Ever wondered why all the world’s most well known and tolerated drugs only produce their effects for so long? One of the ways scientists measure this phenomenon within marijuana strains and other drugs are using the tool known as a biological half life. Well, marijuana has several, with each cannabinoid available in the plant expressing an individual half life, each a bit different from the next.
Caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, and nearly every drug, medical or otherwise,are limited in the duration they are biologically active. As effective as we humans are at consuming resources, we are enduringly fantastic at using them up and making waste of them. In the process, we sap all the nutrients and other necessary chemical compounds from our foods and environment. Drugs are themselves biologically active chemical compounds capable of altering how you view and engage with the world. In some cases, however, drugs are capable of confusing fundamental neurological processes, leading to complex and prolonged health issues.
Luckily, research suggests cannabinoids may act as neuroprotective agents.
The modern sciences allow us to research, test, and measure exactly how quickly a substance enters the bloodstream and how long it stays there. The scientific community has a term for the rate at which a substance becomes half as biologically active (half as able to express its effects on the mind and body) the “half life.” The half life of marijuana, therefore, is useful for researchers, health professionals, policy experts, government officials, and you – the presumed marijuana consumer.
Half-Life vs Effect
It is important to clarify that the half life of marijuana does not directly relate to the duration the user spends “high.” To put this into context, it is commonly understood that smoking marijuana is a different experience than eating marijuana. Let’s say in both situations 50 mg of THC was consumed. The person who smoked the marijuana may experience the high more rapidly, a result of direct absorption into the bloodstream via the lungs, as opposed to the user who eats a cookie. The process of breaking down and absorbing the THC via the digestive system takes more time, producing delayed effects which commonly last longer than smoked marijuana.
While each of these two experiences may have different durations wherein the effects are experienced, the process of storage and removal from the body remains unchanged. Therefore, the half life of marijuana is not the same thing as how long you can expect to be high.
THC and Its Metabolites
THC produces two metabolites which can be tested for in both urine and blood samples. Like THC and many of the other cannabinoids found in marijuana, these metabolites are highly lipid soluble, meaning they are more likely to be stored in fat in the body. As you may have heard, some people have a difficult time burning fat, allowing cannabinoids such as the THC found in marijuana to have a half life lasting several days to nearly two weeks. In cases of long, heavy marijuana use, a half life of over a month is possible.
Researchers in 2007 we able to show THC has a half life of just over four (4) days in non-frequent users. Frequent users of marijuana who were able to abstain for a month had a half life of between nine (9) and twelve (12) days. If nothing else, this illuminates just how easily cannabinoids can build up in the fat (aka lipids) of its users, showing how variable the half life of marijuana is along the way.
CBD: A Slightly Different Story
Though CBD is similarly lipid soluble, research suggests CBD may be more quickly eliminated than THC from the body. As a result, CBD taken orally has been shown to have a half life of between 1-2 days, but this can vary based on the frequency and duration for which it’s been consumed.
Planning a Detox? Let the Half Life Help!
Knowing how long the half life of marijuana can help you plan a detox specific to your consumption habits. Whether the detox is for personal reasons, court ordered, or for an employer, the half life is fundamental in understanding ways to maximize your detox efforts.
Unlike alcohol, caffeine, opiates, and a majority of all other drug categories, cannabinoids attach to and are stored with lipids, also known as fats. This is why most other drugs can only be found in the blood or urine for 3-5 days, a week at most, yet cannabis is found sometimes over a month after the last use.
If you are detoxing for drug-testing purposes, the half life of marijuana can help you identify the period of time you will need to detox before most, if not all, of the cannabinoids or their related metabolites, are eliminated from your system.
A half life is an interval measuring the availability of a substance. It works like this:
- 1st half life – 50% of the drug has been eliminated from the body.
- 2nd half life – 50% of the remaining half is eliminated from the body, leaving only 25% of the chemical compound.
- 3rd half life – 50% of the remaining ¼ is eliminated from the body, leaving only 12.5% of the original substance
- Repeat until fully eliminated.
If the half life of marijuana is correlated to a person’s consumption, with an average 9-12 day half life for heavy users, an individual could expect to need to detox for roughly a month before having to take a drug test. And for infrequent users, between a week and two would likely obliterate all traces of use.
Article by: Joey Wells