Detection of Cannabis in the System
Table of Contents
- Detection of Cannabis in the System
- Effects of Using Marijuana
- Why Test for Marijuana?
- Types of Tests for Marijuana
- Factors Affecting Marijuana Testing
- How to Pass a Marijuana Test
- Diagnosing Marijuana Use Disorder
- Signs of Marijuana Abuse
- Treatment Options for Cannabis Dependence
- Long Term Recovery from Marijuana is Possible with the Right Help
Marijuana is one of the most commonly used drugs, largely because it is so readily available. It is also the most commonly used illicit drug. A number of states in the United States, from Florida to Maine, allow the use of medical marijuana, and recreational use is legal in some jurisdictions. Yet, even in these instances, it is important to know ‘how long does marijuana stay in your system,’ for peace of mind as well as employment concerns.
Since the federal government continues to classify the drug as a Schedule I controlled substance, there continues to be a lot of controversy surrounding its use. Because of this and several other reasons which we’ll discuss, many companies test job applicants and employees for marijuana. That’s why many people still find themselves asking “how long does marijuana stay in your system?”. The answer to this question is not as clear-cut as you may think, and we’ll explore the variables and reasons in this article.
Effects of Using Marijuana
Marijuana and associated products can be smoked, vaped, consumed in food, or brewed in tea or other drinks. When smoked or vaped, the effects typically start within 15 and 30 minutes and they last for one to three hours. If you ingest marijuana, it can take up to an hour and a half to feel the effects.
Each person will have their own experience and different strains and amounts of weed will cause different effects. For example, strains with citrus terpene profiles are often more stimulating. It’s also important to keep in mind that marijuana products aren’t standardized. Therefore, they can vary widely in quality, potency, and dosage.
However, the most common effects include:
- Altered perception
- A feeling of wellbeing
- Increased appetite
- Inability to focus
- Rapid heart rate
- Distorted sense of time
- Problems with coordination
- Dry mouth
- Bloodshot eyes
The short-term effects on memory, learning, coordination, and problem-solving typically last for one to two hours but there can be some lingering effects for up to 24 hours. Marijuana use can also impair driving performance for up to three hours.
Regular marijuana use can increase the risk of:
- Cognitive impairment
- Learning difficulties
- Heart disease
- Mood disorders
Contrary to what many people believe, marijuana users can also become dependent on the drug. Also, what users often don’t realize is that even though the effects are short-lived, THC metabolites can stay in the body for a long time.
Why Test for Marijuana?
Companies require drug tests for a variety of reasons. One is to ensure the safety of everyone who interacts with their employees. While the effects of marijuana use aren’t typically severe, a worker who is high could be a risk to themselves and others.
This is especially likely in a production setting where machines are in use and strict safety protocols must be adhered to. Not only may companies want to avoid accidents but they want to avoid the associated expenses.
Businesses also want to avoid lawsuits. If an employee, visitor, or customer is injured by an employee who is under the influence, it’s possible that the victim may sue the company. In addition to having to pay out money to the victims, the company’s reputation may take a hit among investors or customers. It’s, therefore, not surprising that many companies carry out routine or surprise drug tests.
Drug testing also helps to improve productivity. Even if marijuana use doesn’t lead to accidents or injury, it may affect concentration and productivity. While weed may be less damaging than alcohol or other drugs, it can still affect the mind.
The decision to test employees for drugs can have a moral and ethical component. Despite the acceptance and use of marijuana by many people, there are still individuals who don’t agree with it. They may believe that workplaces should be completely drug-free environments and companies may feel a moral obligation to keep marijuana out of the workplace.
Another consideration is that drug testing can help employees with drug problems to get the help they need. People often believe that companies want to identify drug users so they can fire them but that isn’t always the case.
Some employers recognize that drug dependence and addiction is a mental health problem that requires professional intervention. By testing employees, they can save their careers and even their lives.
Types of Tests for Marijuana
There are different types of tests that can be used to detect the presence of marijuana in the body.
Typically, employers request urine tests. These show the recent use of marijuana but don’t indicate current impairment or intoxication. This is because of the time it takes for the body to break down THC into metabolites that can be eliminated in the urine.
People who use marijuana less than two times per week may test positive one to three days after their last use. Meanwhile, individuals who use weed several times weekly can return a positive result for 7 to 21 days. Heavier users may return a positive result for a month or more after the last use.
Meanwhile, saliva tests can detect weed for just 34 to 48 hours after last use and can, therefore, only show current intoxication. Therefore, this method is rarely used except in the cases of testing drivers suspected of cannabis intoxication.
Marijuana is detectable in hair for up to 90 days but it is most reliable in people who use it daily or almost daily. A hair test is not as likely to pick up the presence of marijuana in light users. A little-known additional fact is that marijuana, like alcohol, can cause hair loss in some users due to stress and chemical reactions.
If the blood is tested, marijuana can be detected for a maximum of 36 hours. Since marijuana stays in the bloodstream for such a short time, blood tests for marijuana aren’t conducted very often. The only exceptions are after automobile accidents and at some roadside sobriety checkpoints.
