Crack is a rock-like form of cocaine that is usually smoked and sometimes injected. It is more potent than powder cocaine and causes an almost immediate high lasting from five to 15 minutes. The effects of powder cocaine, meanwhile, doesn’t usually kick in for 15 to 30 minutes, but the euphoric rush can last for up to two hours.
Although crack is faster-acting than powder cocaine and its high wears off more quickly, the drug stays in your body just as long as powder cocaine stays in your system.
Drug tests detect crack via the same methods used to detect powder cocaine. While blood, hair, saliva, sweat and urine can all be tested for signs of crack use, urine tests are the mostly commonly used.
Crack cocaine usually remains detectable in urine for two to four days. The drug can stay in the system even longer after chronic or heavy use, which is common among people with a crack addiction.
Because the body rapidly eliminates cocaine, most methods of testing for crack don’t specifically look for the drug.
In fact, cocaine itself is only detectable in the urine for a few hours. Drug tests usually look for a chemical byproduct of crack and cocaine called benzoylecgonine, which sticks around longer.
The chemical is created when the liver breaks down cocaine. It reaches the highest levels in urine four to eight hours after last use and normally remains present in urine for up to four days. Chronic crack users will test positive for five days, on average, or longer.
Benzoylecgonine can also be detected in blood, saliva and hair, but using these samples for drug testing is less common.
While a blood test may be useful to confirm a cocaine overdose or a cocaine-related accident, the drug remains in the blood for about one day. The short detection window of blood tests makes them a poor drug screening method for employers, courts and others.
Sweat tests for cocaine and crack cocaine use skin patches to test for the drug, but they are uncommon. Typically, the individual will wear the patch for a week at a time and will test positive if they use within that seven-day window. The patch can also determine if a person used cocaine one to two days before the patch was applied.
Hair testing can provide evidence of crack use for up to 90 days, but the tests are controversial and prone to false positives because they can become contaminated.
Crack Cocaine Detection Times by Method:
Actual detection times vary depending on how much crack a person used and how frequently he or she smoked the drug. Differences in metabolism can also affect how long the drug stays in a person’s system.
The speed at which a person’s body typically eliminates a drug depends on the drug’s half-life, which is the time it takes for the body to remove one-half of the drug’s dose. Cocaine and crack have a half-life of about six hours.
Benzoylecgonine, however, has a longer half-life of approximately 12 hours. That means that after 24 hours, 25 percent of the drug is still in the body, and trace amounts can remain detectable for days.
Generally speaking, 99 percent of a drug will be eliminated after seven half-lives, but half-lives are just estimates, not absolutes. The length of time crack, or any drug, remains present in a person’s body can vary considerably depending on the dose, the frequency of use and a number of person physical factors.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a person who uses cocaine or crack just one time might test positive for only a day after last use. But people who smoke or shoot large amounts of crack, or use it regularly, will probably test positive longer.
Following a binge, a person can test positive for crack use for up to 10 days. In extreme cases, benzoylecgonine has been detected in urine up to 22 days after last use. According to a 2004 study in the journal Therapeutic Drug Monitoring, chronic cocaine users who test positive weeks after last use sometimes use more than 10 grams of cocaine per day.
Other factors can also affect how long crack stays in your system. Older age and poor physical health, for instance, can make it harder for a person’s body to metabolize any drug, including cocaine. A person’s weight, individual metabolism, liver function and level of hydration can also affect drug test results.
While evidence of crack use can be detected in the body for days, if not months, the high from crack lasts just five to 15 minutes. Because the rush is intense and fades quickly, it leaves crack users craving more and more. As a result, a crack addiction can develop rapidly — more quickly, in fact, than a powder cocaine addiction. Some people feel addicted to crack after one try.
When people with a crack addiction suddenly stop using the drug, they develop cocaine withdrawal symptoms. Unfortunately, this just reinforces the vicious cycle of addiction. The only way to relieve the symptoms is to continue using crack.
A crack cocaine addiction can lead to numerous other health consequences, ranging from severe lung problems to heart attacks, stroke and death. If you’re worried about passing a drug test for crack use, you may have a crack addiction. Cocaine treatment and rehab can help you overcome cravings and quit the drug.
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