Maybe you have a big job interview coming up, or you just like to stay informed. Either way, it’s totally reasonable to wonder how long THC stays in your system and if you’ll pass a drug test. The detection window depends mostly on frequency of consumption and sensitivity of the drug test, so every case is different. Nevertheless, in this article, we’ll describe everything you need to know about this rather sensitive topic.
How Is THC Processed In The Body?
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the chemical in cannabis that makes you feel high. It can stay in the body for days to weeks, because it binds to the fats in your cells and takes time to be completely metabolized. The typical drug test doesn’t test for THC specifically, but rather for THC metabolites such as 11-hydroxy-THC and carboxy-THC, which are broken down by the body more slowly. After being stored in body tissues and organs, THC metabolites are released back into the bloodstream and finally processed by the liver. Daily users build up THC in their fatty tissues more quickly than they can metabolize, meaning THC could be detected in a drug test weeks after last use.
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The Window Of Detection
Depending on the type of test being used, THC can be detected for as long as 90 days after consumption. The time period in which you can test positive for THC after consuming cannabis is called the “window of detection.” Detection windows vary widely depending on the method of consumption, the type of drug test and how often cannabis is consumed. The more regular the use, the longer the detection window. Those who seldom partake in cannabis could have a detection window of about 3-7 days after last use, while chronic users can expect a window of detection of a month or longer.
Factors Affecting The Window Of Detection
There are multiple factors that affect how long cannabis can be detected in your system. While as a consumer you can control your dosage and how frequently you consume, some of the other factors are related to how your body metabolizes cannabis rather than to the drug itself.
How Much And How Strong?
Frequent users have a harder time breaking down THC and its metabolites, hence why it’s detectable in such users for a longer period of time. Drug tests look for THC components, so the amount that a person consumes can affect how long it’s detectable in the body. In other words, the dosage you take and how frequently you consume both affect the window of detection. Frequent users and smokers of potent weed are going to have much more THC in their system than someone who infrequently partakes in milder strains.
THC is fat-soluble and binds to fats in the body, meaning it takes time for it to exit your system completely. The amount of body fat you have plays a role in how quickly THC is metabolized in the body; people with higher body fat may process it more slowly. Body mass index (BMI) is a way to measure body fat based on the weight and height of a person, but this is not a perfect method to determine the amount of body fat someone has, so don’t simply rely on BMI to guess whether your system is free of THC.
Biological sex can also affect the window of detection. Females usually have more body fat than males. This means that cannabis may be metabolized more slowly in women because of how, as discussed above, THC binds to fat in the body. This is, of course, highly individual and dependent upon body type.
When your body is dehydrated, there’s a higher concentration of THC in relation to the water in your body. Drinking a lot of water isn’t going to make a huge difference in a drug test, but staying hydrated is good for you and severe dehydration could possibly affect results! However, overhydration can also present issues in a drug test because metabolites may be released. You should be well-hydrated before a drug test to avoid problems related to dehydration, but don’t drink too much water!
The Mighty Metabolism
As already mentioned, THC needs to be metabolized to be eliminated from the system. Hence, it makes sense that people with faster metabolisms will break down cannabinoids at a faster rate than those with slower metabolisms. Your genetics, body size and composition, and medical health all affect your metabolism, hence the speed with which THC will escape your body.
Hitting The Gym
Whether or not you regularly exercise will likely not significantly alter the rate at which your body metabolizes THC. However, it is possible that exercising directly before a drug test could change your results and result in a positive test. It’s believed that exercise may cause fat cells to release THC, and that those with higher body fat percentages may experience a more significant spike in THC levels.
How Long Does THC Stay In The Body?
THC can stay in the body for months after use, but the testing method itself determines whether or not it will be detectable. Urine, blood and hair tests catch THC many days after use, while saliva tests can only detect it for a few hours.
The Infamous Urine Test
Urine tests are the most common form of THC drug tests and are quite sensitive. THC stays in your urine for anywhere from 3 to 30 days after use. Urine concentrations of THC decrease over time depending on the frequency of use prior to last dose. For infrequent users, the window of detection is usually around 3 days. For those who smoke about four times a week, the time is 5 to 7 days. Those who smoke daily can expect a detection window of 10-15 days, while smokers who indulge multiple times daily will have one of over 30 days.
Saliva Soaks Up THC
So how long does THC stay in your saliva? Saliva tests more typically indicate recent use. They can detect THC for around 24 hours after use, though can sometimes catch it for up to 3 days. Some sources say that saliva tests can produce a positive result in chronic users up to 29 days after use. THC enters the saliva through smoking and exposure to smoke, though its metabolites can also be present in saliva when it’s been ingested in an edible.
How Long Does THC Stay In Your Hair?
The most sensitive tests are hair tests, which can identify the presence of THC for up to 90 days after exposure. Hair tests are used to analyze the oil in your skin that transfers to your hair, meaning that a false positive is possible, although relatively rare. For example, even if you yourself have not been smoking, you could potentially test positive on a hair test after being in a room where cannabis is being smoked by someone else.
THC Goes Straight To The Bloodstream
Blood tests are only indicative of recent usage and can usually only detect THC for 3-4 hours, although up to 2 days is possible since metabolites can remain in the bloodstream for days before being processed. THC enters the bloodstream within seconds of inhalation and is later distributed to various body tissues. Over time, it is reabsorbed into the bloodstream and carried to the liver to be broken down.
Is There A Way To Metabolize THC Faster?
If you’re wondering if there’s a way to get THC out of your system fast, there’s no one dependable way to speed up the metabolism. You’ve likely already heard of THC detox remedies, which don’t work reliably and do nothing for the metabolism. These usually involve drinking a lot of water and taking supplements. The most effective ways to help your body flush out THC faster are to stay well-hydrated and exercise regularly, but not right before a drug test. The most reliable factor in passing a drug test is time; the longer between your last use and the test, the more likely you’ll be to pass.
For most users, THC will be out of your system within 30 days at most. As for those who indulge less frequently, 10 days or less should be enough. Thus, no matter what your other conditions are, for anyone who wants to pass a drug test for THC, there’s no better friend than time!