How Long Marijuana Stays in Your Body
Do you want to know how long marijuana stays in your body?” Let’s take a look at what marijuana is, how long marijuana stays in your body, and how it affects your body.
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), marijuana use can be linked to poor physical and mental health, as well as relationship problems. A person who frequently uses large amounts also tends to report less academic and career success. 1
Employers can be concerned about marijuana use because it can lead to accidents, injuries, and work absences. New employees facing a drug test want to know how long marijuana stays in your body so that they can get clean before the test. Marijuana addiction can also require treatment to get sober.
What is Marijuana?
Marijuana comes from the cannabis sativa or cannabis indica plant, referring to its leaves, flowers, stems, or seeds.
The cannabis plant contains the mind-altering chemical THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). It is also possible to make extracts from the cannabis plant. Some statistics on cannabis are:
You can test positive for cannabis between 2-90 days from your last use
It is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States
Use of cannabis is widespread among young people
Cannabis use increased for many years then dropped or leveled off recently
The number of young people who think regular cannabis use is risky is decreasing
Legalization of cannabis for medical or recreational use affects views of risk
For those aged 18-25, more than 11 million Americans have used cannabis in 2015
For those aged 12 and older, about 26 million Americans used cannabis in 20172
How Does Marijuana Work in the Body?
Marijuana has short-term and long-term effects on the brain and body. Remember that the plant contains the mind-altering chemical THC. When marijuana is smoked, THC passes into the bloodstream from the lungs quickly.
Blood carries the THC to the brain and other organs of the body. THC acts on brain cell receptors, which react to natural, THC-like chemicals. These receptors play a role in brain function and development.
If THC is eaten, your body absorbs THC more slowly. An effect typically begins within 30 to 60 minutes. How long marijuana stays in your body depends on the way you consume it, and how much you consume.
Smoking the flower is a common method of marijuana consumption. This flower is also called a bud. This flower is the part of the cannabis plant typically smoked. The flower has gone through a process of cultivation, harvesting, drying, and curing. Ways of consuming the cannabis flower include using a piece like a bong or a pipe or rolling it into a cigarette shape like a joint or blunt.
When weed is smoked, the effects can be felt almost immediately. The effect can last from one to three hours. The amount you smoke is the main factor when determining how long marijuana stays in your body.
Smoking Wax or THC Concentrate
Some people smoke THC-rich resins extracted from the marijuana plant. This is called dabbing. The extract can come in forms such as:
Wax or budder that is a soft solid (like a lip balm)
Has oil or honey oil (which is a liquid that is gooey)
Shatter (which is a solid)
These concentrates, in their various forms of wax, liquid, or solid, can deliver a large amount of THC to your body. These substances can send a person to the emergency room.
An additional danger about these substances is the use of butane that is lighter fluid. NIDA notes that when using butane to make these concentrated extracts at home, people have been seriously burned and caused fires and explosions. Because it is so concentrated, using wax increases how long marijuana stays in your body.
When cannabis products are eaten, the body absorbs THC more slowly. You can feel an effect within 30 to 60 minutes. This is in contrast to smoking the flower where a person feels the effect right away.
When smoking the flower, the effect generally lasts 1 to 3 hours. When eaten, the effect can last for several hours. Eating it reduces how long marijuana stays in your body.
How Long Marijuana Stays in Your Body for Drug Tests
Some people ask when cannabis will show up in a drug test. The answer depends on the type of test and sample. The time you can test positive while marijuana stays in your body varies by the type of drug test. Tests include:
While marijuana stays in your body, saliva tests can show marijuana in your body for up to 34-38 hours after last use.
Urine tests are the most commonly used. If you use cannabis less than two times a week, marijuana stays in your body 1 to 3 days after last use. If you use cannabis several times a week, marijuana stays in your body 7-21 days after last use. If you are a heavy smoker, marijuana stays in your body for a month or longer after last use. If you eat cannabis, marijuana stays in your body for 1 to 5 days.
While marijuana stays in your body, hair tests can detect it for up to 90 days.
