Metabolism is a constantly occurring process within every cell of your body. It is necessary to maintain life. Our body metabolizes everything we put in it whether it’s life-sustaining or not. For instance, your body metabolizes the THC in marijuana. Marijuana metabolites stow away in your body anywhere from a few days to over 90. How come weed stays in your system so long?
Drug tests detect the metabolite left behind after metabolism occurs. When THC completes the process, it produces a metabolite named tetrahydrocannabinol carboxylic acid (THC-COOH). The metabolites store themselves throughout the body. Mainly, though, they house themselves in the fat cells. The amount of time they are detected on a drug test varies.
It coincides directly with the type of drug test administered.
The most frequently used employee drug test is the urine test. Employers choose them for many reasons. They are cost-efficient, extremely accurate, and expected. If an employee hears the words “drug test,” it’s usually assumed it will be a urine test.
Someone who rarely uses marijuana in any form is likely to pass a urine drug test after three days. This is because the amount of THC-COOH stored throughout the body has either dissipated or is not exiting the body at levels high enough to register.
A moderate user, someone who ingests THC up to four times a week, will test positive for up to five days. It makes sense that if the body stores THC-COOH, the more often one uses it, the greater the number of metabolites stored away in the body. Therefore, tests detect them for a longer period of time.
Par for the course, a daily marijuana user will test positive for up to ten days after discontinuing use. The cleansing process is constant so refraining from marijuana use allows your body to excrete the THC metabolites after this period of time.
Lastly, someone who is a chronic marijuana user is likely to test positive for thirty days or longer. This also stands to reason because the body is constantly retaining THC-COOH. Again, the more often one uses, the greater the number of metabolites stored.
Saliva drug tests
To date, the saliva drug test has not been widely used for employee drug testing. The most likely fact is that it only detects drug use up to 72 hours prior to taking a drug test. However, recent advances in technology coupled with the shorter detection window make it a solid choice to determine recent drug use.
For that reason, employers and law enforcement agencies use this test more than ever before.
The saliva test only yields a positive result for marijuana for approximately 24 hours after consuming it.
Hair follicle drug test
The hair follicle drug test creates a permanent record of drug use. This is because the drug metabolites that store themselves in the hair follicle grow out and become part of the hair itself. These tests are extremely accurate and there is virtually no way to falsify the results.
Employers use the hair follicle tests the least. The cost factor is likely a big contributor to that fact. These days, though, many employers are taking a second look.
The test determines if there was any marijuana use over a period of ninety days. However, if someone has used the drug for the first time within a week of testing, it’s possible that they will obtain a negative test result. It takes a few days for the metabolites to show up because they need time to grow out of the hair follicle and into the hair shaft.
However, once it’s there, it’s there for good.
Blood drug test
If you smoke weed, THC can be detected in your bloodstream within seconds of inhaling it. Edibles take a bit longer as they go through the digestion process before entering the bloodstream.
Blood tests aren’t used very often when testing for marijuana though. That’s because the detection period is extremely short-lived. Typically, THC remains in the bloodstream for just three to four hours.
Why do detection times vary?
We hit on the fact that the more you use, the greater the number of THC-COOH metabolites that are stored throughout your body. Moreover, there are other contributing factors to consider regarding detection times.
Growers continue to try and increase the THC levels contained in marketed marijuana. Plants containing higher levels of THC mean retaining higher levels of THC.
Specifics play a part
An individual’s metabolism is another determining factor. For whatever reason, one person tests positive longer than another. It has to do with the way each body metabolizes the drug. Being in shape makes a difference. THC-COOH mainly collects in the fat cells. Thin people don’t have as many fat cells. If you are overweight, the likelihood increases that there is a virtual warehouse full of the stuff!
When someone smokes marijuana, impairment strikes almost immediately. The THC passes from the lungs directly into the bloodstream. Once in the blood, it races to the brain and other organs throughout the body. The “high” peaks in about an hour, and lasts for several hours.
Edibles, on the other hand, often take several hours to reach the height of impairment. The user begins to feel the effects of the drug about 30 minutes after consumption. They are “back to normal” after about five hours.
The sense of euphoria that accompanies smoking pot is due to the release of dopamine in the brain. During the hours of impairment, users may be affected by any or all of the following.
- an altered sense of time
- changes in mood (often described as mellow)
- impaired body movement
- difficulty with problem-solving and focus
- impaired memory
In the case of a very high dose of THC, hallucinations, delusions or even psychosis can occur.
Also alarming, some studies show that chronic users exhibit motor skill impairment for days or weeks after discontinuing use.
Studies have shown that people who smoked marijuana heavily in their teens and continued heavy use into adulthood lost an average of 8 IQ points before they were forty. However, those who began smoking as an adult did not show a decline in IQ.
There are studies that show that people who smoked the drug heavily in their teens suffer from impaired thinking, learning, and memory skills. It appears that the drug affects how the brain builds the connections necessary to complete these tasks.
It’s unclear, however, if this is caused by the THC itself or predisposition factors in the DNA.
It’s CBD not THC
By the way, this is especially true if someone took it just before a drug test. They may test positive for the test but take a test later in the day with a negative result. By the way, we conducted an in-house test of our own that produced this result. Moreover, the CBD product our volunteer took advertised that it was THC free!
There are testing measures in place to regulate the extraction process. Therefore, it is impossible to ensure that THC levels fall under a specific range. If products promoting zero amounts of THC contain enough to produce a positive test result, it stands to reason that any CBD product warrants a risk of a positive test result.
It might be a good idea to educate your employees in regard to this information. The outcome could be that employees rethink the decision to use CBD for medicinal purposes.
Weeding through it all
Our society has deemed pot to be a harmless drug. As a result, its use is becoming more and more widely accepted. Employers, though, have every right to remain concerned.
No matter how they consume it, employees under the influence of marijuana usually become less productive. More importantly, it’s a proven fact that motor and cognitive skills are affected, possibly for an extended length of time. There is no doubt that marijuana users increase their chances of causing workplace accidents.
Drug testing in the workplace deters some from choosing a lifestyle that includes smoking weed. Routine reminders of your company drug policy or on-site refresher courses regarding the dangers of drug use act as further deterrents.
Much like the process of metabolism that goes on within every cell of our bodies, promoting a drug free workplace is an ongoing process. In the same fashion, just as metabolism is necessary for sustaining life, educating your employees about the dangers of taking drugs could sustain a life too.
Keep up the good work.