How long does marijuana stay in your system? You might ask this question if you have to take a drug test or you’re facing a similar situation. Odds are if you are thinking about this question at all, your relationship with marijuana might be problematic.
In general, marijuana might be detected in bodily fluids for anywhere from one to 30 days after you use it. Factors that affect how long marijuana stays in your system include how often you use it, the dose you use, and the type of test. Marijuana can show up in a hair follicle test for up to 90 days, which is true of most other substances.
An Overview of Marijuana
Marijuana is a psychoactive drug that goes by many other names, including weed, pot, grass, bud Mary Jane, and more. Regardless of the slang name, marijuana comes from the Cannabis sativa plant. People can use marijuana in many ways, including smoking it, eating it, and brewing it into tea.
The primary psychoactive chemical in marijuana is THC. Psychoactive means mind-altering. There are also more than 500 other chemicals in marijuana aside from THC and more than 100 compounds chemically related to THC. The compounds associated with THC are known as cannabinoids.
- For marijuana users, THC and other chemicals move from the body to the brain—many people who use the drug experience a pleasant or euphoric high, as with other illicit drugs.
- Other effects of THC include altered perception of time, increases in appetite, and heightened sensory perception of distorted senses.
- If someone takes marijuana in food or drinks, the effects take longer than if you smoke it. It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to feel the effects of marijuana when it’s in food since it has to go through the digestive system first.
- While some people experience pleasant feelings with marijuana use, that’s not always true. Negative effects such as anxiety, panic, or fear can occur for other people.
- Physical symptoms like stomach pain or nausea can occur.
- Large doses of marijuana may trigger acute psychosis or mental health disorders. According to the American Psychiatric Association, symptoms of acute psychosis include hallucinations and delusions.
- Someone with underlying mental health conditions like bipolar disorder may experience worse symptoms with the effects of cannabis.
- The effects of marijuana use that are noticeable will typically last for one to three hours. When consuming it in food, the effects may last longer—often for many hours.
How Long Does it Take Your Body to Metabolize Marijuana?
When you use marijuana, the THC then enters your body, where the bloodstream absorbs it. THC is temporarily stored in your fatty tissues and organs. In your kidneys, THC can reabsorb into the bloodstream.
The liver breaks down THC, and it has more than 80 metabolites that can come from this liver breakdown.
Drug tests look for metabolites left behind by THC after your body breaks it down. Cannabis metabolites stay in your body longer than the actual THC, which is why a drug test may be positive even if you no longer feel the effects. Eventually, the THC metabolites are excreted via urine and stool.
Everyone is different in how quickly or slowly their body breaks down substances like marijuana.
Some of the things that could influence your body’s metabolism of marijuana include:
- Frequency of use: The amount of time marijuana stays in the body is influenced by how often someone uses it, how much, and how long they’ve been using it. For example, there are reports of people who regularly use marijuana having positive drug test results up to 45 days after their last use. People who use more heavily even see positive test results up to 90 days after stopping. If you use marijuana several times per week, the likelihood of a positive drug test can remain after days of abstinence.
- Sex: Women tend to metabolize THC and other drugs more slowly than men. These differences are often due to women having higher body fat levels than men. Metabolites can stay in fatty tissue for long periods of time, especially infrequent users, more so than occasional users.
- Metabolism: The faster your metabolism, the more quickly marijuana will leave your body. Factors influencing metabolism are your age, your health and certain conditions, and your level of physical activity.
- BMI: Your body mass index or BMI affects how quickly you process and then eliminate marijuana. The more fat cells you have, the more the THC can be stored in your body tissues. If you have more fat or a higher BMI, your body will excrete marijuana more slowly. This is particularly true for regular cannabis users.
- Hydration: If you’re dehydrated, you’ll have higher THC concentrations in your body for an extended period.
- Method of use: If you smoke or vape marijuana, the levels in your body drop faster than if you ingest it. If you use marijuana in edibles, it takes longer for your body to break it down, therefore longer for it to leave your system.
Symptoms of marijuana addiction, with or without dependence, can include continuing to use it despite negative consequences and focusing much of your time and attention on getting and using more. Adolescents with cannabis dependence are more likely to develop other substance use disorders later.
Symptoms of Marijuana Withdrawal
Along with wondering about how long marijuana stays in your system for a drug test, you might also have questions about cannabis withdrawal syndrome. When someone regularly uses a psychoactive and potentially addictive substance, they may experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop. This holds true about possible symptoms of cannabis withdrawal.
We’re increasingly learning from current insights that marijuana may have more of an addiction and physical dependence potential than we once thought. This leads to the question of whether or not you’ll experience marijuana withdrawal.
Some people do experience marijuana withdrawal symptoms, particularly long-term users, which can include:
- Changes in mood and mood swings
- Cognitive impairment or behavioral symptoms
- Flu-like symptoms
- Reduced appetite
- Sleep problems and insomnia
- Problems focusing
- Cravings for marijuana
- Depressed mood
- Stomach problems
- Marijuana cravings
- Abdominal pain
- Worsening symptoms of mental disorders
Marijuana withdrawal symptoms may begin shortly after the last time heavy cannabis users take the drug. For some people, it can take longer for the symptoms to occur.
The longer you use it, the more likely you are to experience marijuana withdrawal at some point. Heavy or chronic users are much more likely to have cannabis withdrawal symptoms than casual or infrequent users. There’s no definitive answer as to whether someone will experience cannabis withdrawal symptoms or what the timeline will look like.
The symptoms aren’t necessarily dangerous, but they’re uncomfortable and difficult to deal with.
When you stop using it, your brain has to adjust to no longer having a supply of THC, which is why withdrawal symptoms can occur.
Half-Life of Marijuana
The half-life of marijuana is a measure of how long it takes your body to metabolize and eliminate half the drug from your bloodstream. Some metabolites of THC have an elimination half-life of 20 hours. Others are stored in body fat and have a half-life of 10 to 13 days.
Around five or six half-lives are required for a substance to be nearly entirely eliminated from your body. That’s why if you use marijuana just once, the metabolites may be present and detectable for up to eight days.
Due to that potentially very long half-life of marijuana, if you experience withdrawal symptoms, they could be somewhat delayed.
How Long Can Marijuana Show Up in a Drug Test?
The type of test can affect how long it’s detectable in someone’s system. For example, in urine tests, if someone uses it only occasionally, it may only show up for a period of time of one to three days after the last use. Blood tests are considered the least reliable and can only detect use for a few hours.
Saliva tests typically detect marijuana use for around 24 hours but can detect it up to 72 hours later.
Hair tests can show use for up to 90 days, even among moderate users. After a period of sustained abstinence, theoretically, a hair test could be used because of these long detection times.
Getting Help for Cannabis Addiction
Whether your questions about how long marijuana stays in your system relates to marijuana withdrawal, a drug test, or perhaps a combination of factors, it can linger for a long time in your body.
Tests for marijuana don’t evaluate whether the drug currently impairs you. Instead, they look for the presence of THC and its metabolites, so the effects of the drug on your mental state may be long gone, but you could still test positive.