Cocaine And Metabolism
Cocaine (benzoylmethylecgonine) is a highly addictive stimulant abused by several different routes of administration, which include intravenous, oral, intranasal and inhalation (smoking). Cocaine is a white powder that goes by names such as coke, blow, snow and powder.
When cocaine is used, it binds to the plasma cells in the blood and is distributed to the brain, liver, heart and other organs. The liver metabolizes cocaine into a metabolite known as benzoylecgonine, which is detectable in the urine from three days to several weeks after use.
No matter how a person uses cocaine, the drug is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, metabolized and then expelled through the urine. Typically, the amount of cocaine and frequency of use will determine the length of time that the drug stays in a person’s system. Between one and five percent of cocaine remains unchanged when excreted in the urine.
The half-life of cocaine is six hours, which means that it will be present in the urine after one full day. A case study by the National Library of Medicine found that, in most cases, cocaine will be undetectable in the urine after 24 hours.
How Long Do The Effects Of Cocaine Last?
No matter how a person uses cocaine, it has the same basic metabolic rate, but the effects of the drug may vary. The effects of cocaine are often severe no matter which route of administration a person chooses.
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The effects of cocaine vary based on the route of administration:
- Oral—Ingesting cocaine sends the drug to the stomach and it’s absorbed into the tissues. The euphoria from orally-ingested cocaine peaks after about 30 minutes.
- Nasal—Snorting cocaine causes the drug to enter the bloodstream through the nasal tissues. The euphoria from snorting cocaine lasts anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.
- Intravenous—Injecting cocaine pushes the drug directly into the bloodstream, which carries the chemical to the brain, and the effects can be felt within 30 seconds. The euphoria from injecting cocaine usually peaks after about five minutes.
- Inhalation—Freebasing/smoking cocaine sends the drug to the lungs where it’s absorbed into the bloodstream and travels to the brain. The euphoria from inhaling cocaine can last anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours.
Cocaine causes a rush of dopamine into the brain’s reward pathway, which is what makes a person feel high. Anything that makes a person feel good causes dopamine to be released from the neurons in the brain. When the pleasurable activity is over, the dopamine returns back into the neurons.
Repeated cocaine use causes the brain to stop producing dopamine naturally and blocks the neurons from reabsorbing it. Even though the effects of cocaine are generally short-lived, many people who misuse the drug find themselves quickly wanting an increased amount of the drug to avoid a crash or to continue the high. The binge-and-crash method associated with cocaine use can quickly turn into an addiction and other health problems.
Health Effects Of Cocaine Use
Cocaine alters the structure of the brain and how it functions. The short-term effects of cocaine are generally associated with the psychological effect the drug has on a person. The long-term effects of cocaine may refer to the physical health risks caused by using the drug. In either case, the effects of cocaine can be extreme and are sometimes irreversible.
Short-Term Effects Of Cocaine
- dilated pupils
- intense euphoria
- increased alertness, attention and energy
- increased body temperature
- loss of appetite
- faster breathing
- insomnia (difficulty sleeping)
- contracted blood vessels
- increased heart rate and blood pressure
- intense drug craving
- overdose and death
Long-Term Effects Of Cocaine
- permanent heart and brain damage
- damage to liver, lungs and kidneys
- permanent nasal tissue damage from snorting
- respiratory failure from inhalation
- abscesses from injecting
- tooth decay from ingesting orally
- weight loss from malnutrition
- reproductive damage and infertility
- co-occurring mental disorder (anxiety, depression, personality)
Cocaine is so potent and its effects on the brain so severe, that a person can become obsessed with the high after just one use. Cocaine doesn’t simply change the brain, though, but can affect the heart, kidneys, stomach and other organs as well. It doesn’t matter how often a person uses cocaine; the health effects can include addiction, HIV, hepatitis, overdose and death.
From 1999 to 2015, there were 86,498 cocaine overdose deaths in the United States. Yet it can be hard to see the negative effects of cocaine when a person is struggling with a cocaine use disorder. It may take a sort of “spiritual awakening” or intervention to help a person realize what cocaine is doing to their body and mind.
Understanding Cocaine Use Disorder
A cocaine use disorder (stimulant use disorder) occurs when an individual’s use of the drug causes significant physical, mental and spiritual health problems. A person suffering from a cocaine use disorder uses the drug despite the problems it may be causing in their career, academics, home or social life.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, there were an estimated 913,000 people suffering from a cocaine use disorder in 2014.
Cocaine use disorder often results from a person’s inability to cope with their environment. Cocaine abuse and addiction are both considered forms of cocaine use disorder.
Cocaine addiction is characterized by the obsession with the high produced by the drug and the compulsion to seek out and use it. A person struggling with cocaine abuse may not be mentally addicted to the drug, though it still causes problems in their life.
How Long Does Cocaine Withdrawal Last?
When a person suffering from a cocaine addiction quits the drug, they may experience cravings and an urge to use cocaine, even years after their last use. Cocaine withdrawal often results from the lack of dopamine in a person’s brain. The withdrawal symptoms of cocaine may last anywhere from seven to 10 days, or longer, depending on the amount and duration of their cocaine abuse.
Cocaine withdrawal symptoms may include:
- severe depression
- intense cravings
- increased appetite
- difficulty concentrating
- inability to feel pleasure (anhedonia)
- suicidal thoughts
A medically-assisted detoxification (medical detox) is the safest and fastest way to overcome cocaine withdrawal symptoms and push the drug out of the system. A medical detox gives an individual 24 hours of compassionate care in a drug-free environment.
Cocaine Use Disorder Treatment
Cocaine use disorder is complex and it affects each person differently. There is no single treatment approach for a drug problem and many people struggle with a co-occurring mental disorder as well as past trauma, environmental and genetic factors. An individualized treatment approach at Addiction Campuses focuses on cocaine addiction as it applies to each patient and their needs.
A cocaine use disorder treatment program can help an individual learn to improve feelings and behaviors and teaches them to deal with life on life’s terms. The compassionate professionals at any one of our campuses make it their goal to help people overcome their tribulations with cocaine and other drugs. Freedom from addiction starts with the first step.
Reach out to Addiction Campuses to learn about a treatment that’s tailored to your needs.