It’s a tough question, as there are many factors that affect the speed of cannabis metabolite elimination. Different fluids and tissues keep traces of cannabis for different periods of time, and frequency of smoking, as well as other cannabis consumption peculiarities, plays an important role in shaping the way your body stores and gets rid of cannabis.
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In what form is cannabis found in the body?
Marijuana is a psychoactive drug, which affects the mind. Another name for it is cannabis, as it is made from Cannabis plant. The chemical responsible for the effect is termed tetrahydrocannabinol, which is often abbreviated as THC.
How fast it gets into the bloodstream depends on the way you consume it. Smoking results in fast absorption, whereas ingestion of cannabis is a slower way to deliver the plant compounds into your blood. It takes ingested marijuana from 20 to 90 minutes to produce its effect, which lasts for a couple of hours. Less obvious effects remain longer, for 24 hours or so. Driving is significantly impaired for three hours, with possible consequences afterwards.
Cannabis compounds can be detected in a number of tissues and body fluids, including urine, saliva, blood and hair.
In blood, it stays for as long as several hours. That is why blood samples are analyzed not as often as urine samples are. Blood is a good source of information about cannabis consumption when its effect (intoxication) is concerned. For example, you can be checked using your blood if it is a roadside checkpoint.
In other cases, when recent drug intake is to be detected, urine samples are taken. When processed by the body, cannabis is broken down into metabolites, which are found in urine and stored in fat.
THC produces a variety of metabolites, which have different properties. Some of them are eliminated within one day, while others are reluctant to leave the body and stay there for another couple of weeks, or 10-13 days, to be exact.
However, the most notable thing about THC elimination half-life is that how long it takes the body to remove a half of the substance depends on smoking patterns, i.e. whether you are a heavy smoker, how often you consume cannabis, and if you have a long history of taking the drug.
While most non-heavy-smokers need to wait for around 13 days to have THC removed, they say their counterparts who take it often can have this figure increased to as many as 90 days.
Complete removal of THC is possible only after 5-6 elimination half-lives.
Here is a list of common samples and estimated detection periods.
- Blood. Average: 1.5 days. The figure can rise to 7 days in regular cannabis consumers.
- Urine. Average: from 1 to 4 days. Up to 70 days in regular cannabis consumers.
- Saliva. Average: 1.5 days.
- Hair. Depending on hair length, detection period can be around 90 days. If less than 2 weeks passed since cannabis consumption, it’s unlikely that it will be detected in hair samples. As far as detection is concerned, 1 cm of hair equals 1 month of detection window.
If you are to undergo routine testing, you should know that you cannot deceive the lab that will analyze your sample: if you try adulterating your urine using chemicals, the lab will see it immediately; should you try to dilute your urine by drinking a lot of water, it also won’t work, as the compounds will remain in the body. That is why the only way to pass the test is not to smoke – and avoid the diseases associated with cannabis intake, by the way.
Note that you can be sacked due to consuming marijuana even if you are in a state where cannabis is legal.
The effects of cannabis intoxication on motor vehicle collision revisited and revised – Onlinelibrary.wiley.com