How Long Does Crack Stay In Your System?

While crack is absorbed by the body very quickly, very small levels of the drug can linger in body fluids or hair for days, sometimes even weeks.

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Reviewed by: Dr. Dili Gonzalez, M.D.

ARTICLE OVERVIEW:Crack can be detected for days to weeks after use. Learn more about crack drug detection tests, standard metabolism, and drug addiction potential here. We welcome your questions at the end.


How Do You Take Crack Cocaine?

Crack is a form of cocaine that has been crystallized into a potent and smokable hard “rock” using baking soda or ammonia. Unlike other forms of cocaine, which are snorted or injected, crack is usually smoked. Crack cocaine users break the rock into smaller pieces weighing a few tenths of a gram and then is generally heated to release cocaine vapor and smoked through a glass handpipe or water pipes, reaching this way to the lungs and bloodstream very fast.

Crack is absorbed just as rapidly as cocaine when inhaled or injected,as the body delivers it directly from the lungs to the bloodstream. [1]

Some people also smoke crack by sprinkling it on marijuana or tobacco, and smoke it like a cigarette. Also, there have been reports of the drug being injected intravenously or even snorted, but these methods are less common.People often take it in binges,taking the drug repeatedly within a short time, at increasingly higher doses to maintain their high.

Main Uses

Crack cocaine is illegal. Crack cocaine is a Schedule II substance under the Controlled Substances Act, which means that it has a high potential for abuse. [2]It is given this classification because it’s highly effective for euphoric effect. However, the high is short lived, causing people to take it over and over again.

In its unrefined form as coca leaf, cocaine is used as an herbal medicine in parts of Latin America. Some forms of cocaine are used as a topical, local anesthetic. [3]However, it is illegal to possess coca plants in the US.

Furthermore, the crack form of cocaine does not have any legitimate medical uses; it’s used purely for its stimulant effects. Using crack can give a person a feeling or euphoria, a high, but it also restlessness, excitement, and related issues like tremors and paranoia.

Peak Levels And Half Life Of Crack

Crack cocaine is the most potent form in which the drug has ever appeared. [4] Smoking it allows it to reach the brain more quickly than other routes of administration. In fact, crack has a rapid onset of action of about 7-10 seconds. The high lasts only a few minutes, around 5 to 10 minutes in total. [5]

Typical peak levels in abusers are around 0.31 mg/L within five minutes of taking the drug. The half-life of crack is very short, as low as 15 minutes.

Crack Drug Testing

There are various kinds of drug use tests applied to different kind of samples. Usually, experts request a urine sample as the least invasive type of test. However, biological samples can be taken from blood, hair, saliva, or sweat to detect the presence of crack cocaine in your system. Each test has a different levels of sensitivity and specificity. [7]

Blood Samples: This type of test is used less often, but may be called for in an emergency room medical case. Blood testing for crack is not normally done unless there’s a reason to suspect someone has taken crack within the past few hours.

Hair Samples: Crack can be detected in the hair for months, even years, after it’s been taken. Once in the bloodstream, the drug travels to every part of the body, including the hair. How long it is detectable for depends on the length of a person’s hair, the amount of crack they’ve taken, and how frequently they use crack.

Saliva: This method can detect very low, trace amounts of the drug. Because of this, you can test positive for crack for several weeks after smoking it even if it was your first time. The cut-off value for this test is 25 ng/ml.

Sweat: Crack cocaine can be detected in a person’s sweat via dermal patches. You wear the patches from 15 minutes up to 2 weeks depending on the brand. The gauze patch comes with a tamper-evident adhesive seal directly to the. The patch is usually applied to the upper arm or upper back. The use of a sweat patch is relatively non-invasive and difficult to tamper with.

Urine: This test is the most commonly used monitoring technique in substance abuse treatment programs. There are two categories of urine tests available screening and confirmatory tests:

• Screening tests detect only the presumptive presence or absence of a class of drugs in the urine specimen, return results rapidly, are relatively inexpensive, but doesn´t detects a specific drug´s metabolite.

• Confirmatory tests which provide more definitive information about the quantitative concentrations of specific drugs or their metabolites in urine specimens and are more accurate than drug screens.

Crack Detection Windows

Despite creating such a short high, crack can be detected in the body for a very long time, depending on:

  • How much crack a person has smoked at one time.
  • How often they smoke crack.
  • How tolerant they are to the drug.
  • Metabolism factors such as age, gender, body mass, or exercise.
  • The purity of the drug.
  • The testing method used.

While crack is absorbed by the body very quickly, very small levels of the drug can linger in body fluids or hair for days, sometimes even weeks. Here’s an outline for the detection window for crack by type of drug test.

Blood Test:The period crack can be detected in the blood is relatively brief.[6] This detection window for crack can be as little as 2 hours, if someone has taken a smaller dose or has a very fast metabolism. The detection range for crack in blood up to 12-24 hours In some cases, cocaine is no longer detectable around 8 hours after use.

Hair Test: Generally, cocaine can show up in hair samples depending on the length of the sample. There is an overall 90 day period during which crack cocaine could be detected in the hair. Hair samples are the most accurate way to judge past crack use, months after the suspected use of the drug.

