How Long Does Cannabis Stay in the Body: Timeline, Deciding Factors
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Have you ever wondered how long weed stays in your system?
Factors like frequency of use, THC potency, a person’s metabolism, dosage, BMI, and hydration levels can affect the duration of marijuana in the body. The more you use, the longer the cannabis will stay in your body after your last use.
In general, THC and its metabolites can be detected in the body for up to 90 days after last use.
Let us dive deeper into the factors that influence these timeframes of detecting THC, why weed stays in your body for a long time, and if there is any detox remedy you can try to speed up the elimination process.
How does the body metabolise THC?
The effects of marijuana cigarettes typically last for a few hours, after which the immediate high begins to wear off. The duration of the high is much longer with edibles, lasting for 8-12 hours or more.
When you consume cannabis, your bloodstream absorbs the psychoactive compound delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and distributes it throughout the body. Within the body, THC undergoes various metabolic processes, primarily in the liver, leading to the formation of over 100 metabolites.
Drug tests primarily target significant metabolites: 11-OH-THC (11-hydroxy-delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and THC-COOH (11-nor-9-carboxy-delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). These metabolites have a longer duration of stay in the body compared to THC itself.
THC is fat-binding and has the ability to accumulate in fat cells. When THC is consumed, it enters the system and can be stored in fat cells throughout the body. This allows THC to release back into the bloodstream over time gradually. This storage in fat cells also explains why cannabis can remain detectable in the body for an extended period compared to other substances.
Half-life refers to the time it takes for the concentration of a substance in the body to decrease by half.
For THC, the half-life can vary depending on the person’s metabolism, frequency of use, and the dose consumed. On average, THC has a relatively short half-life in the bloodstream, estimated to be around 1 to 2 hours.
However, when it comes to its metabolites, the elimination half-life is much longer. THC-COOH has an initial half-life of about 1 to 2 days, but subsequent elimination can take much longer. It can take 3-4 days to weeks for THC-COOH to be completely eliminated from the body.
Here is a rule to remember: the more you consume, the longer it will take to get weed out of your body completely.
The presence of these THC metabolites in the body indicates past cannabis use rather than immediate use. You will not feel high when the metabolites are released into your body; It is just the natural process of removing them.
The metabolites are eventually eliminated from the body through urine and stool.
Marijuana drug test detection windows
Marijuana drug tests are commonly used to detect the presence of THC and its metabolites in the body. The duration of detection depends on the frequency of marijuana use, dosage, metabolism, and the type & sensitivity of the drug test used.
To begin with, we have three broad user categories for which there is a rough detection window for weed:
- Infrequent Users (Up to Three Times per Week): THC can be detected in drug tests for about 1-5 days after use for users who consume cannabis occasionally.
- Frequent Users (5-7 Times per Week): Frequent marijuana users have longer detection windows. THC and its metabolites can remain detectable in drug tests for up to 7-10 days or even longer after last use.
- Chronic Users (Daily or Near-Daily Use): Chronic marijuana users have the longest detection windows. THC and its metabolites can be detected in drug tests for up to 30 days or even longer, particularly in urine tests.
According to Testing.com, there are four main drug tests that can be used to detect THC in your body.
Urine tests are one of the most common methods used to detect marijuana use.
For occasional users, THC can typically be detected in urine for about 3-4 days after use. However, for chronic users (daily use), THC metabolites, such as THC-COOH, may remain detectable in urine for up to 30 days or even longer.
Urine tests do not show when exactly you consumed marijuana or whether you are intoxicated. It is an indication of past cannabis use. Since THC can dissolve in fat, it can stay in your body (and appear in urine tests) days after the last use.
Blood tests, while less common for marijuana detection, can indicate recent use more immediately.
THC is typically detectable in the bloodstream for 3-12 hours. In the case of heavy use, it can be detected even 30 days after the last use.
Saliva tests are generally administered to detect same-day cannabis use.
THC is detectable in saliva for a shorter duration compared to urine or blood. Typically, THC can be detected in saliva for up to 24-72 hours after use, depending on the frequency and quantity of marijuana consumed.
Hair follicle tests are less common due to high costs but provide a longer detection window compared to other tests. This test may be seen in jobs related to government or defence sectors, upper-level management, corporate firms, healthcare, or transportation & aviation sectors.
THC and its metabolites can be mixed into hair as it grows, and therefore, hair tests can detect marijuana use over an extended period. Generally, hair tests can detect marijuana use for up to 90 days or more, depending on the length of hair analysed.
Hair tests can also lead to false positives if the person was in contact with second-hand marijuana smoke or a cannabis user.
Factors influencing the stay of marijuana in the body
Various factors can influence the detection windows of marijuana drug tests and how long weed stays in your body generally.
Body fat levels/BMI
THC and its metabolites are fat-soluble, meaning they dissolve in fat. Higher body fat levels and higher body mass index (BMI) can lead to increased holding of THC and its metabolites in fat cells.
That’s why people with higher body fat levels may have longer detection times compared to those with lower body fat levels.
Metabolism plays a crucial role in the breakdown and elimination of substances in the body.
Those with faster metabolism tend to process and eliminate THC and its metabolites more rapidly, resulting in shorter timeframes where cannabis could be detected in the body. In contrast, people with slower metabolism may have weed in their bodies for a longer time.
Dosage & potency
The amount of THC consumed and its potency can impact the timeline in which cannabis can be detected. Higher THC concentrations/strong weed and larger doses of marijuana can result in increased levels of THC and metabolites in the body.
Frequency of use
The frequency of marijuana use is a significant factor.
Infrequent or occasional users generally have shorter detection periods compared to frequent or chronic users. Regular use can lead to THC and its metabolites accumulating in the body over time, thus leading to THC staying in the body for 7-8 weeks after the last use.
Hydration levels can influence the elimination of THC and its metabolites. Adequate hydration helps support kidney function and urine production, thus easing the removal of these substances from the body.
Well-hydrated people may experience a faster removal of cannabis from their bodies compared to those who are dehydrated.
Physical activity and exercise can impact the metabolism and elimination of substances from the body. Engaging in regular exercise may potentially help expedite the elimination of THC and its metabolites. However, exercising shortly before a drug test can temporarily increase THC levels in the bloodstream due to the release of stored THC from fat cells.
The duration of detectability in drug tests & how fast your body can eliminate cannabis is influenced by a combination of these factors.
Cannabis detox: Can it help remove weed faster from your system?
There is no magical solution to flush out cannabis from your system instantly.
The process of eliminating THC and its metabolites from the body takes time and is primarily dependent on your body’s natural metabolic processes.
There are a few detox strategies that some people employ to speed up the detoxification process. These strategies may include drinking lots of water, doing regular exercises, adopting a healthy diet, and ensuring adequate rest.
Additionally, some people believe that certain detox products or methods, such as detox drinks or herbal supplements, may help speed up the elimination process. That said, the scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of these methods is limited. These detox kits may not be reliable or work as advertised; they can even be harmful to you.
It’s always advisable to consult with a doctor before attempting any cannabis detox methods to ensure they are safe and suitable for you.
The duration that marijuana stays in the body and remains detectable in drug tests can vary based on multiple factors, including frequency of use, body fat levels, metabolism, the potency of the cannabis taken, and the type of test conducted.
While THC may only be detectable for a few hours to a day in blood and saliva, its metabolites can persist in urine for 3-5 days to 7-8 weeks and even longer in hair.
These are general estimates, and individual variations exist. Factors such as hydration, exercise, and overall health can also influence the detection windows. Understanding these factors can help individuals make informed decisions regarding drug tests and potential detection periods.