How long does marijuana stay in your system? Most veteran cannabis consumers know medical marijuana can stay in our bodies for an incredibly long time. Further, because the effects of cannabis are individual, the rate at which your body eliminates traces of THC is also dependent upon a variety of factors, like your smoking habits. Find out how long you might want to wait before scheduling a drug test.
The Ins and Outs of Cannabis Testing
Although cannabis can stay in your system anywhere from a few days to several weeks, clinical data collected over the course of 30 years has provided medical marijuana patients and recreational marijuana consumers with the ability to make a few educated guesses.
Before we go into how long weed stays in your system, it’s important to remember that the results of your drug test will be dependent on how long you’ve used marijuana and what kind of drug test you take.
What are the types of marijuana tests?
Currently, there are four standard methods for testing for cannabis:
- Blood test
- Urine test
- Saliva test
- Hair test
Drug tests typically measure the presence of THC metabolites present in your body in nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml). Blood test, urine screenings, and saliva tests typically have a detection threshold of 20 ng/ml to 50 ng/ml. Hair tests, on the other hand, can detect as little as one ng/ml.
How your smoking habits affect the timeframe
If you’re a heavy cannabis consumer, it’ll take a long time for your body to eliminate all traces of cannabinoids AND cannabinoid metabolites. People who only smoke an occasional joint or otherwise rarely partake in cannabis consumption don’t have a lot to worry about after a few days.
Heavy tokers, however, are going to have to wait a lot longer. And, regardless of whether you are a new user or regular cannabis consumer, it’s unwise to smoke or consume cannabis 24 hours before a scheduled drug test.
Here’s a general timeline for cannabis drug detection and how long marijuana could stay in your system:
- One-time use: up to 8 days
- Occasional use: up to 15 days
- Regular use: up to 30 days
- Heavy use: up to 45-77 days
While most estimates start between three to eight days for marijuana to leave your body, the clinical research conducted has produced variable results.
What is the most common form of drug test?
Although there are multiple ways to test for marijuana, the most common is a urine test. Urine testing is not only the cheapest method, but it also has a longer detection period than other testing methods. This makes it ideal for employers and other entities.
Keep in mind that urine and other tests aren’t testing for THC itself, but rather for a THC metabolite named THC-COOH that is present in our systems only after our bodies have processed THC. Although the majority of THC is excreted through fecal matter in the first few days after consumption, THC is also stored in our fat cells and will accumulate in our bodies over a period.
Why blood tests for cannabis may be a better option
While urine has a longer detection period for cannabis, when it comes to cannabis in your bloodstream, it just doesn’t stick around for nearly as long. As a general rule of thumb for blood tests, cannabis stays in your blood for 24 hours to two days for occasional consumers. For regular consumers, that window of time extends from two days to seven or even ten days.
Will THC be present in your blood test?
For those who consume cannabis regularly, you the amount of time you should stop consuming marijuana at least one week before your blood test.
Other factors influencing the outcome of your blood test:
- Your metabolism
- How cannabis you consumed and how often
- The detection limits of your test (20 ng/ml to 50 ng/ml)
- Your BMI
- Substance being tested for (THC or a metabolite)
- Consumption method (edibles take longer to leave your systems)
What you should know about saliva testing
Oral fluid testing for cannabis can detect use within a 12 to 24-hour window. Saliva or oral fluid-based drug tests are gaining prevalence due to their convenience and resilience to contamination.
Onsite saliva tests offer employers, government agencies, medical professionals, and insurance companies an easy to use and effective method for drug testing.
Saliva testing detection begins right away and can last for days, depending on the amount and kind of substance consumed.
Substance detection times for saliva tests
- Alcohol: 6-12 hours
- Marijuana and cannabis concentrates: 12-24 hours
- Cocaine: 24 hours
- Opiates: 2-3 days
- Methamphetamine and ecstasy: 5-13 days
- Benzodiazepines: 2-3 days
- Amphetamines: 3 days
Hair tests for cannabis have earned a reputation among cannabis consumers as being difficult to ‘beat,’ That’s because when you consume cannabis, THC metabolites in your blood pass through the blood vessels in your head where they are deposited into the hair.
While hair tests more expensive and less common than urine, blood, or even saliva test, the detection window for hair testing is far longer than any other kind of drug test.
Can you pass a drug test with a hair sample?
For better or worse your cannabis, once deposited into your scalp, THC metabolites remain in your hair as a kind of ‘biological permanent record’ of your cannabis use. Depending on your cannabis use, even stopping consumption for weeks or months may not be enough to cleanse your system of the THC metabolites in your hair.
While medical-grade detoxification shampoos exist, many of the options for removing cannabis compounds from your hair can result in long-term damage to your scalp and hair.
The research is still variable
Though tests conducted in 1985 found people can test positive for cannabis up to 77 days after they last light up, current research paints a very different picture of cannabis metabolism. According to one study, conducted in 2005, most cannabis consumers can pass a urine test in around ten days while heavy cannabis users can take up to 21 days to eliminate the last traces of marijuana metabolites.
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