Marijuana is one of the most popular drugs in the U.S., with as many as 12% of the population currently using the drug. Marijuana is also regarded as safe, with more than half of survey results suggesting the average person is strongly in favor of legalization. But, while medical marijuana is legal in 33 states and recreational is legal in 3 states, the drug is still banned at a federal level. That’s important, considering the drug contributes to 200,000+ hospital visits each year and is the second-most frequently-found substance in victims of car accidents (after alcohol). Marijuana is still a drug, and it does affect motor controls, cognitive ability, and response time. Some users also experience marijuana use disorder. As a result, many workplaces frown on its use and many will regularly test for usage.
If you or a loved one is facing a drug test at work, school, or anywhere else, you might want to know how long marijuana stays in your system? If you are using, especially if you have done so frequently, it’s advisable to seek out help and go into medical care before the drug test. If you test positive for a drug at work, your job, career, or licensing may be at risk. If you go into rehab first and get treatment, you are protected under the ACA and FMLA. If you are facing testing, you likely want to know how marijuana shows up on a drug test and how long it will show up.
Marijuana Action and Reaction
Marijuana is ingested, smoked, and sometimes applied topically. This affects the duration of action change depending on usage, but this doesn’t affect the drug’s half-life and therefore it does not affect how long the drug can be detected in your blood.
Marijuana is typically smoked or vaped, which results in an average high of about 1-2 hours. However, the strength and results of this high can vary considerably depending on factors like strain, the age and preservation of the flower, and other factors. In most cases, the important element is how much active ingredient (typically THC or CBD) is found in the drug. A larger amount of active ingredient may also result in a longer half-life, if it contributes to accumulation in the blood.
- Smoking or vaporization – 1-2 hours
- Oral ingestion –4-12 hours
- Oil or tincture – 0.5-2 hours
If someone were to take a drug test while actively high, the concentration of THC or cannabidiols in the blood would be very high.
Half-life measures the time between when a drug enters a system and when it is broken down to half in the system. Cannabis has a very long half-life of about 67 hours. This means it takes about 5 and a half days for the chemical composition to reach half the volume of the original dose in the body. However, THC and CBD are highly fat-soluble, which means they are retained in fat cells, which is significantly harder to test for than for drugs in the blood stream. A half-life of 67 hours also means that marijuana can take weeks to fully break down in the human body. During this process, THC breaks down into more than 80 metabolites, many of which are also tested for on drug tests.
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Marijuana Drug Test Results
Marijuana drug tests use different methods to test for marijuana and its metabolites (substances marijuana breaks down into). In most cases, drug tests will look for active THC in the body, which is the easiest to test for.
Blood testing is an unreliable method of testing for cannabis use. Marijuana shows up in the bloodstream within seconds of inhalation (smoking) and typically remains there for 1-25 days. Most users will test positive for the first 1-2 days and testing positive for longer than 2 days is rare.
Saliva tests are one of the most common work-drug tests because they are easy, fast, and affordable. Saliva tests use a cheek swab to collect saliva and cells from the cheeks, where it will remain for 1-30+ days. Saliva tests only show positive for smoked (or vaped) or orally ingested cannabis. However, results will depend on how frequently the individual consumes cannabis.
- Light users – 1-3 days
- Heavy users – 1-30 days
Urine is considered to be one of the most reliable drug tests for most types of drugs. This is especially true of THC, which is frequently stored in fatty deposits in the liver and kidneys, where it will appear in urine samples for up to 30 days. These results are also heavily affected by how frequently the individual consumes the drug.
- 1-3 times per week = 3 days
- 4-5 times per week = 5-7 days
- Daily users = 10-15 days
- Heavy users = 30 days
These results will, of course, vary depending on metabolism, body, and other factors.
Hair and nail tests are typically not used as a first drug test option but they may be. Hair and nails retain trace amounts of drugs for 30-90 days after use. Individuals with very long hair, especially frequent and heavy users, may retain traces of the drug for significantly longer.
What Influences How Long Marijuana Stays in Your System?
Several factors will influence how long marijuana stays in your system. This is important because it will affect drug test results. One person might show positive after a week after just one use and another might show negative after heavy use and only a few days abstinence.
Marijuana will break down at different rates depending on the metabolism, activity of the user, and genetics. Other factors include body fat percentage and liver/kidney health. THC stores in fat, so a person with a higher percentage of body fat will show positive on test results for significantly longer than someone who is very lean.
Different drug tests have different levels of sensitivity. However, this is typically dependent on the lab running the tests and is usually reflected in what the corporation is paying for the test.
Higher volumes of usage result in a process known as accumulation, where chemicals build up in the body and take longer to break down. This applies to THC and its metabolites. Factors that affect accumulation include the pattern of usage, body metabolism, marijuana strain, etc.
The median person will have drug-test results following the times listed above.
Getting Help for Marijuana Abuse
If you or a loved one is struggling with marijuana abuse, there is help available. Marijuana may be widely regarded as a safe and sometimes necessary drug, but it is still a drug. Prescription drugs like opioids, benzodiazepines, and Ambien are all frequently abused. Marijuana is no different. Marijuana use disorder affects an estimated 25% of daily users, resulting in damage to health, career and job prospects, and long-term finances. It’s also important to note that there are negative long term effects of marijuana, and these need to be considered as well.
If someone comes up positive on a drug screen for marijuana use, they are also likely to face repercussions such as losing their job, license, or career. If you are in this position, it’s important to seek out help first. You are legally entitled to receive medical care including drug detox, substance abuse treatment, and therapy for marijuana use disorder, you can get help from your insurance, and you can request medical leave without informing your workplace about why.
Marijuana is increasingly popular but that doesn’t mean it can’t negatively affect you or your health. If you’re struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, get help before it’s too late. Please contact South Coast Counselling at 1-844-330-0096 and speak with one of our experienced treatment advisors today in complete confidence.