behavior, such as paranoia and hallucinations
  • Weight loss

Call us to learn about treatment.

You don’t need to live in a cycle of crash and burn.

Rehab can be your way out of hell.

Let’s verify your coverage for treatment at an American Addiction Centers location. Your information is always confidential.


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.

Reference Sources: Hazardous Substances Data Bank TOXNET: Cocaine
National Highway and Traffic Administration: Cocaine
National Institute on Drug Abuse: Cocaine
NCBI: The Neurobiology of Cocaine Addiction
Physio-Pedia: Intravenous Drug Abuse
NIDA: Easy Read: Effects of Cocaine on Brains and Bodies
AHA Journals: Cocaine and Stroke
MedPageToday: Cocaine Induced Stroke Often Deadly
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
Medical Reviewers
Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS serves as the Chief Medical Officer of the Texas Healt...

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a licensed medical professional.

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