How Long Does THC Stay in Your System?

If you are concerned by how long the psychoactive compound in marijuana, THC, stays in your system, it is likely that you are either facing an employee drug test or are concerned about taking one at some point. Depending on the state you reside in, testing positive for THC could be grounds for dismissal.

In California for example, you can be fired if you test positive for THC in a urine test, even if you used marijuana on your day off! This is despite the fact that marijuana is legal for recreational use in the state. As a result, it is crucial for marijuana users to gain an understanding of how long weed, particularly THC, stays in their system.

How Weed Impacts Your System

THC enters your bloodstream almost immediately after smoking marijuana, but it takes a little longer if you use edibles. The ‘high’ you experience, which can affect your mood, coordination, and memory, usually lasts for a few hours, although there can be lingering effects for up to 24 hours.

You don’t remain ‘high’ for long because the body processes all the psychoactive cannabinoids you consume. However, metabolites are a result of this process, and they remain in the fatty tissue for days or even weeks. While they are inactive, they are a clear sign of marijuana use. THC’s waste metabolite is called THC-COOH, and that is what shows up on drug tests.

How Long Does THC Remain in my System?

The short answer is that it depends. It stands to reason that it will take longer for a heavy user’s system to be clear than someone who uses weed occasionally. This is also assuming that the person in question abstains from marijuana during the entire time frame. Generally speaking, there are four methods of testing for THC:

How Long Does Marijuana Stay in Urine?

Urinalysis is by far the most common form of drug test so it is the one that marijuana users should be most concerned about. As I mentioned above, the time it takes to be ‘clean’ depends on your level of usage. As far as THC-COOH in urine is concerned, here is how long it takes to get rid of it naturally:
One-time use: 5-8 days.
2-4 times a week: Up to 18 days.
5+ times in a week: Up to 48 days
Daily use for 50+ days: Up to 77 days.

As you can see, chronic users need to be clean for 11 weeks before they have a chance of passing a drug test! If you have a drug test around the corner and know that failure is inevitable, it is natural to panic and waste money on foolish items that claim to ‘detox’ you. Idiotic tactics include drinking bleach; an act more likely to send you to the morgue than help you keep your job!

The majority of ‘successful’ methods are based on anecdotal tales from users who claimed to have passed a urine test. There are a host of ‘detox drinks’ on the market which also involve drinking liters of water before the test. The problem with trying to detox with water only is that the test will pick up if you have diluted your urine. The best drinks on the market contain vitamins and minerals to help keep your urine yellowish. Regardless of what proponents say, these pills and drinks are very much ‘hit and miss.’

For the record, you are adjudged to have failed the urinalysis if your urine’s THC-COOH level is at or above 50 ng/mL in most cases.

How Long Does THC Stay in my Blood?

Blood testing is ineffective unless the person in question is caught soon after consuming marijuana. Occasionally, police officers may request a blood test from a driver suspected of driving under the influence of weed. Otherwise, it is not a method often used by companies to test employees.

THC-COOH doesn’t stay in the blood long because the cannabinoid THC prefers to find a fatty location to reside. When you smoke weed, THC (and other cannabinoids) travel through your lungs to get to the bloodstream. When you eat weed, the process happens via the stomach. Once the compounds reach your blood, it is rapidly broken down, which is why signs of marijuana use in your blood don’t remain for long.

Here’s how long it takes for THC-COOH to leave your blood:
Single use: 24-48 hours.
Frequent use: 72-96 hours.
Daily use: Up to a week.

How Long Does THC Stay in my Saliva?

As is the case with blood, THC doesn’t stay long in saliva so once again; companies seldom bother with saliva tests. It is a handy method of checking for intoxication if you’re a police officer, however. If you smoke marijuana, THC coats the inside of the mouth and is soaked up by your saliva glands. If you eat weed, the effect is less pronounced, although THC is still present.
Overall, relatively small quantities of THC lodged in the mouth make it to the bloodstream. Instead, it remains in the saliva until you swallow enough of it to test ‘negative’ for a saliva test. If, for some reason, your employer wants to perform a saliva test, drink plenty of water, eat fatty foods and brush your teeth.

Here’s how long it takes THC-COOH to leave your saliva:
· Single use: Up to 24 hours.
· Frequent use: Up to 3 days.
· Daily use: Up to a week.

How Long Does THC Stay in my Hair?

Evidence of marijuana use stays in the hair longer than anywhere else. It has been suggested that hair follicles could carry proof of weed consumption that occurred years ago! There are a lot of myths surrounding follicle tests. For example, it has been claimed that drug testers cut off the tips of your hair. However, that would be an extremely ineffective approach. In reality, inspectors take hair from its root, and they usually test 1.5 inches’ worth if possible.

On average, your hair will grow half an inch in a month, so it takes three months of growth to accumulate the 1.5 inches used in testing. If your hair is a foot long, a tester could theoretically test it all and find evidence of cannabis use from two years ago. In other words, evidence of weed use remains in the hair for as long as you let it grow. If you shave it all off, there is nothing to be worried about, although your employer may get suspicious!

Final Thoughts on How Long THC Stays in Your System

With an increasing number of Americans admitting to cannabis consumption, one would hope that employers will see sense and stop penalizing or firing staff if they test positive for weed. Alas, it is still not the case in several states, so if you have a drug test looming, it is likely to be a urinalysis.

In this case, there is no way you will be clean naturally if the test is only a few days away. As a result, you have to try and remove it from your system. Detox drinks can be effective, but as long as you drink lots of water and consume vitamins to keep your urine looking natural, you may have a chance. Laxatives could also be useful since most THC is expelled from your system via fecal matter.


Drug Test Cut-Off Level by Test Type

How Long Does Weed Stay In Your System?