The effects of marijuana – also known as weed, dope, or cannabis – can be felt almost immediately and generally don’t last more than a few hours. However, traces of marijuana can be found in your system for up to ninety days. The exact length of time that marijuana can be detected in your body depends on how regularly you consume the drug and the quantity you consume.
The process of removing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) from your system is called detox, which is often the first step in addiction treatment. Although marijuana is used medically and recreationally, it is America’s most commonly abused drug.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), around one in ten people who regularly consume marijuana develop an addiction. However, this is much higher for those who begin using marijuana before turning 18.
Smoking marijuana from a young age can lead to mental health disorders and drug abuse. If you know anyone struggling with an addiction, urge them to seek professional medical advice or help them to find mental health resources in your area. Likewise, if you find yourself living with an addiction, reach out to a rehab center, such as our own, for treatment.
How Long Does Marijuana Last?
THC is the main chemical present in marijuana and is responsible for the high you feel when using the drug. Other components of marijuana don’t stay in the body for very long, which is why hemp and other marijuana-based products prevent you from failing a drug test.
According to a 2004 review published in Therapeutic Drug Monitoring, THC levels are highest just three to eight minutes after inhaling marijuana. After this time, they rapidly decrease.
THC metabolites, the chemical that most drug tests test for, have a half-life of twenty hours. This is the time it takes for half of the drug to metabolize and leave the bloodstream. Other THC metabolites stored in body fat have a half-life of ten days to two weeks. As a result, marijuana can stay in your system for between one and ninety days, depending on how you consume it, your health, lifestyle, and the test done.
Even though marijuana consumption is now legal in many parts of the US, some drug tests still test for the drug. If you need to pass a drug test for work, it is essential to know how much time you need to detox completely.
How long THC can be seen in a drug test depends on the type of test you do. The most common tests for THC are urine tests, hair tests, saliva tests, and blood tests.
Urine tests are common testing methods when it comes to marijuana use. Upon being asked to complete a urine test, your urine sample will be sent for testing. Most urine tests can detect multiple drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines, in the same sample.
The length of time that urine tests can detect THC in your urine sample depends on how you consume marijuana. In infrequent users of marijuana, TCH will show in the urine test for one to three days on average. THC will show five to seven days after the last consumption for moderate users, while this becomes ten to fifteen days for daily users. Meanwhile, heavy, long-term users can fail a urine test a month after consuming marijuana.
It may seem tempting to flush your body with water to pass a urine test quickly or even use synthetic urine. However, most drug testing is thorough, and you will be called back for further testing if there is any question about the result or if your urine seems diluted.
Saliva tests are low-cost, and the results are immediate. A swab will be taken from your mouth to take oral fluid and show if you have used drugs in the past three to forty-eight hours – this window is closer to forty-eight hours for chronic cannabis users.
A blood test can accurately detect whether you have taken marijuana, but the window for detection is low. Blood tests accurately detect THC levels in the bloodstream for one to two days after consumption. However, they are not commonly used to detect marijuana use.
As with the other tests, THC may be detectable in the blood of chronic users for longer, and they may test positive forty-eight hours after consumption.
Hair Follicle Drug Tests
In a hair test, hair follicles are removed from the body and tested in a lab. Peer-reviewed studies such as the Drug and Alcohol Review study in 2017 show hair tests are a good indicator of heavy (daily) marijuana use within the last three months. However, although hair tests have the largest detection window provided by any drug test, they cannot reliably show how much a person uses.
False Positive Tests
Many workplaces require regular drug testing, which often involves screening bodily fluids or hair samples with an immunoassay test called EMIT or RIA. If the result of this test is positive, the sample is tested with a gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer (GCMS). This can detect marijuana very accurately, making false positives very rare.
Anti-inflammatory prescription drugs such as ibuprofen and Advil have caused false positive results in the past. However, a current drug test will not have this problem.
What Factors Affect Detection Time?
Many factors can affect how long marijuana stays in your system. These include:
- Frequency of marijuana use – How often you use marijuana, how much you use, and how long you have been using all affect how long marijuana stays in your body. Someone who smokes marijuana regularly will test positive for a more extended period than occasional users.
- Sex – Women generally have higher body fat levels than males, so they metabolize THC at a marginally slower rate.
- Metabolism – People with faster metabolisms will expel cannabis from their bodies quicker. Those with slow metabolisms take a longer time to eliminate THC.
- Body Mass Index (BMI) – Generally, the more fat cells you have, the longer marijuana will stay in your system. This is because cannabis metabolites are often stored in fatty tissues. BMI can generally measure a person’s body fat, although this is not always completely accurate.
- Exercise – Those who have a healthier lifestyle and exercise regularly will find that THC leaves their body faster. However, doing a lot of exercise before a drug screening is not a good idea as it can increase the concentration of THC and cause positive tests. This is because exercise can cause fat molecules to break down, releasing any THC stored in fat back into your system.
- The method of consumption – The method of marijuana consumption also impacts the time it remains detectable. If you smoke marijuana, THC levels in the body drop faster. In contrast, ingesting marijuana orally by eating edibles takes longer to break down in the body and leave your system.
Often, random drug testing is conducted, meaning that there is no time for you to expel the cannabis from your system quickly. Furthermore, chronic users will almost always fail a drug test. If you find yourself worrying about a drug test or want to uncover how long marijuana stays in your system, the only solution is to stop cannabis use altogether.
If you occasionally use marijuana, this may not be difficult. However, if you rely on the drug or smoke it frequently, stopping using it may be more challenging and lead to withdrawal symptoms.
Fortunately, many rehabs, such as our own, are on hand to help you. If withdrawal symptoms become too much to cope with and you find that you can’t deal with them without relapsing, contact us today to learn how we can support you.