THC’s metabolites can stay around in the body for much longer than the duration of effects. In some cases, evidence of marijuana use can be detected for weeks, months, and even years, depending on the type of test being used. In this article, we’ll explore exactly how long marijuana or THC can stay in your system and how long THC can be detected by drug tests.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the active ingredient in marijuana that causes intoxicating and psychoactive effects. THC is federally illegal, and many jobs may require potential employees to take a mandatory drug test. So how long does THC stay in your system?
The euphoric effects of THC can fade rather quickly, as these effects usually last for just a few hours when inhaled. However, THC and its metabolites can stay in your system for weeks after consumption, and in some cases, even longer. This puts marijuana users constantly at risk of failing a drug test.
How Long Does THC Stay in Your System?
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the active compound found in both medical and recreational marijuana that causes short-term euphoric effects. Although the effects of THC last just a few hours, THC can stay in your system for much longer. Below, we explain exactly how long THC stays in your system, examining a few different specific aspects. If you are wondering, “How long does THC stay in your system?”, the answer often depends on what kind of THC test you are taking.
How Long Does Marijuana Stay in Blood?
Some THC and marijuana drug tests will test the user’s blood. THC is rapidly metabolized by your body and will only remain detectable in your blood for somewhere between a few hours and one to two days after a single-use. For those who are heavy marijuana users (multiple times a day), THC may stay in the bloodstream for up to a week. Blood tests for marijuana use are rare and are usually only conducted as a follow up to a potential false positive on a previous testing method.
How Long Does Marijuana Stay in Saliva?
Some THC and marijuana drug tests will test the individual’s saliva for traces of THC. If that is the case, THC will first appear in saliva about an hour after use. After first appearing, THC will remain detectable in your saliva until it is swallowed fully, which typically takes somewhere between one and two days after use.
Drinking water, brushing your teeth, eating fatty foods, and using mouthwash may help speed up the removal of THC from saliva. Saliva tests are being explored as a potential way to check for marijuana use in drivers, though some cannabis advocates feel they aren’t reliable enough to test for impairment.
How Long Does Marijuana Stay in Urine?
The most common type of THC and marijuana drug test is a urine test due to the ease of use and low cost. In the urine, byproducts of THC are detectable for a longer period of time, meaning they can reveal marijuana use for weeks after use. The exact amount of time marijuana and THC is detectable in urine largely depends on how often you use marijuana. Many individual factors can affect these ranges.
- If you have only used marijuana once, then THC byproducts remain in your urine for about five to eight days after one-time use.
- If you typically consume marijuana somewhere between two and four days a week, then THC can be found in your urine 11 to 18 days after your last consumption.
- If you consume marijuana five to six days a week, then you are at risk of failing a THC urine test for 33 to 48 days after your last consumption.
If you are a daily marijuana user, then THC can be found in a urine drug test anywhere from 50 to 65 days after your last consumption.
How Long Does Marijuana Stay in Hair?
THC metabolites stay in your hair for longer than any other system in the body. The standard for hair follicle drug tests is 1.5 inches of hair, which shows three months of potential marijuana use, but some hair follicle tests reveal marijuana use going back a few years. These tests have been shown to be reliably accurate in detecting marijuana use, even over longer periods of time.
How Does THC Affect Your System?
Understanding the effect THC has on your system begins with realizing the way the body absorbs and processes cannabinoids like THC.
When you consume marijuana, the active compounds in marijuana are absorbed into the bloodstream, causing THC levels in the bloodstream to temporarily rise. Your blood then carries THC to the brain, as well as to other organs throughout the body, where THC interacts with cannabinoid receptors to generate its effects on the body, including short-term euphoria.
THC stimulates neurons in the brain’s reward system, which causes the release of dopamine and the pleasurable feelings associated with marijuana. Euphoric feelings associated with THC include an altered physical sense and perception of time, changes in mood, feelings of creativity and relaxation, and impaired body movement.
