How long does cannabis stay in the body? Factors and estimated duration

Cannabis is known for its psychoactive effects, but what many people don’t know is that some of its components remain in our system for some time. After the effects of cannabis wear off, there is still an imprint left in our body.

This is because cannabinoids and their metabolites remain detectable in our body for a while.

What is the pathway of cannabis in the body?

When consuming cannabis, the main psychoactive component (THC) enters our system through the lungs when we smoke or vape.

From the lungs, THC reaches the heart and is distributed throughout the body via the bloodstream. Once in the body, THC binds to CB1 and CB2 receptors, which are found in the brain, certain organs and the central nervous system.

When THC passes through the liver, it is broken down into metabolites. The most sought-after metabolite in drug testing is 11-nor-9-carboxy-THC, also known as THC-COOH. This inactive metabolite is stored in fat and is gradually eliminated from the body through urine and feces.

What factors determine how long cannabis lasts in the system?

There are several factors that affect the amount of time THC and its metabolites remain in the body. These factors are as follows:

Dosage

The more THC you consume, the longer it will take for your body to break it down and eliminate its metabolites. The amount of THC consumed varies according to the strain of cannabis and the concentration used in the product, and the way it is consumed also plays a role.

Regularity of use

The frequency with which cannabis is consumed is another factor that affects the amount of time its compounds will remain in the body.

If you are a chronic user, then you will be more likely to have detectable metabolites in your system for longer periods of time compared to occasional users.

Genetics

Each person’s genetics also play a role in how long cannabis stays in the body.

Some people inherit variants of enzymes that are responsible for breaking down THC in the body, making it easier to eliminate through urine.

Fat

The amount of fat in the body is also a factor capable of influencing the duration of cannabis in the body. THC-COOH is fat-soluble and tends to bind to fat molecules, where it is stored for a longer period of time.

Metabolism

An accelerated metabolism has the ability to break down cannabinoids at a faster rate, which shortens the time in which THC and its metabolites are detectable in the body.

How long does cannabis last in the system?

Although there is no exact measurement for the amount of time cannabis can remain in the body.

Depending on where the cannabis is detected, the duration can change drastically:

Duration of cannabis in the blood

After smoking cannabis, active THC reaches the blood within seconds and remains detectable in the blood plasma for several hours.

The plasma THC concentration peaks between 3 and 8 minutes after inhalation and then declines rapidly. According to research, THC remains present in the blood for approximately 5 hours.

However, the metabolite THC-COOH can be detected in the bloodstream for at least an average of 25 days. This means that, although active THC disappears quickly from the blood, THC metabolites can be found in the body weeks after consuming any cannabis product.

Duration of cannabis in urine

Urine tests are the most common method of detecting cannabis use. These tests use a cutoff THC-COOH concentration of 50 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). According to a 2005 report, THC detection times rarely exceed 30 days.

It is estimated that a chronic cannabis user typically has detectable metabolites in urine for up to 10 days after the most recent use, using the recommended cut-off point concentration of 50 ng/mL. But, chronic users have detectable metabolites for up to 21 days or more using a lower, more sensitive cut-off point.

For occasional users, THC metabolites are unlikely to be detectable in urine after seven days, even with a stricter cutoff concentration point of 20 ng/mL.

Conclusion

It is a fact that cannabis can remain in the body for different periods of time, depending on the method of consumption, regularity of use, genetics, amount of fat in the body, and each individual’s metabolism.

It is crucial to take each of these factors into account when determining how long cannabis will remain in the body.