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How Marijuana Stays in Your System

by Landmark Recovery

July 24, 2020
A clock representing the time marijuana stays in your system


With marijuana now decriminalized or fully legalized in the majority of US states, many users may be wondering how this substance can affect them, especially when they’re sober.


The truth is, despite the relaxing criminal consequences for marijuana users, cannabis can still impact your health, as well as your personal and professional life.


In Your System

The active ingredient in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. This is the chemical that gives us the feeling of being ‘high.’ But even after the high goes away, THC remains in your system for days or even weeks.


We all know that drugs can be detected in our urine. This is the most common method for drug testing, which is why employers in certain industries require periodic urine tests for their employees. But it might surprise you to know that in addition to your urine, the presence of THC and metabolites can be detected in your hair, blood, and saliva.


A metabolite is a byproduct of the metabolization process. When you consume marijuana, your body identifies the so-called ‘parent drug,’ THC. As the body metabolizes the active substance, it breaks down the THC molecules into several metabolites. While THC only stays in the body for a short time, the metabolites, which are found in urine, can be detected for much longer.


Here are some general ranges for detection periods:


  • Urine: can show trace amounts of THC from anywhere from three to 30 days
  • Blood: can reveal the presence of THC for three to four hours
  • Saliva: can retain THC for approximately 24 hours, but some saliva tests can detect THC for up to 72 hours
  • Hair: tests can yield positive results for up to a remarkable 90 days


Hair tests are the most sensitive, but can also result in false positives. Because it tests for the transfer of skin oils to the hair, spending time near a marijuana user may result in a positive result.


Testing Factors

When you take a marijuana drug test, you aren’t being tested for marijuana itself, but rather the presence of THC. And the effects of THC are cumulative: the more often you consume cannabis, the more likely you are to test positive in a drug test than, say, someone who only used it once.


Many factors can affect the results of a marijuana drug test:


  • Regularity of use
  • How much you consume
  • Your amount of body fat
  • The sensitivity of the drug test


For infrequent users (those who use less than three times a week), metabolites can be detected in the urine three days after the last use. For those who use four times a week, detection can be between five to seven days. For daily users, ten to 15 days, and for those who use several times a day, detection can exceed 30 days.


Other factors that impact the length of time marijuana stays in your system include:


  • Metabolism: faster metabolism will help to flush THC and its metabolites out of the system more quickly
  • Gender: women often have more body fat, which means they may metabolize THC more slowly
  • Hydration: severe dehydration can increase the concentration levels of THC


In closing, cannabis might be legal in some areas, but it can still impair your judgment and perception of the world around you. For sober individuals, it may become a gateway to using your drug of choice once again. If you are concerned about cannabis use for yourself or a loved one, we are here to help. Reach out today to learn how.


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About the Author

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery was founded with a determination to make addiction treatment accessible for all. Through our integrated treatment programs, we've helped thousands of people choose recovery over addiction and get back to life on their own terms. We're on a mission to save one million lives over the next century. We encourage all those struggling with substance use to seek professional help.