How Long Does It Take For the Effects of THC to Be Felt?
When marijuana is smoked, vaped, or dabbed, these short-term effects manifest within seconds and become fully apparent within just a few minutes. Depending on your metabolism and the potency of the product consumed, these effects typically last for one to three hours.
When medical marijuana is ingested, like in the case of marijuana edibles, the onset of effects is delayed by digestion. Therefore, the effects of marijuana edibles may not be felt until somewhere between 30 minutes to two hours after consumption. The duration of effects when THC is ingested via edibles is prolonged because of continued slow absorption.
Why is THC Detectable So Long After Use?
THC itself is only detectable in the bloodstream for a short period. After a few hours, THC is rapidly broken down and modified into at least 80 different metabolic byproducts. While THC levels drop significantly after only a few days, the use of cannabis and THC consumption can be detectable in the system for some time afterward.
THC and its metabolic byproducts, called metabolites, are lipid-soluble. This means they accumulate in fat reserves throughout the body and then are slowly released over time. Eventually, the metabolites are eliminated from the body through feces and urine. As such, the duration that marijuana stays in your system depends on the individual, their calorie intake, and how much marijuana that person consumes.
What Factors That May Impact THC Metabolism?
Each of us has a unique metabolism that processes THC at a different rate. Even if you have two people that are the same gender and identical ages, their individual lifestyle choices, body makeup, and cannabis consumption habits can influence how long THC stays in their systems.
Some of the main factors that can impact the rate of THC metabolism include:
- Eating habits
- Levels of exercise activity
- Metabolic rate
- Body fat content
- THC potency of cannabis
- Frequency of cannabis consumption
Since there are so many variables that can impact how long THC stays in the system, it is nearly impossible to predict or know how long THC will remain detectable in a person with any kind of certainty.
THC and Drug Testing
Many people concerned about how long THC stays in their system are often curious because they’re going to be subjected to a drug test. Some people may have to take a drug test at random at their place of employment, by a potential new employer, or as part of their athletic competition requirements. Even in states where recreational or medical marijuana is legal, employers can and do restrict employees from using cannabis.
There are many different kinds of drug tests available, with each varying in how sensitive the test is in detecting THC levels and time periods in which cannabis can be detected. An employer or athletic organization may use urine, hair, blood, saliva, breath, sweat, and even fingernails to investigate whether a person has recently consumed marijuana.
Urine analysis is by far the most common type of drug test used. The test can be conducted either at your workplace using a test strip or a sample may be sent away to a third-party laboratory for analysis. A urine test for marijuana does not look for THC. Rather, it’s able to detect the non-psychoactive metabolite 11-nor-delta-9-carboxy-THC (THC-COOH).
Whether THC will be detected in a drug test is highly variable from person to person, and it depends on the frequency and amount of marijuana use. In general, THC-COOH can linger in urine for days or weeks. In heavy users, THC could stay in your system for a month or more.
Ways to Get THC Out of Your System
If you have a drug test that is coming up soon, you likely want to try to find a way to get THC out of your system as quickly as possible. However, speeding up the process of flushing out THC metabolites from your body’s systems can be difficult. There are a couple of techniques that may help flush THC out of some of your systems, though.
Some individuals have found that reducing calorie intake, exercising, and consuming high volumes of water may help flush THC from the body’s fat cells. Drinking water can also help reduce the concentration of THC metabolites in the urine.
With those methods in mind, the truth of the matter is the only method for ensuring that you’ll pass a drug test is abstaining from marijuana use. If you stop using marijuana in preparation for an upcoming THC drug test with enough time to spare, you may be able to flush the THC out of your system.
Learn More About Medical Marijuana
You can learn more about medical marijuana, including information on how to obtain it legally or grow cannabis on your own at home, by visiting our Cannabis 101 page. Keep up with the cannabis-related legislative and industry developments through our news page.