How Long Does Marijuana (THC) Stay in Your System?
If you’re looking to apply for a new job, but you’re worried about how to pass the standard drug test, you’re one of many pot enthusiasts who has found themselves stuck in this situation.
Though marijuana has been legalized in quite a few states by now, over 60 percent of employers still require the urinary drug test and have the legal authority to deny your employment.
Even fire you from your position, if your positive test results go against their drug-free company policy.
Drug testing as a policy has received a lot of scrutiny in recent years, with critics raising concerns about privacy violations, the accuracy of these tests, and whether or not they effectively improve workplace condition.
Nevertheless, they are still a common requirement whether you’re applying for a job, hoping to participate in a sporting event, or trying to meet your parole terms.
Though marijuana is notorious for staying in your system longer than some other drugs, your test results depend on a combination of factors including how often you smoke, your metabolism, and what type of test you are taking.
Read on to determine if THC may still show up in your system, and what you can do to flush it out if needed.
General Rules of Thumb
Though there are some factors that affect how long marijuana will stay in your body, experts and pot smokers have come together to determine some general averages for how long marijuana will stay in your system after smoking.
However, be warned that if you’re a heavy smoker, you may have a bit more of a challenge getting the TCH out of your body.
If, on the other hand, you’re thinking, but it was only one time… don’t panic!
As long as you are not taking a drug test for a few days, you should be in the clear.
The following guidelines, based on how frequently you smoke, can help you determine how long marijuana may linger in your system:
- Single use: 2-7 days
- Occasional use: 11-18 days
- Chronic use: 1-2 months or longer
For those heavy pot smokers out there, some sources will even say that marijuana can linger in your system for 90 days or more.
However, if you’re determined to pass your drug test, there are a few things you can do to increase your chances.
The Nitty Gritty: How Different Tests Can Affect Your Results
Have you ever wondered how exactly your drug test can tell whether or not you’ve been smoking the devil’s lettuce?
Well, as you probably already know, THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid found in marijuana that is responsible for creating a euphoric high.
When the body tries to break down THC, it creates a metabolite called carboxy-THC (also known as THC-COOH).
This is the element that most drug testing companies search for to screen you for marijuana.
Though THC-COOH does not leave any psychoactive effects, it can stay in your body for an extended period of time depending on how much of it can build up.
The level of THC-COOH needed to produce a positive result may differ between clinics as some have a wider or narrower threshold for the metabolite (most use 50 ng/mL but some lab use the more conservative cutoff of 20 ng/mL).
However, most drug test administrators set the bar well above the THC-COOH amount the average person would have for second-hand smoke inhalation.
Today, the majority of drug testing is done with a urine sample. However, more thorough exams may be requested in special circumstances.
Below we have broken down how long marijuana may produce a positive result based on the following test.
Because a lot of liquids go through your urinary system on a daily basis, it is much easier to flush out THC-COOH from a urine than most of the other common testing methods.
In general, most one-time users should test positively in a pee-test after an average of 2-7 days, though the window is larger for habitual users.
According to one study that test 86 chronic pot smokers, the average length of time it took for the THC-COOH to fall below the testing threshold was 27 days.
However, one outlier from the experiment showed that with heavy use, THC-COOH might take up to 77 days after the last use before leaving the system.
If there is one part of your body that might give away an ancient flirtation with marijuana, it’s your hair.
Because hair grows slowly, the window of detection is might wider with hair testing, and it doesn’t help that the lab cutoff for THC-COOH levels is much lower, even as low as 1 ng/mL.
In general, hair tests will usually screen a 1.5-inch follicle, as this will give a detection window of 90 days.
Because everyone’s hair grows at different speeds, hair testing cannot provide an exact timeframe of when the marijuana was last consumed, but traces of marijuana do remain in your hair for a long period of time.
If you’re worried about testing positively, a nice trim, or chop, of your hair can cut away devious locks.
Keep in mind too, that because hair takes a while to grow, marijuana use usually can’t be detected in a drug test if you’ve smoked for the first time within the last 7 days.
And as for body hair, which has an even longer memory than head hair due to how slowly it grows, laser hair removal could be your failsafe.
In contrast to urine and hair tests, blood tests are much less common and provide a much smaller window of detection, as little as 12-24 hours for a single use and up to 7 days for habitual use.