It is important to remember that marijuana stays in your body for much longer than the felt effects. THC is believed to be the primary mind-altering chemical found in cannabis. THC passes from the lungs to the blood. Blood then carries it to the brain and other organs. THC affects several parts of the brain. These parts are related to judgment, movement, sensations, coordination, and memory.
As marijuana stays in the body, the following symptoms may be experienced:
Trouble thinking clearly
Trouble solving problems
Remember that THC is absorbed into body tissue and organs such as the brain and heart or metabolized by the liver. You excrete through urine what is metabolized.
THC can be stored in body tissue. When this happens, the THC will be released back into the bloodstream and metabolized by the liver. If you are a chronic cannabis user, THC builds in fatty tissue faster than your body can eliminate it. A heavy smoker can test positive for cannabis days after smoking it. The THC stored in fatty tissue increases how long marijuana stays in your body.
Cannabis and Breastfeeding
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, cannabis is the most commonly used recreational drug among breastfeeding women. Of concern is a 1990 study that documented psychomotor deficits in infants breastfed by mothers using cannabis.3 Another study showed that THC was measurable in a majority of breast milk samples up to about 6 days after maternal cannabis use.
According to the United Nations, some related information on problems with child development during and after pregnancy include the following: 4
One study noted that about 20% of pregnant women 24 years old and younger screened positive for cannabis.
If a pregnant woman uses cannabis, the drug could affect developing parts of the fetus’ brain.
With regular use, THC can reach amounts in breast milk that could affect a baby’s developing brain.
This is of concern as cannabis use during pregnancy is linked to lower birth weight and increased risk of both brain and behavioral problems in babies.
Children exposed to cannabis in the womb have increased risk of problems with attention, memory, and problem-solving.
For breastfeeding mothers, marijuana stays in your body for six days or more, and the THC can be passed to your infant through your milk.
Cannabis Addiction: Signs and When to Get Help
The use of cannabis can lead to a substance use disorder. This is a medical illness as a person is not able to stop using cannabis. This is even though the use of cannabis is causing health or social problems. Addiction happens with a severe substance abuse disorder. When the use of cannabis causes such problems, this is the time to get help. This is also the time when drug testing and how long marijuana stays in your system can cause trouble at work.
Research suggests between 9 and 30 percent of those who use cannabis can develop a degree of marijuana use disorder. If you begin using cannabis before 18, you are four to seven times more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder. This is compared to someone who begins at a later age.
Someone who uses cannabis long-term can experience withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit. This can make quitting difficult. These symptoms include:
Decrease in appetite
Someone should look for help when they have trouble stopping the use of cannabis, even though this use causes problems in their life.
Other Health Effects
Marijuana use may have a wide range of physical effects, one of which is breathing problems. Marijuana smoke irritates the lungs, and those who smoke marijuana can have the same breathing problems as those who smoke tobacco. Problems can include daily cough and phlegm and can also include frequent lung illness and the risk of lung infections.
Increased heart rate can also occur with marijuana use. Marijuana raises the heart rate for up to 3 hours after smoking and can increase the chance of a heart attack. How long marijuana stays in your body can increase these health risks.
Treating Marijuana Use Disorder
The treatment of cannabis addiction can be especially challenging. This is because of increasing acceptance and legalization. Treating a cannabis addiction can be similar to treating an addiction to alcohol as the person affected may not want to quit. Increasing acceptance may make some feel as though they don’t have a problem.
People using cannabis can have traditional symptoms of addiction and not be able to control their use. As an addict, the use may research how long marijuana stays in your body to avoid drug testing at work. Cannabis addiction typically involves daily use. Some people may try to quit on their own and find that they cannot. Here are some factors involved with treating an addiction to cannabis:
Some can quit without entering a treatment center
Some need a treatment center to address the addiction
Psychological addiction can be powerful due to a mental dependency
Cannabis is not physically addicting
Legalizations Impact on Treatment
As cannabis is legalized, people can believe that cannabis is not addictive. This is a misconception. Just like any behavioral or process addiction, people can get addicted to cannabis, although physical symptoms may not be the same as someone addicted to meth or heroin. Those addicted to cannabis may also function at a level higher than those addicted to meth or heroin, but cannabis dependence can still disrupt your life and happiness.
