Cocaine Drug Testing

Cocaine can be detected in urine, saliva, hair and nail clipping samples. The drug tests available to determine cocaine use vary in their windows of detection so recent or chronic use can be established.

Cocaine drug testing with urine

Urine drug testing is the quickest way to establish whether someone is misusing cocaine and can provide an immediate result. The donor provides a sample of their urine in a fully-contained screening pot, which is then analyzed for particular substances. Urine drug testing is known as a ‘narrow-window’ form of testing as its period of detection is only a few days, although this can depend on the particular substance taken. Cocaine, and other drugs such as MDMA and methamphetamine, can be present in urine for roughly 3–5 days.

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Cocaine drug testing with oral fluid

Oral fluid drug testing is another ‘narrow-window’ form of testing and is therefore a quick test to determine recent cocaine use. It involves placing an absorbent collection device (similar to a large swab) inside an individual’s mouth for a few minutes to soak up sufficient saliva. The entire test takes 20–30 minutes. Its period of detection is approximately 30–60 minutes after ingestion – up to 48 hours – although, again, this can depend on the particular substance taken.

Cocaine drug testing with hair

Hair drug testing is used to provide a more comprehensive overview of a person’s cocaine use. After cocaine is absorbed into the bloodstream, metabolites are absorbed through the root of the hair and become embedded in the hair shaft. These metabolites remain in the hair as it grows, hence it is a suitable method for detecting a person’s historical cocaine intake. Hair drug testing is known as a ‘wide window’ form of testing as it can determine a history of drug intake for up to 12 months.

By segmenting head hair samples into monthly 1 cm sections, a month-by-month profile of cocaine use can be attained. Analysis of small segments can help establish a positive hair test in a narrow timeframe, but unlike oral fluid and urine tests, hair strand analysis cannot show recent drug history. It can take between 7–10 days for the hair containing the drug to grow above the scalp.

Read: How long does Cocaine in your system?

Cocaine drug testing with nails

Unlike hair drug testing, nail drug testing won’t give a historic segmented pattern of drug use, but it will give an overview of up to 12 months.

Cocaine can be detected in nails because when the drug is consumed, its metabolites circulate in the bloodstream. These substances pass from the blood vessels below the nail into the keratin fibres as the nail grows. They then become trapped and can thus be detected. Approximately 10 mg of either fingernails or toenails is required in total and they need to be collected as close to the nail bed as possible.

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