It’s a very common question and a familiar source of anxiety for many cannabis users: if I get high today, how long do I have to worry about marijuana being detectable in my system? Drug tests through urine samples are required by many employers in order to secure a job so odds are if you’re reading this, you’ve got a date with the ol’ clear cup. Despite its proven benefits, changing societal attitudes, and enduring popularity, marijuana remains the most commonly detected drug in workplace-administered urine tests.
So, how long does marijuana stay in the body after use? The answer is complicated.
How Does The Test Work?
A few commonly believed falsehoods exist about the urine test. It isn’t looking for when you last consumed marijuana or if you’re high when you do your thing in the cup. It isn’t even looking for the chemical that gets you high in the first place!
Perhaps the biggest misconception is that the test is searching for THC, the well-known psychoactive compound in cannabis. In fact, the test is searching for evidence that the body is working to process the THC through the metabolism. This comes in the form of a waste product called a metabolite; the metabolite for THC is THC-COOH. Research has shown that around 15-20% of the THC-COOH leaves the body through urination.
The urine test is looking to determine how much THC-COOH is still present in the excretory system, because that chemical’s presence indicates the body has consumed marijuana recently. If the amount is under the test’s threshold, the result will be negative. If it’s above, the test will show positive for marijuana.
Usage Habits Are The Most Influential Factor.
So, how long does marijuana stay in the body after use?
Well…it’s complicated. Due to the vast range of variables present in both an individual’s body makeup and their personal habits, there is no one hard and fast answer guaranteed to apply to everyone. THC is stored in fat cells prior to metabolization and accumulates over time, so a person who uses marijuana more often will have a longer time frame of the compound in their system than a one-time user.
As a general rule, regular marijuana users should plan on testing positive for up to a month after they’ve last consumed.
Here’s a look at the average detection window for different habit sets. Keep in mind these are averages and shouldn’t be taken as guaranteed gospel truth:One-time use: clean after 8 daysTwo to four times a week: clean after 11-18 daysFive to six times a week: clean after up to 48 daysDaily use: clean after up to 77 days
Since the test is looking for a chemical present as a result of THC metabolization, the amount of THC in your marijuana will also impact how long it takes the THC-COOH to make its way through your system. If your preferred strain has a higher THC content, err on the side of caution about detection time.
The way in which you consume cannabis also plays a role in determining a detection window. Users who prefer edibles should be aware that the body processes THC differently when it’s eaten instead of smoked or vaped, so anyone who regularly gets down with a brownie or a nice hashy muffin may have a longer window of THC-COOH presence.
Every Body Is Different – Literally.
You’ve heard it a million times before: stay hydrated, stay hydrated, stay hydrated! While drinking enough water is imperative for a healthy and happy body, the amount of liquid you take in impacts the amount of urine you produce, and how quickly THC-COOH flushes its way out of your system. However, drinking an excessive amount of water to detox your system poses a catch-22: if your urine is too diluted, you might fail the test anyway and render all your effort in vain.
A person’s natural metabolic rate also plays a role in how long marijuana remains in the body.
What About A Saliva Test?
Cheek swabs to check for illicit substances in the saliva are most often used by law enforcement looking for signs of impairment in motorists. The good news is, THC stays in the saliva for a much shorter length of time than it stays in the urine.
One-time use: clean after 24 hours
Regular use: clean after 72 hours
Daily use: clean after a week
Of course, it goes without saying: exercise caution when under the influence and avoid driving! The last thing you want to do is hurt yourself or someone else.
The best precaution you can take is monitoring your cannabis consumption and planning around it. That way you can test confidently without wasting your money on expensive detox kits and quack solutions. Also, advocate for legal reform. This plant is not a danger to society; it’s up to voters to pressure their local lawmakers for reforms that reflect the truth.