Saliva Test: Crack cocaine can be detected in saliva for 6 to 8 hours after use. However, high dose usage can be detected in saliva for about twice that amount of time.

Sweat Test: In frequent users, crack can be detected up to 2-3 weeks in this type of drug screen.

Urine Tests: Crack cocaine can be detected in urine for 1-3 days after use.Crack cocaine metabolites screening cut off levels are 300ng/ml for urine. However, high doses of crack cocaine can show up a week later, and in a few very extreme cases, crack might be detected up to 3 weeks later urine.

What If I Test Positive?

Drug testing is super important in the U.S. A positive drug test can lead to job loss, jail time, or loss of child custody. Drug tests are also used to make sure that you are following medical recommendations. Most importantly, these tests help identify or eliminate substance abuse as a possible contributing factor or risk in a child abuse assessment or child welfare service case.

But what if you think that the test is in error? What can you do? What are your rights? Here are some of the things you can do if you test positive for cocaine.

1. Considering there is always room for lab mistakes, you may be able to oppose drug test results as mistaken or wrong. For example, you can request that the laboratory test your sample again.

2. Your employer or test supervisor might allow you to retake the test. Note that your employer can require an additional test with only one hour notice.

3. Further, you can participate in screening and assessment performed by your doctor or another medical professional.

4. If you’ve been drug tested at school, first administrators will tell your parents. Depending on your self-disclosure, counseling or rehab can be considered.

5. Finally, if you’re sure it’s a false positive, you can ask for a hair drug test to be done… but usually you have to cover the cost.

False Positive

Crack cocaine does not create false positives, because there are no prescription medications containing it. However, false positives associated with exposure of cocaine to the mucosa of the nose or ear, as well as the ingestion of coca tea have been documented.

Home Tests

Most home drug tests are urine based. They usually are looking for one or more prescription or illegal drugs are present in urine. These tests detect the presence of drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, opiates, methamphetamine, amphetamines, PCP, benzodiazepine, barbiturates, methadone, tricyclic antidepressants, ecstasy, and oxycodone.

This test is fairly sensitive to the presence of cocaine in the urine. This means that if drugs are present, you will usually get a preliminary, or presumptive, positive test result. If you get a preliminary positive result, you’ll need a lab to verify. At home drug tests are not the industry standard and should only be indicators of possible drug use.

Crack Addiction Liability

How fast can you get addicted to Crack cocaine?

A person can become addicted after his or her first time trying crack cocaine, [8] so if you are smoking crack for the first time and you like the high, be aware. Repeated use leads more quickly to addiction.

Although everyone is different, crack is a very addictive drug and its repeated use can cause long-term changes in the brain’s reward circuit and other brain systems. The reward circuit eventually adapts to the extra dopamine caused by the drug, becoming steadily less sensitive to it. As a result, people take stronger and more frequent doses to feel the same high they did initially and to obtain relief from withdrawal symptoms that include:

  • Depression.
  • Fatigue.
  • Increased appetite.
  • Slowed thinking.
  • Unpleasant dreams and insomnia.

Problems With Crack?

If you found yourself losing control and using despite negative consequences, you may need extra help. If you’ve been trying and failing to quit on your own…you don’t need to do it alone!

Therapy has shown to be effective!

And when treatment is accompanied by a strong family and social support network, you’ve got a formula for success. While there are no FDA-approved medications for treating crack addiction, medical detox can help you get through withdrawal.

Crack cocaine addiction can be treated

It is not easy, but isn’t impossible.

You can do it, you are not alone.

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


How to Ask for Help

It’s really just a phone call.

Call us and we’ll help. We know addiction. Why wait another moment?

Do you still have questions about using crack or how long it stays in the system? Please leave us your questions or comments here. We will take the time to try to answer all of your questions with a personal reply ASAP.

[1] NIDA: Drug Facts on Cocaine
[2] USDOJ: Schedules
[3] USDOJ: Drug Chem Info on Cocaine
[4] University of Maryland: Crack
[5] USDOJ:Drug Chem Info on Cocaine
[6] SAMHSA Tip 47: Substance Abuse: Clinical Issues in Intensive Outpatient Treatment
[7] Indian Journal of Opthamology: Understanding and using sensitivity, specificity and predictive values
[8] CESAR University of Maryland
The Clinical Biochemist Reviews: Drug Testing in Oral Fluid
Therapeutic Drug Monitoring: Pharmacokinetics of Cocaine and Metabolites in Human Oral Fluid and Correlation with Plasma Concentrations following Controlled Administration
ADDICTION BLOG: E-BOOKS: The definitive guide to drug testing
CESAR: Crack cocaine
DEA: Cocaine
NIDA: Cocaine
NHTSA: Drug and Human Performance Fact Sheets: Cocaine
NIDA InfoFacts: Cocaine
Drug Enforcement Administration: Cocaine
NIDA: Sweat Testing May Prove Useful In Drug-Use Surveillance
Wisconsin Crime Laboratory System: Toxicology
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. Dili Gonzalez, M.D. is a general surgeon practicing women's focused medici...

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

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