Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is not a new name for people who are fans of Cannabis. It is because of the psychoactive effects of THC that people can get high and relaxed like no other.
However, it’s interesting to see how long THC can stay in the system and get detected. Let’s find out together, shall we?
The Metabolism Of THC
As it is already known when a person consumes THC through any means – be it gummies, oils, tinctures, or vapes, THC enters inside our bodies.
Once inhaled or ingested, THC can enter the bloodstream easily. This happens by means of absorption in the body. Once THC has been absorbed, it interacts with the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) and its receptors, mainly CB1 and CB2.
This interaction helps THC in exerting its benefits and properties for which it was consumed in the first place.
As soon as THC reaches its desired areas, it starts exerting its effects. However, when it reaches the liver, a number of enzymes act upon it, hydrolyze it, and finally, change it to ‘11-hydroxy-THC’, which is an activated metabolite of THC itself.
This ‘11-hydroxy-THC’ is considered to be the most potent form of THC. It has some of the strongest psychoactive properties and effects of THC. There are other metabolites of THC as well that get activated from here onwards.
Ultimately, THC and all its metabolites get eliminated from the body through urine and feces. The time that it takes to get eliminated varies from person to person. However, generally, it takes about a few days to a few weeks.
Factors Influencing THC Retention
It is clear that the elimination of THC and its active metabolites from the body takes time. It also depends from person to person on how fast their bodies have been metabolizing THC and how fast it takes for them to clear the body from THC and its metabolites.
There are a couple of other factors as well that are involved in the retention of THC within the body, and a few of them have been listed here:
Frequency Of Use
For people who are habitual users of THC or use it more frequently than other users, it is common for the THC to stay in their bodies for longer than the normal duration.
In such people, THC levels may be detected for several days to weeks after they have last consumed THC.
Method Of Consumption
Surprisingly enough, the mode of consumption of THC also affects its retention in the body.
It was generally seen that smoking or vaporizing THC leads to a faster rate of clearance of THC from the body, whereas ingesting it leads to slower absorption and metabolic rate, thus making it longer for the THC to be cleared from the body.
THC is a lipophilic molecule. Because of this, it gets stored in the body’s fat cells. Thus, people with more body fat will retain THC for longer periods of time. Whereas people with lesser body fat will retain it for shorter periods.
Detection Times Based On Testing Methods
Just like there are several factors that affect the retention of THC in the human body, there are several ways of testing these levels too.
These different testing methods are popularly employed for detecting the levels of THC in the human body. Here is a list of all such tests along with their approximated detection times.
Urine Test (Urinalysis)
THC levels could be easily detected in the urine for 1 to 3 days after its single use. However, when people use it frequently, THC levels are seen to be detected in the urine for about 30 days or more, depending upon several other secondary factors as well, such as metabolism, body weight, etc.
Since THC in the bloodstream is rapidly taken up by the target organs, therefore, THC is detectable in the bloodstream for a much shorter duration. It was seen to be influenced greatly by the mode of consumption too.
For smokers, THC was detectable for up to 6 hours, whereas for people who ingested it, THC was detectable in their bloodstream for up to 12 hours.
Saliva Test (Oral Fluid Test)
Depending upon the frequency and the quantity of THC that has been used, THC could be detected in the saliva for up to 72 hours of consumption in any form.
Sweat tests or ‘patch tests’ are rarely employed for the detection of THC nowadays. However, they are able to detect THC levels for several days to weeks after consumption.
Other uncommonly used THC detection tests include the hair follicle test and nail test.
The Role Of Frequency And Dosage
There are several factors, irrespective of the fact whether big or small, that are seen to play their role in the metabolism of THC.
Among these factors, the most important ones are the dosage and frequency of THC. These factors guide the retention of THC within the system and also its excretion after some time.
Frequency Of THC Usage
When a person is new to using THC or uses it infrequently, the body rapidly metabolizes it. This is because there is no more influx of THC in such people. Therefore, the previously consumed one gets metabolized as soon as possible.
In contrast, when people are regular users or use it chronically, THC tends to accumulate in the body of a person. This ultimately lengthens the metabolic process of THC, which further leads to a slower excretion time from the body.
In chronic users, THC was also seen to get stored in the fat cells, which leads to an even longer duration for it to get excreted.
Dosage Of THC
The relation between the dosage of THC consumed and its consequent metabolism is pretty simple. The lower the dosage of THC, the easier it is for it to get metabolized and excreted from the body.
Whereas, higher doses of THC could lead to a slower metabolic rate, and therefore, a slower excretion from the body.
Clearing THC From The System: Myths Vs. Reality
Whenever something around us seems to get popular, there are certain myths that arise in relation to it.
Whether these myths are simply a result of misunderstanding about the product or are related to badmouthing it, there is a strong need for the experts to debunk them and provide accurate information to others. This creates awareness and guidance for the people who use it.
Here are a few myths that arise in relation to THC and its usage:
- Myth 1: Drinking Lots Of Water Will Rapidly Flush THC From Your Body
- Reality: While drinking lots of water might only result in putting excessive pressure on your bladder, it might not clear THC that easily from your system. It could only result in diluting THC metabolites, but would not eliminate them from your system.
- Myth 2: For Passing A Drug Test, It Is Best To Abstain From THC For A Few Days.
- Reality: Although abstaining from THC would lead to no new THC entering your body, it would do no good to the amount of THC or its metabolites that are already present in your body and require a proper process to get eliminated.
- Myth 3: Sitting In A Sauna Can Help Flush Out THC From The Body.
- Reality: Although sweating promotes excess fluid to leave the body, it does not in any way affect THC or its metabolism.
So, to conclude, THC is a psychoactive compound with several benefits for everyone. However, it has an extensive metabolic process that could take several days to weeks to get eliminated from the body of a person.
This metabolism depends on several factors, including the frequency of usage, dosage, and body weight of a person.
This metabolism poses risks for people who are about to get tested as THC may get detected in these tests even if you are not actively consuming it.
Although the presence of THC in the body is not a harmful thing per se, it is quite a controversial matter, especially in the areas where it is not considered legal.
Can Drinking Water Help Flush THC Out Faster?
No, drinking lots of water could only result in over-hydrating you. It would have no significant effect on flushing THC out of the system. Rather, it would just dilute it from its concentrated form. Moreover, drinking too much water could also result in water intoxication, which is a harmful effect.
How Long After A Single Use Can THC Be Detected?
Depending upon the mode in which THC was consumed, it depends on how long it could remain in your system and get detected.
However, on average, THC is usually seen to remain in the system and get detected for a few days to a few weeks generally. Some factors such as body weight and frequency of usage alter this duration.
Does Body Fat Really Influence How Long THC Stays In The System?
Yes, body fat indeed plays a significant role in the metabolism of THC. It is the fat cells that store THC.
So, for people who have more body weight, THC tends to get retained in the body’s fat cells for longer than usual. In contrast, people with lesser body weight do not retain too much THC, and thus, are seen to have faster metabolic rates.