How long does marijuana stay in your system after use? It’s a question most of us have been asking since a Google search for this topic brings up more than 30 million results. But then again, that’s to be expected; both first-time users and weed veterans absolutely need to know the answer.
We all know the effects weed has on our bodies. We also know that an average hit doesn’t take more than a few hours before it dissipates. The problem comes from the fact that the traces of marijuana can be found in your body long after you’ve consumed it, sometimes even weeks later. And while the stance on the legality of weed has drastically changed in the past few decades, it’s still not completely legal in the US.
In this article, we will cover the How long does marijuana stay in your system question. But before we do, we need to focus on some basic information regarding marijuana use.
How Marijuana Travels Through Our Body
The subheading of this section is a bit misleading. When we talk about marijuana traveling through our body, we’re actually referring to its most psychoactive ingredient, (−)-trans-Δ⁹-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC.
When we consume weed through smoking or vaping, the THC enters our lungs and, from there, enters the bloodstream. It then moves directly to the heart and binds itself to two different types of receptors:
- CB1 receptors (found in the brain, the central nervous system, and some organs)
- CB2 receptors (found in the immune system and the spleen)
Since blood circulates through our entire body, the THC soon enters the liver, which breaks it down into small chunks called metabolites. One of those metabolites, 11-nor-9-carboxy-THC, is actually used in drug tests to determine if the person has been taking up lately.
The process is slightly different when we ingest marijuana through other means (capsules, edibles, fluids, etc.). THC enters the walls of the intestine and the stomach, where it reaches the bloodstream. From there, it goes directly to the liver for further metabolization.
No matter the method of entry, the metabolites will stay within our body long after the effects of THC have worn off. That makes it extremely difficult to determine whether we’ve been high last night or three weeks ago during drug tests.
How Long Does Marijuana Stay In Your System: Key Factors
In order to answer the How long does marijuana stay in your system question, we need to look at all of the factors which directly affect THC’s ‘shelf life’ in our bodies.
Frequency of Use
If we keep taking up regularly, chances are that THC will stay in our bodies for a few weeks. Moreover, we are likely to develop withdrawal syndromes. Even if it’s not as harmful as other substances like cocaine or heroin, weed can still be quite addictive.
On the other hand, if we were to use THC occasionally, chances are that it won’t stay in our bodies for long. The same goes for one-time users and even second-hand smokers.
Based on our genetic makeup, the THC will stay longer in some body types and shorter in others. For example, let’s take a look at cytochrome P450. This superfamily of enzymes modifies THC and allows it to leave our bodies through urine. Bodies that lack cytochrome P450 will have a hard time metabolizing THC and getting it out of their systems.
It goes without saying that if you consume too much of any one thing, your body will have a hard time breaking it down and processing it. The same goes for marijuana. If you’re taking a high dose of weed, you might end up with a little more THC in your bloodstream than usual.
Some of the metabolites that are derived from THC are fat-soluble. In other words, they will bind themselves to fat molecules and stay there for a lengthy period of time. By exercising and losing fat, you can release the dormant THC either via urinating or defecating.
Having a strong metabolism will always boost our body’s functions, and that includes breaking down metabolites. Generally speaking, higher metabolic functions result in a faster, more efficient way of breaking down cannabinoids than lower ones.
So, How Long Does Marijuana Stay In Your System Exactly?
Experts have developed several tests to check how long marijuana stays in our system. These tests focus on examining four different elements of our body: urine, blood, hair, and saliva.
THC will stay in our urine for different lengths of time, depending on how often we consume it:
- 3 days for one-off and occasional users
- 5-7 days for moderate users
- 10-15 days for daily users
- 30 days and beyond for chronic users
Regarding our bloodstream, THC will usually dissipate after 3-5 hours post-consumption. However, tests can detect THC metabolites as much as 25 days after you’ve inhaled the weed.
Each centimeter of our hair represents a one-month window of detecting THC or its metabolites. Broadly speaking, you can detect them in your hair even as far as 90 days after the original use.
When detecting THC and its metabolites through saliva testing, experts found that the detection period is around 34 hours for one-off and occasional users, but up to 29 days for chronic ones.
Answering the How long does marijuana stay in your system query isn’t easy because of the different methods of testing, as well as other difficulties. At the end of the day, it all depends on how often you use weed and how much of it you consume. So, if you want to help your body metabolize THC more quickly, consult a medical expert or try reducing your marijuana intake.