How to Navigate Cannabis Detection Times

drug test strips and marijuana nug

When you're taking a drug test, it's important to know what you're getting yourself and your body into. Having all the information can help you make informed decisions before getting tested, and your test results could have a big impact on your life.

After consuming marijuana, there are several variables at play when you take a lab screen. Cannabis detection times vary, especially if your body hasn't gone through any sort of detox or marijuana cleanse.

Lab Testing: Looking for THC Metabolites

marijuana plant growing out of the ground

Lab tests, while sometimes inconvenient, are a part of life. There are various types, including urine, hair, saliva, and blood, which test particles of the body for traces of cannabis.

Drug tests look specifically for the metabolites of the active ingredient in marijuana, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). When cannabis enters a consumer's body, THC follows nearly immediately, depending on the consumption method. For example, THC enters the bloodstream rapidly after smoking marijuana, while there's a slight delay when the herb is eaten and has to be absorbed into the blood via the digestive track.

THC, which is also the psychoactive agent in cannabis, is typically detectable in the blood for a few hours; it is quickly broken down and metabolized over the next three to 34 hours, resulting in THC metabolites. THC metabolites are gradually eliminated from the body over time – through the body's natural detox functions, such as sweat, urine, and feces. It is a longer process, since the metabolites are stored in fat cells throughout the body.

Lab tests look for these THC metabolites because they are the lingering signal of cannabis consumption and can stay in the body for several days, depending on quantities and regularities of consumption. Though dependent on individual characteristics, 20 percent of THC metabolites are excreted in urine, 65 percent in feces, and 15 percent through sweat.

Go-to test: Urinalysis

urine test for marijuana

Each of the lab testing methods have their pitfalls. For example, marijuana only stays in the bloodstream for a limited amount of time, so a blood test isn't considered the most accurate. Saliva has its own set of issues, too, since it's limited to those who have consumed marijuana by smoking or ingesting, ignoring other methods.

Urine lab tests, also known as urinalysis, are the most common and accurate drug tests. They also have the longest cannabis detection times. The urine test looks specifically for THC's main metabolite, called 11-nor-delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol-9-carboxylic acid.

Cannabis Detection Times

man holding a marijuana joint and smoking it

While some THC metabolites have a half-life of 20 to 24 hours, most won't be released from the body's fatty tissues for some time – between 15 and 30 days. According to Very Well Mind, it takes around five or six half-lives for a substance to be completely eliminated.

Because of this, cannabis detection times vary, though are heavily influenced by the rate of consumption.

The Mayo Medical Laboratories has reported that single use translates into a detection time up to three days; moderate use (four times a week) up to five days of detection time; heavy (daily) use increases detection time to 10 days; and chronic heavy use (multiples times a day) increases cannabis detection time up to 30 days.

Other Factors Affecting Cannabis Detection Times

marijuana oreos and mini chocolate chip cookies

There are other factors that affect how long cannabis is detected within the body, including how its used, how often, general health, and hydration.

Type of Consumption
How marijuana is consumed has an affect on how long it can be detected in the body by a drug test. Research has shown that cannabis that has been eaten is more likely to stay in your system longer than if it was smoked.

Dose and Frequency
How much you consume and how often you do it are both important factors that go into drug tests. The consensus is that the higher the dose and the more frequent the use results in THC metabolites lasting in your body for longer amounts of time, essentially taking your metabolism a longer time to break them down and eliminate them.

General Health
The makeup of a person matters when it comes to cannabis detection times, it has less to do with marijuana and everything to do with how the body both processes and metabolizes it. If a body has a quick metabolism, there's a good chance that the cannabis detection time will be less. So, things like age, gender, and body mass index are all related, and can produce varying results on lab tests.

Hydration and Dilution
Drinking water has many benefits, including the possibility of shortening cannabis detection times. When consumers drink lots of water, they are helping their body to flush their systems. This is also helping the metabolism work at a faster rate, which further helps to eliminate those lingering THC metabolites. Combined with a marijuana detox, it's possible to flush the system at a faster rate.

Better Safe Than Sorry

When it comes to drug tests, it's better to be safe than sorry. Knowledge is power, so learning about cannabis detection times is important, especially if you know when your next test is scheduled.

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