When does cocaine peak?

People levels of cocaine in the blood depend on mode of adminsitration, drug concentration, and amount. More here on peak levels of cocaine in the blood and its effects.

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After single average doses of cocaine, plasma concentration typically range between 0.2-0.4 mg/L. Repeated doses of cocaine may result in concentrations greater than 0.75 mg/L.

But is cocaine addictive and what are basic expectations you can have about cocaine peak levels? We’ve done the research to answer your questions here. Then, we invite your additional questions about cocaine metabolism at the bottom of the page.

The psychoactive ingredients of cocaine

Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant drug made from the leaves of the coca plant native to South America. It produces short-term euphoria, energy, and talkativeness in addition to potentially dangerous physical effects like raising heart rate and blood pressure.

There are two chemical forms of cocaine that are abused: the water-soluble hydrochloride salt and the water-insoluble cocaine base (or freebase). When abused, the hydrochloride salt, or powdered form of cocaine, can be injected or snorted. The base form of cocaine has been processed with ammonia or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and water, and then heated to remove the hydrochloride to produce a smokable substance. The term “crack,” which is the street name given to freebase cocaine, refers to the crackling sound heard when the mixture is smoked.

Cmax levels of cocaine

Test sessions conducted during periodic administration clinical studies of cocaine measured the following parameters in a lab setting:

  • drug effects
  • mood
  • pharmacokinetics
  • prolactin
  • sleep

The dosing regimen produced cocaine plasma concentrations Cmax of 680 ng/mL. Prototypic psychostimulant effects, including subjective ratings of euphoric effects (liking, high, good effects) and significant cardiopressor effects, were sustained during the active dosing periods, corresponding to the rise and fall of plasma cocaine.

Cocaine peak levels

There is a large overlap between therapeutic, toxic and lethal cocaine concentrations, making peak levels difficult to predict. Additionally, peak levelsvary by mode of administration, drug concentration, and the amount of cocaine you take at once. Further, adverse reactions have been reported after prolonged use even with no measurable parent drug in the blood.

Typical concentrations for people using cocaine to get high range from 0-1mg/L. However, concentrations up to 5mg/L and higher are survivable in tolerant individuals.

After single doses of cocaine, plasma concentration typically average 0.2-0.4 mg/L. Repeated doses of cocaine may result in concentrations greater than 0.75 mg/L.

Cocaine levels by mode of adminsiration

The powdered form of cocaine is either inhaled through the nose (snorted), where it is absorbed through the nasal tissue, or dissolved in water and injected into the bloodstream. Crack is a form of cocaine that has been processed to make a rock crystal (also called “freebase cocaine”) that can be smoked. The crystal is heated to produce vapors that are absorbed into the blood-stream through the lungs.

Snorting cocaine– Following intranasal administration of 106 mg, peak plasma concentrations of cocaine averaged 0.22 mg/L at 30 minutes, while benzoylecgonine concentrations averaged 0.61 mg/L at 3 hours.

Oral ingestion – Oral administration of 140 mg/70 kg cocaine resulted in peak plasma concentrations averaging 0.21 mg/L of cocaine at 1 hour. Single 32 mg intravenous doses of cocaine produced an average peak plasma concentration of 0.31 mg/L of cocaine within 5 minutes.

Smoking cocaine – Smoking 50 mg of cocaine base resulted in peak plasma cocaine concentrations averaging 0.23 mg/L at ~ 45 minutes and 0.15 mg/L of benzoylecgonine at 1.5 hours.

Dangers of long term cocaine use

With repeated exposure to cocaine, the brain starts to adapt, and the reward pathway becomes less sensitive to natural reinforces and to the drug itself. Tolerance to cocaine may develop, as well. This means that higher doses and/or more frequent use of cocaine are needed to register the same level of pleasure experienced during initial use. At the same time, users can also become more sensitive (sensitization) to cocaine’s anxiety-producing, convulsant, and other toxic effects.

How do I know if I’m addicted to cocaine?

Cocaine produces a sense of extreme joy by causing the brain to release higher than normal amounts of specific, naturally occurring biochemicals. You get addicted to cocaine when:

1. you lose control of your use
2. you crave or have a compulsion to use cocaine
3. you continue using cocaine despite negative consequences

However, cocaine’s effects on other parts of the body can be very serious or even deadly…even after single use. When cocaine use is stopped or when a binge ends, a crash follows almost immediately. This crash is accompanied by a strong craving for more cocaine. Additional symptoms include:

  • anxiety
  • fatigue
  • irritability
  • lack of pleasure
  • sleepiness
  • sometimes agitation or extreme suspicion or paranoia

If you find yourself in the position of needing more and more cocaine to feel normal…or if you think a loved one has a problem with cocaine, please let us know how we can help. Leave your questions or comments in the section below. We’ll try to respond to you personally and promptly.

Reference Sources: NHTSA: Cocaine
NIH: What are the long-term effects of cocaine use?
MedlinePlus: Cocaine withdrawal
NIH: What is cocaine?
NCBI: Repeated dosing with oral cocaine in humans: assessment of direct effects, withdrawal, and pharmacokinetics
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.
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