This type of testing is mostly used in crime investigations involving DUI or injury.
Saliva testing is even less commonly used than the methods above, and it actually tests for the parent drug compound Delta 9 THC, not THC-COOH.
Studies show that THC can be detectable in saliva fluid samples for up to 72 hours after smoking.
Do Edibles Stay in Your System Longer?
There is some debate as to whether or not marijuana stays in your system longer when ingested rather than smoked.
THC stores in the body’s fat cells, so there are some factors that affect how quickly it leaves the body regardless of how it is consumed.
Your weight, metabolism, and the amount of THC stored all play key factors.
While a high from smoking is almost instant, edibles take quite a bit longer, several hours on average, to show their effects.
As a result, many first-time users end up eating more edibles than they probably should and end up with a massive high, and maybe a tummy ache, as a result.
If you’re consuming high levels of THC from edibles, then, of course, this will take longer for the THC-COOH to leave your system.
On the other hand, however, because a lot of the marijuana will simply leave your body through your digestive track, you may not store as much THC in your fat cells compared to smoking.
How to Flush Marijuana Out of Your System
If you’ve been asked to take a drug test but the word alone made you panic – don’t fret!
There are some things you can do to improve your chances of passing your drug test squeaky clean.
If you’re looking to pass a urinalysis test, you’ll need to flush your system as much as possible before peeing in the cup.
Whether you’re simply looking for a healthy detox, or you have no choice if you want to pass your drug test, follow the steps below to flush your system of THC.
Drink Plenty of Fluids
Drinking fluids can help dilute your urine, masking traces of THC that could throw your drug test.
Drinking plenty of water the day before your test as well as about 1-2 hour beforehand can help improve your chances of passing your test.
However, keep in mind that if your pee is too clear, lab technicians may raise a few eyebrows and ask you to try again.
When using this method, it is also important to supplement your diet with Vitamin B and Creatine as these nutrients help make your urine yellow so that your pee can fly under the radar.
If you have a week or more before your drug test, getting your sweat on can help you burn through those THC-storing fat cells that could snitch on your habit.
Exercise can also help you boost your metabolism in general, helping your body flush out THC faster.
Hit the Sauna
This one might be more of a tall tale, but there is some truth behind it.
Though there is no evidence to support that sauna alone can flush your body entirely, you to excrete some levels of THC when you sweat.
If you’re trying everything you can to get those suborn THC metabolites out of your system, hitting the sauna can’t hurt.
Coffee, Tea, Fruit Pectin, and Laxatives
Basically any type of diuretic.
If you’re looking to flush your system, you need to have as many bowel movements as you can before your test – especially if you’ve eaten edibles.
Fruit Pectin, in particular, is commonly recommended as this fiber-rich ingredient has a hyperlipidemic effect.
What this means is that it is able to bind to bile, which in turn, is able to bind to lipids (or the fat cells that hold THC).
This allows the THC to pass through your stool rather than showing up in your blood or urine test.
Last but not least, detox drinks are one of the most effective ways to flush your system of THC.
These drinks usually include a combination of vitamins and diuretics that work together to eliminate toxins from the body.
While there are some commercial sources for detox drinks, you can also make them yourself with one of the following recipes.
Recipe 1 – Fruit Pectin and Gatorade
Mix 1 packet of any fruit pectin product (Creto or sure-jell are good options) with 32 floz of Gatorade. Drink this mixture about 3-5 hours before your drug test.
The electrolytes in the Gatorade will work together with the diuretics in the fruit pectin to flush THC from your system.
Recipe 2 – Lemon Tea
Lemon juice is commonly recommended for marijuana detox and combining it with tea can make it even more effective.
To make this drink, fill a pitcher with water and allow some black tea to steep in it for about 10 minutes before adding freshly squeezed lemons.
For even more detox, add some cranberry juice as cranberries are natural diuretics and contain properties that support urinary health – making them golden if you’re trying to flush your system.
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- General Rules of Thumb
- The Nitty Gritty: How Different Tests Can Affect Your Results
- Do Edibles Stay in Your System Longer?
- How to Flush Marijuana Out of Your System
- Drink Plenty of Fluids
- Hit the Sauna
- Coffee, Tea, Fruit Pectin, and Laxatives
- Detox Drinks
- Recipe 1 – Fruit Pectin and Gatorade
- Recipe 2 – Lemon Tea