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What is Norcocaine?

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Cocaine is a powerful drug that can lead to dependency, overdose, and death. Because people feel an intense high immediately, it creates a desire to have more. In 2020, 5.2 million people aged 12 and older reported using cocaine in the past 12 months.

As with all substances, the body reacts to cocaine entering the bloodstream. Cocaine is known for its effects, such as making the user feel alert, awake, more talkative, and confident. They might experience a reduced appetite and need for sleep.

Additionally, when the body metabolizes cocaine, it creates a new substance called norcocaine. Norcocaine is a metabolite or substance made when the body breaks cocaine down.

Guardian Recovery will examine norcocaine, how cocaine affects your system, and how you can seek treatment for yourself or someone you love who has a cocaine use disorder.

If you or someone you love has a cocaine use disorder, Guardian Recovery is available to help. We are dedicated to providing the most comprehensive and individualized medically monitored detox program. To learn more about our programs, contact us today.

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Norcocaine in Drug Testing

Norcocaine can be found through hair testing as a marker of heavy cocaine use.

Not only can norcocaine be found through hair analysis but other metabolites of cocaine as well, such as benzoylecgonine and cocaethylene. Despite the inability to detect outside contamination, the presence of norcocaine in hair is strongly associated with elevated cocaine use. Research indicated the presence of norcocaine in the hair was related to daily or intensive cocaine use. In this study, 90 hair samples were analyzed. All samples were analyzed for cocaine, benzoylecgonine, norcocaine, and cocaethylene. Cocaine concentrations were categorized as light, moderate, and heavy. Norcocaine was present in 58.9% of samples and was strongly associated with only heavy cocaine use.

How Is Norcocaine Tested?

Norcocaine can be found through blood and urine analysis. However, hair testing appears to be one of the most accurate ways of finding norcocaine in the system with heavy cocaine use. There are some criticisms of hair analysis that outside contamination can impact the results of the accuracy of drug testing.

Does the Presence of Norcocaine Confirm Drug Use

Norcocaine presence through hair analysis confirms drug use and is highly suggestive of heavy or daily cocaine use. When analyzing samples of users who reported cocaine use, evidence of norcocaine was strongly associated with significant cocaine use.

Some experts believe testing hair for cocaine use should include testing for metabolites like norcocaine. There is debate about whether washing hair samples is sufficient for removing contamination. Some researchers believe the current methods are adequate, while others say the residual contamination may result in a false positive result. Metabolites of cocaine, like norcocaine, should be present in samples from drug users. Metabolites present in any samples should be declared positive for cocaine use; however, because metabolites of norcocaine are easily detected, it’s hard to determine whether it is accurate or a result of contamination.

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Different Metabolites Created From Cocaine Use

As mentioned, there are multiple metabolites created from cocaine use besides norcocaine. Norcocaine is more minimal of a metabolite versus benzoylecgonine. Anhydoecgonine Methyl Ester is made through inhaling crack cocaine, and cocaethylene is created when alcohol and cocaine are combined. Here are the following metabolites formed from cocaine use.

Anhydroecgonine Methyl Ester (AEME)

Anhydoecgonine Methyl Ester (AEME) is produced when heat is applied to cocaine created after a person smokes crack cocaine. Smoking crack cocaine involves the inhalation of cocaine and the product of AEME. Although there is evidence that cocaine is neurotoxic, AEME has never been evaluated. In addition to norcocaine and benzoylecgonine, AEME can also be detected in urine and hair.

Benzoylecgonine (BZE)

Benzoylecgonine is the main compound found in individuals who use cocaine. It is formed in the liver and found in higher concentrations in urine. This is the chemical most drug tests assess for when completing a drug test for cocaine.

You may be wondering how long does cocaine last in one’s system? It is broken down pretty quickly, so not very long. On average, the drug has a half-life of about six hours. Half of the amount taken in will be eliminated within six hours. However, as mentioned, drug tests are used to analyze how much benzoylecgonine is found in urine to determine cocaine use.  Because of the half-life, benzoylecgonine is detectable for up to four days after you use cocaine.


Cocaethylene is a substance that is created in the liver after a person has consumed alcohol and cocaine together. It is more potent than the individual substance and stays in the body much longer than if only alcohol or cocaine is used alone. Because of the increased toxicity and slow release from the body, people may be tempted to try this combination. However, there are significant lethal risks involved if mixing alcohol and cocaine.

How Does Testing For Norcocaine Differ From Other Metabolites?

As mentioned, there is disagreement regarding the type of test and the accuracy of analyzing cocaine metabolites in the system. Norcocaine seems to be best found through hair analysis. However, there is a discrepancy in whether contamination interferes with the analysis results. Anhydoecgonine methyl ester is only created through the use of inhaling crack cocaine, and that is most often tested through urine and hair samples, but again, inconsistent with results. Benzoylecgonine is the primary compound found in cocaine users and is most likely tested through urine. Cocaethylene can be tested through urine and plasma.

Depending on the type of analysis also determines how long metabolites may be found in the system. Urine samples are the most common form of testing used to detect traces of cocaine. But there are other methods, including hair, blood, and saliva samples. Hair samples can see traces of cocaine up to 90 days after last use, while blood samples work for up to 1 day and saliva between 1 and 2 days.

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At Guardian Recovery, we remain dedicated to providing our clients with a comprehensive program of cocaine detox — one that focuses on much more than physical stabilization. In addition to emphasizing physical recovery, we tackle mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. While we prioritize a safe and pain-free cocaine withdrawal, we offer individualgroup, and family therapy sessions, case management services, relapse prevention training, and aftercare planning.

Contact us today if you or your loved one is ready to begin an entirely new way of life and commit to long-term recovery. As soon as you call, we start developing a plan of action that begins with an initial pre-assessment. This assessment helps us determine which level of care is the most appropriate for each unique case. We identify potential coverage options if our medically monitored detox program is a good fit. We work closely with most major regional and national insurance providers. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation insurance benefit check.


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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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