When we ingest cannabis and it absorbs into the bloodstream, it creates the sensation of being “high”. Distorted as your perception of time may get while high, the main effects are relatively short-lived and pass quickly. While your munchies and giggle-fits only last a few hours, the chemical compounds within cannabis hang around longer.
When considering the question of how long weed stays in your system, we need to understand what we’re looking for. Though there are many unique chemical compounds in cannabis, drug tests almost exclusively test for THC content. THC (or tetrahydrocannabinol) is the compound responsible for producing the aforementioned intoxicating feeling of high-ness.
Drug tests for THC can vary in their methods and sensitivity. They work by testing for levels of its byproducts as it is broken down and metabolized in the body. Though some tests can detect THC for up to 90 days after ingestion, the answer to how long it may be detectable for any given individual is not so simple.
Though the range within certain tests are able to detect THC is pretty straightforward, there are some factors that may affect this window. These factors are generally anything that affects your metabolism rate or how much stored THC you have acquired. Both of these affect how long it takes your body to process all of the THC and its byproducts.
Factors That Affect How Long THC Stays In Your System
Let’s start with an obvious one. The more THC you consume, the longer it will take for your body to process it out. Think of it like a coin-star machine; the more coins you dump into it, the longer it takes to sort it all out.
Frequency Of Use
Taking the idea of how dose affects detection time one step further, the regularity with which you consume also matters. In short, the more frequently you ingest THC, the more of it you will have stored up.
Studies have consistently shown that frequent weed users can potentially store detectable levels of THC for much longer than moderate users. One possible explanation is that frequent users have a higher tolerance to THC’s effects. Because of this, they tend to consume higher doses more frequently than moderate users.
Smoking & Vaping Cannabis
When cannabis is inhaled via smoke or vapor it enters the bloodstream through the lungs. It’s the most direct way to method absorb the THC, and the effects are quickly apparent. On the other hand, THC gets used up and wears off more quickly.
Do Edibles Stay In Your System Longer?
Technically, yes, edibles stay in your system longer than smoking or vaping. When orally ingested as an edible or infused oil, THC must first move through the digestive system and enter your bloodstream through the stomach walls and liver. This process takes longer, which is why edibles often take a while to kick in. The slower breakdown means they also last longer once they do kick in.
Because the process of breaking down and eliminating the THC takes longer when consumed this way, it usually remains detectable for a slightly longer period.
Personal Factors That Affect How Long THC Stays In Your System
Body Fat (BMI)
If you’ve ever gotten a little creative with your cannabis-infused recipes, you probably already know that THC is a fat-soluble compound. This means that in order to be digested easier, it must first bind itself to fat molecules.
That’s great for helping your body absorb more THC when consuming edibles. It also means that once ingested, THC will bind itself to the fat inside of your body. The more fat there is to hold it, the slower it will be released to break down.
Having a higher metabolism means your body will breakdown and process THC and its byproducts more quickly. A slower metabolism equals a slower breakdown process and therefore longer detection window.
Testing Detection Windows
Now that we have taken a look at some of the more variable aspects of THC detection we can consider how different testing methods perform. THC drug tests come in a range of sampling methods and sensitivity levels.
The more sensitive tests will of course be able to detect THC and THC-byproducts for a longer period of time (aka a longer detection window). The more sensitive the test, the more likely it is to register even tiny amounts of THC.
The four types of testing for THC levels (from least to most sensitive) are as follows;
Blood testing is the least sensitive type as THC doesn’t actually stay in your blood system for very long before being broken down. This test can detect THC within 24 hours of ingestion (though there is some evidence that heavy users may have detectable levels of THC byproducts for up to 25 days!).
Due to its limited nature, this type of testing is the least commonly used.
A saliva mouth swab test can pick up THC traces for up to 3 days in occasional users. In frequent users, it may be detectable for up to 29 days.
Urine samples are the most prevalent method for testing THC levels. They can come in a range of sensitivity thresholds that it tests at (depending on tester preference).
THC stays detectable in infrequent users for 1-3 days and 5-7 days for occasional users. With daily users, that window potentially may go up to 10-15 days, and with multiple daily consumptions, it shoots up to 30 days.
Hair Follicle Testing
Hair follicle testing is the most sensitive type of test as it can detect traces for up 90 days depending on some of the variables outlined above.
There is some evidence to show that hair follicle tests may not always be entirely accurate due to the potential for false-positive results. Nonetheless, it is a test that is still relatively common.
Is There Any Way To Speed Up Metabolization of THC?
As mentioned above, the amount of THC stored in your body depends on several factors. Ultimately your body just needs time to metabolize and process out the THC regardless of how much there is. Though there are no reliable methods explicitly designed to clear THC from your system quickly, there are supplemental options you could consider.
If you have a few days before being testeed, detox kits are a great option to boost your metabolism and help move the process along. Even though the kits aren’t a fail-safe way to pass a drug test, they can potentially shrink your window of THC detectability with a little time and effort.
Some of our favorite detoxification options include;
If you’re looking to add a little extra boost to your efforts, staying hydrated, eating healthy, and exercising may also help speed up the metabolization process a tiny bit. It won’t do you any unexpected miracles, but it certainly won’t hurt your cause!