How Long Does THC Stay In Your System?

  • Several factors determine how long THC remains in the system after using cannabis.
  • Because THC is fat-soluble it can be stored in fat cells throughout the body for an indefinite period before being metabolized. 
  • It can take several weeks for THC metabolite levels to fall below detectable levels. More frequent use and higher dosages can result in THC remaining in the body for longer periods.
  • So-called “detox kits” meant to disguise THC metabolites are unregulated and provide mixed results. 

Humans have turned to medical marijuana over the eons for medical and spiritual purposes as well as for recreational use. However, it wasn’t until about 50 years ago that technology advanced to the point where we began to unravel the mysteries of cannabis. We’re still working to fully understand how cannabis affects our bodies and the mechanisms behind its medicinal benefits. 

One thing that has become quite clear is that cannabis affects everyone differently. Because of this, we can’t predict with certainty how it will affect any individual and how long the effects on the body will last. However, we can determine the average length of time that signs of marijuana use can be detected using common drug tests.

Cannabinoids love fat cells

Upon their discovery, the main medicinal compounds found in cannabis were fittingly named cannabinoids. The most abundant cannabinoid in marijuana is known as delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol or THC for short. This is the constituent of cannabis which, in high enough dosages, causes feelings of euphoria.  

Vaporized or smoked THC enters our bloodstream directly through the lungs. As it passes through our bodies, some THC is absorbed into fat cells throughout the body. 

THC can also be added to foods and consumed orally. Because it’s an oily compound, THC doesn’t mix with water. To be added to food, it needs to be diffused into an oil base such as vegetable oil or butter. 

When consumed orally, a large percentage of THC in edibles ends up being absorbed into the fatty tissues in our digestive system.

When fat is burned, THC is released back into the bloodstream. Eventually, THC is metabolized by the liver and passed out of the body. The question is, how long does it take?

The length of time that THC continues to show up in a drug test depends on several factors

To detect the presence of THC in the body, most drug screening methods look for a metabolite known as 11-nor-9-carboxy-THC, or THC-COOH. 

The length of time after we consume marijuana that THC-COOH metabolites continue to show up in a drug test depends on several factors. 

  • Dosage — The more THC consumed, the longer it takes the body to completely metabolize and be flushed out of the body. 
  • Frequency — The frequency of use significantly influences the amount of time cannabis will stay in your system. Studies have demonstrated that THC stays in the system of frequent cannabis consumers much longer than it does for periodic users.
  • Body fat — The amount of fat present in the body is also an influential factor in the longevity of cannabinoids. 
  • Metabolism — Cannabis users with heightened metabolic functions break down cannabinoids faster. 

The bottom line is that THC can remain in our systems for months. However, a few weeks after discontinuing use, detectable levels will usually begin to taper off. 

Variability of urine tests:

  • THC from smoking a single joint can be detected for a few days.
  • Smoking cannabis a few times a week can result in a detection window up to one week later.
  • Daily marijuana use can be detected for about a month after stopping.

Variability of different types of THC drug tests 

  • Blood tests can only detect THC for 3–4 hours.
  • Saliva tests can detect THC for 24 hours up to a few days.
  • Urine tests can detect cannabis in the urine for approximately 3–30 days after use.
  • Hair tests can detect THC consumption for up to 90 days.

Do marijuana detox drinks and kits work?

Marijuana “detox” kits claim to eliminate or hide THC metabolites in order to pass a drug test. Several different types of detox products such as drinks and pills are available. None of these products actually clear your body of THC metabolites but rather are intended to fool the drug test. 

There are several downsides to these products. First of all, very little research has been done on them. Their potential risks have not been assessed. 

Second, users report mixed results. While some users report having passed drug tests after using the product, it’s not clear that it was the product that caused the result. 

And third, these products are not regulated. Anyone can claim their product are safe and effective without evidence. 

The only way for a frequent cannabis user to be guaranteed to pass a drug test is to abstain from use for several weeks.

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