The growing popularity of marijuana use in the country is on the rise because of legalization, which started in Denver, Colorado, and quickly spread across America. This has led to a renewed interest in testing procedures and how long and effectively they can detect the drug in someone’s system. Since pot has been one of the most commonly tested substances for years, included on both 5 panel and 10 panel drug tests, there are multiple ways to detect its presence in the system. While many people are aware of the various technologies, they are often unsure about how each test detects marijuana and how long it truly stays in someone’s system where they will test positive.
To understand how long marijuana stays in the system it is important to know what happens when the drug is used. THC is released when pot is inhaled or consumed, which metabolizes rapidly in the body, creating euphoric effects. While these effects are short-lived as the drug is processed in your body, the byproduct, referred to as metabolites, will find a home in the fatty tissues of the body. These metabolites don’t stay active, but they do result in a positive test much longer after the drug has been consumed. To truly answer the question of how long marijuana stays in the system, it depends on how much is consumed, how it is consumed, how often it is consumed, and what testing method is being used to identify it.
Marijuana in the blood
Marijuana is detected for the shortest time in the circulatory system through a blood test. To test positive on a blood test, THC has to be in the bloodstream either through inhalation into the lungs or absorption through the lining of the stomach. It is through the bloodstream that the THC is routed to the brain producing the effects of being high. After consumption, the body begins metabolizing THC that is active in the blood, breaking it down. On average this process takes about one to two days for those consuming it once in a while and up to one week for those who smoke multiple times a day.
Marijuana in saliva
The salivary system is similar to blood. This means a mouth swab drug test will produce a positive result for marijuana use for the length of time similar to a blood test. Delta-9 THC psychotropic substance will coat the inside of the mouth and absorb into the salivary glands after it is smoked. When eating pot, this occurs as well while you chew, through it absorbs less. The THC will hang around until enough new saliva from swallowing will wash it away. Just like blood tests, salivary tests will stay positive for one to two days for occasional users and up to a week for those who use habitually.
Marijuana in urine
Since the by-products of using marijuana are fat-soluble, they bond to the fatty tissue in the body which can make them take longer to expel. Unfortunately, cannabinoid metabolites, the byproduct of pot, will vacate the body at different rates depending on certain body traits. Factors that play a role in how long marijuana can be identified by a urinalysis drug test include:
- How often it is consumed
- Body mass index
- Metabolic rate
- The body’s level of hydration.
Since there are many variables that go into how long pot stays in your urine, it is hard to give an exact time frame, but average rates are as follows.
- Single-use can stay 5 to 8 days
- Use 2 to 4 times weekly can stay 11 to 18 days
- Use 5 to 6 times weekly can stay 33 to 48 days
- Daily use can stay from 50 to 70 days
Marijuana in hair
The test that can show the longest use is a hair follicle drug test. In reality, a hair follicle test can be used to detect marijuana use for years prior though they often only check up to 90 days back. A hair follicle test involves testing on 1.5 inches to the root of your hair and is pulled for a sample. This sample is used because the average growth of human hair is 1/2″ per month which would give testers three months of data with a 1 1/2″ piece. If they were to test the entire piece, they could go back a year for every 1/2″ of hair they test. While hair tests are used to detect chronic pot users, single-use or occasional users will probably not have enough in their hair follicles to test positive.
As shown above, the length of time a person will test positive on a drug screen for marijuana has largely to do with the amount and frequency they use as well as what type of testing that is implemented.