Whether you are new to cannabis and curious about how long the effects last and how long weed stays in your system or facing a drug screening of some kind, knowing the specific ways weed interacts with your body is valuable information.
THC is the active compound found in both medical and recreational cannabis that causes short-term euphoric effects. Although the effects of THC last just a few hours, THC can stay in your system for much longer.
It is very common for workplaces to test for drugs. Also common are sports leagues testing for drugs. They test for performance-enhancing drugs like human growth hormone as well as safer drugs like cannabis. While some leagues are in the process of updating and determining the purpose of testing for cannabis while the majority of the country has legalized the drug in one-way shape or form, in most cases it is still prohibited from leagues nationwide.
So for the athletes of America that like to use cannabis in the off-season of their respective sport, how long can they smoke until they must stop for league-mandated drug testing?
What gets tested?
Each sports league has a different list of substances they test for. Most commonly, leagues will test for the following:
- Stimulants such as amphetamines
- HGH (human growth hormone)
- Masking agents
When testing for cannabis, THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the compound that specifically gets checked for. Other components in cannabis like CBD does not get checked for.
How long does weed stay in your system?
The length of time THC stays in the body or continues to show in a drug test depends on many factors. These include:
- Dosage: The larger the amount of THC that you use, the longer it takes for your body to break down the THC metabolites and pass them through your system.
- Frequency of use: The frequency of a person’s cannabis use is possibly the most important factor in knowing when THC might leave their system. The number of days THC can last in your system ranges from 5-30+ days depending on your usage patterns.
- Genetics: Genetics plays a pivotal role when it comes to the way your body processes and metabolizes THC.
- Fat: How much body fat a person has is another factor. The metabolite THC-COOH is fat-soluble and binds to fat molecules. THC can be stored in fat molecules for a long time.
- Metabolism: The faster your metabolism is the faster THC will break down and pass through your system.
- Levels of exercise and activity: In relation to THC storing in your body fat, exercise to help burn off fat calories is important in encouraging THC to pass through your system. Activity, in general, is good because the more you sweat and rehydrate yourself the more metabolites are leaving your system.
How does cannabis travel through the body?
The manner in which THC travels through your body says a lot about how long it may last in your system.
When cannabis is smoked or vaporized, THC enters the bloodstream through the lungs. From there, THC is carried in the bloodstream directly to the heart and pumped throughout the body, binding to the CB1 receptors located in the brain, certain organs, and central nervous system, as well as the CB2 receptors in the spleen and immune system.
As blood circulates throughout the body, THC is continuously passed through the liver and broken down into metabolites. To test for THC, most drug test methods look for the specific metabolite called 11-nor-9-carboxy-THC, or THC-COOH.
When it comes to ingesting cannabis like in the forms of edibles or capsules, the body handles THC in a different way. When ingested, THC enters the bloodstream through the walls of the stomach and intestine, traveling directly to the liver where a large amount is broken down or metabolized. The remaining THC metabolites are then passed through the heart and sent to the brain.
How long does THC stay in urine?
The urine test is the most common drug test for THC. Byproducts of THC are detectable in the urine for longer than other commonly tested drugs. The exact length of time THC is traceable in urine mostly depends on a person’s frequency of cannabis use. General guidelines that determine how long THC stays in a person’s urine include:
- Using cannabis once a month will result in THC being in your urine for 3-8 days.
- Using cannabis once or twice a week will result in THC being in your urine for 10-18 days.
- Using cannabis once a day or more will result in THC being in your urine for 33-48 days.
How long does THC stay in blood?
Some drug tests are done using a person’s blood. THC does not stay in a person’s blood nearly as long as their urine so this is not a very effective or common test. Blood tests are usually taken as a follow-up to a potential false positive on a previous testing method.
For heavy weed users (multiple times a day), THC may be detectable via the bloodstream for up to a week. For light users (once a week), THC may last a couple of days in their blood.
How long does THC stay in hair?
Of all the places of the body to take THC samples from, your hair will contain the metabolites the longest. In order to get a proper hair follicle sample, testers need to take 1.5 inches of hair. This should roughly show THC trace amounts dating back to 3 months from a person’s last consumption. Some hair follicle tests show THC use from up to a year ago. If you are thinking of contesting these results think again. Hair follicle samples are proven to be reliably accurate in detecting THC use.
How long does THC stay in saliva?
Occasionally, saliva drug tests will be used to check for THC. THC is detectable in saliva about an hour after use and will remain that way for about a day or two or however long it takes you to clean your mouth out.
Drinking beverages, brushing your teeth, and using mouthwash will help to remove any trace amounts of THC from your saliva. Currently, saliva tests are being evaluated for possible use to determine if a person is impaired by cannabis use while driving. This is a similar idea to a breathalyzer for alcohol except that the results so far appear to be not as reliable.
How athletes can beat a weed drug test?
If you are an athlete and you discover that you have a drug test coming up, first and foremost stop smoking weed immediately! You will need to flush out your system of all THC right away. Unfortunately, getting rid of THC is quite challenging.
The safest way to begin the flushing process is to consume lots of liquids. Liquids such as water, help promote the passing of THC metabolites through your urine. This may seem simple and safe but keep in mind, it is technically possible to drink too much water and potentially kill yourself with what is called water intoxication. So, drink lots of water but not too much!
A popular trick amongst stoners to pass THC faster is by drinking cranberry juice. It is more effective than water and greatly helps in flushing out your system. A key to consuming all of these liquids is to not do so on the morning of your drug test. It is possible to fail your drug test for a “diluted urine sample.” Try taking vitamin B if you think you will drop clear-looking urine. Vitamin B will turn your urine into a strong yellow color.
Also, avoid using your first urine of the day for the drug test; typically the first urine you produce contains the most metabolites.