When you smoke or otherwise ingest cannabis you instantly increase the levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) in your blood. THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid that is responsible for getting you high and the cannabinoid that is being tested for in a drugs test.
Your body begins the process of eliminating THC almost immediately after cannabis consumption. The natural detox process begins as enzymes in the liver turn the delta-9-THC (THC) which you ingest or inhale into metabolites firstly 11-OH-THC which is also psychoactive, and then THC-COOH which is not psychoactive. It is THC-COOH that is detectable in urine and hair, while THC itself (delta-THC) is detectable in blood, saliva and breath tests.
Metabolites are then excreted in urine and faeces. This means that although the detox process is something your body does naturally you can support the process by supporting the liver and kidneys, drinking plenty of water, and generally living a healthy lifestyle.
How THC is Metabolized
Whether you inhale or ingest THC makes a big difference to its metabolic pathway and thus the impact it has on the body.
When you smoke cannabis or vaporize, THC directly enters the bloodstream via the lungs. Blood travels around the body and THC molecules pass the blood-brain barrier attaching to cannabinoid receptors in the brain getting you ‘high’.
On its journey around the body blood also passes through the liver, here the delta-THC is metabolized into THC-COOH and 11-OH-THC which returns to the bloodstream.
This process means than when you inhale cannabis the delta-THC concentration in your blood peaks quickly, around 10 minutes, and then falls rapidly as your body starts to metabolize it.
When you ingest cannabis delta THC enters the blood through the stomach and intestinal walls. The blood then passes through the liver before it gets to the heart and the rest of the body (brain) meaning that although absorption of THC is very efficient most of the delta-THC has already been metabolized before it gets to the brain.
THC is also highly fat-soluble meaning that much of it gets taken up by fat cells and is slowly released back into the body which increases the amount of time it takes your body to detoxify after consumption.
Cannabis metabolites are excreted in the faeces and urine. THC-COOH is predominant in urine samples and 11-OH-THC in Faeces samples.
Understanding the bodies natural detoxification process can help you support your body in getting weed out of your system.
The most common reason for wanting to remove THC from your system is because you have been informed you are likely to have a drugs test.
Drug Testing for Marijuana Use
THC and its metabolites are detectable through a variety of tests and evidence of marijuana smoking can remain in your system long after the perceivable effects have worn off. Metabolites are the by-product of your body clearing the THC out of your system. In the case of THC, one of the metabolites produced is THC-COOH, and this is often what is being tested for, especially in urine testing.
As mentioned above, unlike alcohol and many other drugs, both THC and it’s metabolites are highly fat-soluble. This means it gets stored in fat tissue and slowly released back into the system to be processed and eliminated. Therefore, depending on the test used and the biological sample collected, marijuana use can be detected for a significant period of time.
If you are trying to get weed out of your system it makes sense to know the different types of drug tests, how they work and what they are testing for.
A breath test can detect THC in the breath for 2-3 hours after smoking, and corresponds to the period of feeling high after ingesting marijuana as this is the time where there are high levels of THC in the blood.
Breath tests are most accurate for determining whether someone is under the influence as obviously any impairments caused by smoking do not last for months.
Oral Fluids (Saliva Testing)
THC can generally be detected in oral fluids for up to 24-48 hours. Saliva testing may be used by the police for roadside tests.
Blood tests can detect THC in the blood for around 3 week, due to the fact that the body stores THC in fat cells and then slowly releases them back into the body over time. Exercise and certain detox products can speed up the release of THC back into the bloodstream thus elevating the amount of THC in the blood and making a positive test more likely.
The most common drug test that most people will undergo is a workplace drug test that involves urinalysis (testing your urine) for metabolites. A urine test has a detection window for marijuana of approximately 30 days.
Hair testing is less common but does happen at some workplaces and may be required for some job screening. Hair tests have the longest detection window and can detect cannabis use from up to three months ago. Short of getting rid of all body hair there isn’t much you can do about this.
As with a urine test hair tests are looking for metabolites rather than active THC.
Evidence of marijuana use remain in your system long after the effects of cannabis have worn off.
There are many reasons for cannabis users to wish to cleanse the body of THC metabolites, the most common of which is a drug test coming up.
Marijuana detoxing is a natural process that the body undertakes. The first thing you have to do is to abstain from marijuana. The half-life of THC metabolites is 7 days, meaning that every seven days the amount that is present in your system will fall by 50%, assuming of course that you don’t add more during that time. If you do this and maintain a healthy lifestyle your body will naturally detox in a few weeks depending on how heavy a user you were and a few other factors.
Factors that affect detection times
How often you consume
The more frequently you consume and the more you consume the more THC and its metabolites will build up in the body.
Urine test studies have shown that for someone smoking for the first time or infrequent users cannabis can be detected for about 3 days, if you consume regularly, up to 3 or 4 times a week that goes up to 5-7 days and for heavy users (daily users) and chronic users that can go up to 30 days.
What you consume
Just as it makes a difference whether you have a single puff on a joint or a number of joints, it makes a difference what you are smoking. Different strains of cannabis have different levels of THC and the levels also vary between flowers and concentrate.
Cannabis strains that are specifically grown for medical marijuana tend to have lower levels of THC.
Need a medical marijuana card? We can offer quick service and you can have your recommendation letter today.
Total body fat
THC and THC-COOH are both fat-soluble and get stored in fat cells. As a result, if you have more body fat more THC and THC-COOH get stored there.
Your Overall Health and Metabolism
The better your overall health and metabolism the better your body is at processing toxins and excreting them from the body.
Naturally detoxing your system will happen in 4-6 weeks for a normal healthy person with a good diet and plenty of water and exercise. The better your metabolism, lower your body fat and lower your water retention the faster this will happen.
You can speed up this process with detoxification products. There are many detox kits and products that can support your body for faster detox and you may be able to rid your body of THC and it’s metabolites in under a week.
These make use of herbal supplements to cleanse the body.
There are even same day cleansers that target the urinary system to enable you to pass a urine test for a short period of time in around 24 hours by flushing your urinary tract of metabolites.
If you use cannabis for medicinal purposes you might be looking for a medical card? Medical marijuana strains often contain lower levels of THC and so are less likely to make you fail a drugs test.