Can Coca Candy or Coca Tea cause a Positive Drug Test?

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Coca candy or coca tea are popular South American dietary items made from the leaves of the coca plant. The plant is cultivated and native to many parts of South America, such as Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Argentina. Coca leaf is sacred to the Andean cultural belt in general and celebrated in the people's myths and legends. The plant is used as a special divination item in local shamanic rites and rituals. Coca plant is rich in essential minerals (calcium, potassium, phosphorus) and vitamins(B1, B2, C, and E). Traditionally, coca has been used by people in South America as an analgesic and anesthetic for treating patients with fractured bones, severe headaches, wounds, and sores. Coca is also used during childbirth and malaria treatment, asthma, nosebleed, and bowel disorder, among many others.

What is Coca candy and Coca tea?

Coca candy or coca tea is freely available in these countries and especially popular among tourists traveling to South America. Coca candy or tea is used as a mild stimulant and sought after in altitude sickness treatment. It is a common sight to see hotels and tour operators readily supplying coca tea bags. However, there is a catch! In many countries, including the United States, importing both coca candy and coca tea is illegal. This legal imposition is based on the fact that coca candy and coca tea consumption lead to the ingestion of many alkaloids, including the infamous controlled psychotropic substance cocaine.  Studies have shown that alkaloids such as cocaine,  benzoylecgonine, ecgonine methyl ester, and trans-cinnamoylcocaine are present in varying quantities in drinking a cup of coca tea.

Drug testing Coca candy and Coca tea

Workplace drug testing is performed to assess a new applicant or a working employee's ability and competence. A study by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 68.9% of the estimated 22.4 illicit drug users are employed full or part-time. No wonder then that drug testing in the workplace is growing more and more prevalent. Employers perform a drug test for a variety of reason which includes:

  • Pre-employment
  • Random test
  • Test on return to work
  • Schedule drug test
  • Drug testing on reasonable doubt
  • Post-accidental/ traumatic drug test
  • Follow-up drug testing

Urine tests in coca tea drinkers have shown the presence of cocaine metabolites. Drinking coca tea, thus, leads to the ingestion of cocaine and other cocaine-related alkaloids.  Correspondingly, coca tea drinkers may test positive in a urine test for cocaine.  

The Bottom Line

While sucking a coca candy or sipping coca tea can act as a mild stimulant and even bolster your health, it is important to consider that it can lead to a positive drug test. In the event of a drug test, it is prudent to avoid the consumption of coca-based products such as coca candy or coca tea in the weeks leading up to the test.  Not much is known regarding the pharmacological effects of consuming coca candy. However, several studies have confirmed the presence of cocaine metabolites in urine tests after consuming coca tea. Owing to this, the United States' drug policy does not accept the consumption of coca tea as a valid explanation for treating a cocaine test as negative. If you are someone who is planning or returning from a trip to the Andes and curious to try on either coca candy or coca tea produced from the wondrous coca leaves, it makes good sense to do quick research on the laws governing the use of coca leaves in your respective country first.



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