Jeff Sessions has come and gone, but at least on the Federal level, cannabis’s legal status remains a very open question. And because drug testing—whether it be at the workplace or the side of the road—isn’t going away anytime soon, many of us want an answer to an age-old question: How long does THC stay in your system?
THC And The Body: The Science
When you ingest cannabis, THC enters the bloodstream and is broken down into molecules called metabolites, a generic term for a body chemical produced by metabolism. The THC itself—like its euphoric effects—dissipates fairly rapidly, within a few hours. But those metabolites linger, and at least one of them—THC-COOH—is detectable days or even weeks after the cannabis was consumed.
The Million-Dollar Question: How Long Does THC Stay in Your System?
Unfortunately, the question of how long THC-COOH is detectable depends on many factors, including:
How often you ingest cannabis: As you might expect, regular cannabis users are more at risk of being detected through any means of drug testing, because THC metabolites like THC-COOH tend to accumulate over time.
Your metabolism and body fat: Just as everyone reacts to cannabis a bit differently, your personal metabolism has a good deal to do with how quickly cannabis artifacts are eliminated. Because THC is fat-soluble, in general, those with a higher proportion of body fat will retain chemical markers of THC use for longer than those with less.
How testing is conducted (saliva, urine, or hair): This is a big one, as each method has its own window of greatest accuracy. (Yes, we can hear you screaming “WHAT’S THE WINDOW?!?” all the way from here.) So here are the most accurate estimates of accuracy we can provide:
This test—typically performed using an oral swab—yields the shortest-lived results. In general, with this method, you can expect THC to stay in your system for 24 hours if you’re an infrequent user, up to 72 hours if you’re a more regular one.
This is generally the most-used test method, at least when it comes to workplace compliance. Here’s an admittedly rough estimate of how long THC will stay in your system when tested through urine:
- For single use (as in, once in a month): Up to 8 days
- For regular use (4-6 times in a month): Up to 15 days
- For frequent use (10 – 15 times in a month): Up to 30 days
- For heavy use (20+ times in a month): Up to 45-77 days
This test is designed to identify chronic cannabis users. The good news for light or infrequent users is that there’s a decent chance they won’t be detected at all. But for regular or heavy users, the outlook isn’t very good, as the more or less standard window of accuracy is 90 days.
Can You Pass Drug Tests for THC?
That’s debatable. There are a number of products on the market which are designed to help you pass hair tests, for example. We can’t vouch for or recommend any of them, other than letting you know they exist.
Same deal with urine tests. There are “natural detox” products designed to clear evidence of cannabis use from your urine. Some people swear by the “fruit pectin” method, which involves drinking a natural polysaccharide in the hopes that it will help eliminate THC metabolites through the bowels rather than the blood.
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