Cannabis can produce withdrawal effects. These effects are not as severe as with some other drugs. Withdrawal from cannabis can be similar to withdrawal from nicotine. Symptoms can include irritability, anxiety, sleeplessness, and cravings. Additional symptoms with cannabis withdrawal can include:
Inability to experience pleasure
Types of Treatments
Inpatient treatment can help a cannabis addict. Your doctors can determine how long marijuana stays in your body to craft a specific treatment plan. A cannabis addict can also be placed in inpatient treatment by the criminal justice system. Inpatient rehab can last between 30 and 90 days. Therapy and support groups can be the primary treatment options for those with a dependency on cannabis.
Behavioral therapy can help those who are getting treatment for cannabis addiction. This therapy can address the psychological aspect of addiction and can last 12 weeks. It can help you understand your addictions and motivations, help you with relapses and cravings, and can help with a psychological addiction as you have with cannabis addiction. Because therapy can prevent relapse, it makes the question “how long marijuana stays in your body” less important.
Support groups can also help with cannabis addiction. This is a popular approach for this kind of addiction. While there are many support groups, one is Marijuana Anonymous (MA).
Marijuana Anonymous is modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous, which is a 12-step program that helps work through addiction. Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is another option that can help. Some support groups are also available, but they do not use a 12-step model, as does Marijuana Anonymous.
A combination of behavioral therapy and medication can often be effective in treating a marijuana use disorder. This is especially for those who also struggle with a mental health disorder.
You will be less likely to need to know how long marijuana stays in your body if you are part of a support group to prevent relapse during recovery.
Cannabis and Overdose
Overdose happens when enough of a drug is abused to produce life-threatening symptoms or even death. There are no reports of death from cannabis use alone, although life-threatening accidents have occurred when an individual is on cannabis.
Some people report uncomfortable side effects from using cannabis and can be especially uncomfortable when using high THC levels. High THC levels can cause paranoia and anxiety. Symptoms can also include a psychotic reaction with hallucinations and delusions.
An extreme reaction to THC has resulted in treatment at an emergency room. Emergency room responders have noted an increasing number of cases involving cannabis edibles.
Edibles and Overdose
Unfortunately, some babies and toddlers have become seriously ill due to accidentally taking a cannabis edible. A child shouldn’t need to know how long marijuana stays in your body, but increasingly, this is a concern.
Some novice marijuana users may not know it takes longer to feel the effect from a marijuana edible than when marijuana is smoked. This can result in some individuals taking more, resulting in a larger dose than expected.
According to the United Nations:5
158.8 million people (more than 3.8%) around the world use marijuana
Over 94 million people in the US have admitted using it at least once
In one survey, 58 percent of those age 12 to 17 said marijuana is easy to get
Marijuana users in the U.S. spend billions each year on the drug
According to US government estimates, domestic marijuana production increased tenfold over twenty-five years. It went from 1,000 metric tons (2.2 million pounds) in 1981 to 10,000 metric tons (22 million pounds) in 2006.
According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration:
A large percentage of those arrested for crimes test positive for marijuana
40% of adult males tested positive at the time of an arrest for a crime
Next to alcohol, marijuana is the second most frequently found substance in the bodies of drivers involved in fatal automobile accidents
Employees who don’t always know how long marijuana stays in the body. Employees test positive for marijuana rose to 4.4% of the workforce in 2018.
Of adults 26 or older who used marijuana before age 15
went on to use cocaine at some point in their lives
went on to use heroin at least once
made some non-medical use of mind-altering prescription drugs
Vaping, Marijuana, and THC
We have recently seen reports of serious lung illnesses and death associated with vaping. Some of these products are vaping products that contain THC combined with nicotine. As the complete cause of these lung illnesses remains a mystery, we are now seeing warnings about the use of all vaping products.