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Updated on November 10, 2022

Here's How Long Crack Stays in Your System

How is Cocaine Metabolized in the Body?

Crack cocaine is a highly addictive street drug made from powdered cocaine. The powder is mixed with water and baking soda and heated to create an inhalable rock-like substance. 

Crack produces a short, intense high followed by an extreme crash. It’s highly addictive. Crack puts users at risk of serious health problems, including heart attack, stroke, respiratory failure, and immediate death.

Crack cocaine stays in someone’s system longer than they feel the drug’s effect. Drug tests can detect evidence of the drug for several hours, months, or even years after use.

Several single-dose studies show that users eliminate most of the cocaine in their systems within a few days. The half-life is several hours. However, the benzoylecgonine metabolite can be detected up to 10 days after a binge.1 

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Cocaine Half-Life

The half-life of a drug is the time it takes for the concentration of the drug in the blood to be reduced by half. Cocaine’s effects are fast-moving, and its half-life is short, ranging from approximately 30 minutes to an hour and a half.2 

A drug’s half-life varies depending on several factors, including: 

  • Type of drug
  • Dosage 
  • User’s metabolism

One important factor that can affect the half-life of a drug is how it’s metabolized. Drugs that are metabolized more quickly tend to have shorter half-lives, while those that are metabolized more slowly tend to have longer half-lives. Crack’s short half-life is one of the reasons why users must smoke it so frequently.

Long-term substance abuse extends how long it takes for the body to metabolize it. This means drug test results vary from person to person based on their level of cocaine use.

How Long Can Crack Be Detected?

The length of time someone will test positive for crack varies based on the amount used, the frequency of use, and the type of drug test administered. For example:

  • Blood test: up to 2 days
  • Saliva test: up to 2 days
  • Hair test: months up to several years
  • Urine test: 3 days to 2 weeks, depending on the duration of use

Crack users cook cocaine into a liquid and smoke it. Crack induces a very short high ranging from only five to 10 minutes. It’s quickly absorbed into the lungs. This method of ingestion affects how long cocaine remains in someone’s system and how long a test can detect it. 

With its short half-life, only half the amount of the drug remains in the body for approximately 15 minutes. This varies from user to user, but overall, the drug’s effects and half-life are short.2

Factors that Impact Cocaine Detection

Several factors affect how long cocaine tests detect the drug in a person’s system. These include:

  • Metabolism
  • Weight
  • Dose
  • Frequency of use
  • Method of use
  • Drinking alcohol or ingesting other substances in conjunction with cocaine use

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Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Use

The long-term effects of cocaine use include:

  • Physical tolerance
  • Anxiety
  • Convulsions
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Paranoia
  • Panic attacks
  • Psychosis
  • Organ damage
  • Ulcers
  • Lack of impulse inhibition
  • Problems with attention and memory
  • Weight loss and malnourishment
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Increased risk of stroke
  • Increased risk of Parkinson’s disease
  • Increased risk of brain bleeding
  • Risks specifically related to smoking crack include lung damage and other respiratory problems
  • Risk of overdose

Treatment Options

There are many treatment options available for crack cocaine users. These include:

Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment Programs

Inpatient and outpatient programs that provide ongoing support and access to resources.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that helps people change their thinking and behavior to better cope with life's challenges. It’s an effective treatment for various mental health disorders, including drug addiction.

Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing therapy (MIT) is a form of counseling designed to help people struggling with drug addiction. This therapy assumes that motivation affects the ability to change.

MIT helps people identify and overcome the barriers preventing them from making positive life changes. This type of therapy is effective in helping people overcome addiction and making other positive changes in their lives.

Medication

There are currently no drugs that are FDA-approved for treating crack addiction. However, doctors occasionally use the drugs tiagabine and topiramate to control withdrawal symptoms.3, 4

Additionally, drugs used to reduce various withdrawal effects include:

  • Haloperidol: eliminates psychotic-type symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions
  • Desipramine: relieves feelings of depression
  • Clonidine: alleviates the physical symptoms of withdrawal, including muscle aches and pains, tremors, and insomnia

These therapies can help crack cocaine users change their behavior and thought patterns and overcome the addiction. Medication reduces withdrawal symptoms and reduces cravings for cocaine.

Many people participate in ongoing treatment programs after they’re clean, including 12-step programs. These are long-term options that reduce a person’s risk of relapse.

Summary

Crack cocaine’s half-life varies but ranges from 15 minutes to an hour.2 The drug stays in different parts of the body for different lengths of time. 

The following factors can affect the detection time of cocaine:

  • Duration of use
  • Dosage amount
  • Food and water intake 
  • Use of other substances
  • Liver function
  • Overall health

Cocaine addiction treatment helps users recover from crack addiction and its effects.

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Resources

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  1. Nickley, Joyce, et al. “A Sensitive Assay for Urinary Cocaine Metabolite Benzoylecgonine Shows More Positive Results and Longer Half-Lives than Those Using Traditional Cut-Offs.” Drug Testing and Analysis, 2017.
  2. ARUP Laboratories. “Drug Plasma Half-Life and Urine Detection Window.” aruplab.com, 2022.
  3. Nuijten, Mascha, et al. “Treatment of Crack-Cocaine Dependence with Topiramate: A Randomized Controlled Feasibility Trial in the Netherlands.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 2014.
  4. Sniscalchi, Antonio, et al. “The Role of Topiramate in the Management of Cocaine Addiction: A Possible Therapeutic Option.” Current Neuropharmacology, 2015.
  5. Huestis, Marilyn A., et al. “Cocaine and Metabolites Urinary Excretion after Controlled Smoked Administration.” Journal of Analytical Toxicology, 2007.
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What Are the Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Use?” nida.nih.gov, 2016.
  7. National Institute on Drug Abuse. “How Is Cocaine Addiction Treated?” nida.nih.gov, 2016.
  8. Vagins, Deborah, and Jesselyn McCurdy. “Cracks in the System: 20 Years of the Unjust Federal Crack Cocaine Law.” American Civil Liberties Union, 2019.
  9. National Drug Intelligence Center. “Crack Cocaine Fast Facts.” www.justice.gov, 2006.

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