When considering how long marijuana stays in your system, you need to understand marijuana’s half-life and storage. The half-life is the length of time it takes for half of a substance to be metabolized and eliminated from the bloodstream. THC is broken quickly and converted into small molecules known as metabolites.
These metabolites get stored in body fat and they gradually leave the body in urine and feces. Some metabolites have a half-life of 20 hours while others have a half-life of 10 to 13 days. It takes about five to six half-lives for a substance to be almost completely gone from the body.
Factors Affecting Marijuana Testing
It’s impossible to know exactly how long THC will be detectable in a person’s body since there are multiple factors at play. These include:
- Method of cannabis intake. If marijuana is smoked or vaped, THC levels drop within hours to days after use. However, if it is ingested, the body will take longer to break down the chemicals and they may be detectable for longer.
- Frequency of use. If you use marijuana regularly, you’ll have a buildup of THC in your system. Therefore, it will take longer to leave the body.
- The concentration of THC. if the marijuana has a high level of THC, the chemicals will remain in the body longer. The potency of modern cannabis products tends to be higher.
- The user’s body fat and metabolism. Understanding how cannabis stores in the body is important. The body stores THC in fatty tissue. Therefore, people who have less fat will clear the metabolites faster. A person who exercises, eats healthily, and is in good overall health will also get rid of THC more quickly. Each person has a different metabolic rate and this can have a dramatic effect on how long marijuana stays in their system.
- The presence of other drugs. Some medications can increase THC levels in the body. These include ketoconazole, clarithromycin, verapamil, boceprevir, and itraconazole. Others like rifampin can decrease the level of THC.
How to Pass a Marijuana Test
People who expect to undergo a drug test are often willing to go to extreme lengths to get a clean test. They may submit someone else’s urine sample or add salt or bleach to their urine. However, if urine is tested for its integrity, it will be clear that the sample isn’t pure.
Some individuals also think that drinking lots of water will help them to pass a drug test. However, this is only likely to dilute the urine so much that the test needs to be retaken.
There are also lots of detoxification kits on the market that claim they can help individuals to pass their tests. They may include vinegar, herbal concoctions, vitamin C, and other ingredients. However, these kits typically don’t do anything to speed up metabolism and get marijuana out of the body.
Trying to cheat a drug test is never a good idea and some of the concoctions people recommend can even be harmful. The only way to guarantee that you’ll pass a test is to stop using products containing THC. If your marijuana use has reached the point where you’re constantly worried about failing a drug test, you may need to seek professional help.
Diagnosing Marijuana Use Disorder
Contrary to popular belief, marijuana can be addictive. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, approximately one in ten people who use marijuana will become addicted. This rate increases to one in six among individuals who start using marijuana before the age of 18.
In order for an individual to be diagnosed with a cannabis use disorder, they must meet at least two of the 11 criteria set out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). The symptoms must occur within the same 12-month period.
Depending on the number of symptoms an individual presents, they may be diagnosed with a mild, moderate, or severe cannabis use disorder. Substance use disorders can only be diagnosed by professionals. However, if you’re concerned about your marijuana use or that of someone you love, you may find it helpful to know the criteria. They are:
- Using more marijuana than intended or using it for a longer time than intended, indicates a loss of control over usage
- Ignoring work, social activities, or hobbies because of marijuana use
- Wanting to reduce the amount of weed used or quit completely but not being able to do so
- Continuing to use marijuana even despite the risks surrounding it
- Continuing to use the drug even though it is worsening existing psychological or physical problems
- Experiencing cravings for marijuana when not using it
- Not being able to perform as usual at home, work, or school because of marijuana use
- Need more and more weed over the same period to get the usual effect
- Continuing to use marijuana even though it is having a negative effect on relationships
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms after ceasing use or not using the usual amount
- Dedicating excessive disproportionate time and resources to marijuana use
As you can see, cannabis use disorder has both physical and biological components. Many of these symptoms may go unnoticed by individuals and their families or they may notice a symptom but not realize it is indicative of problematic use.
Individuals may start out using marijuana recreationally and then begin abusing it without knowing that their substance use has become clinically significant.
Signs of Marijuana Abuse
You may be able to pick up the signs that an individual is abusing marijuana. You’ll need to be on the lookout for psychological, physical, and behavioral changes. The most common of these are:
- Red eyes
- Spending time with people who use marijuana or other drugs
- Buying rolling papers or bongs to use with marijuana
- Eating excessively outside of regular meal and snack times
- Declining performance at work or school
- Withdrawing from family, friends, classmates, or coworkers
Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms
About 30 percent of people who use marijuana have a problematic relationship with it. When they reduce the amount they use or stop using, they may experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms often begin within 24 to 72 hours after last use. They peak during the first week and run for one to two weeks.
Marijuana withdrawal symptoms include:
- Decreased appetite
- Poor sleep
- Abdominal pain
Treatment Options for Cannabis Dependence
Marijuana use disorders are similar to other substance use disorders, although the long-term impact may be less severe. Individuals who are addicted to marijuana often have other mental health issues especially if they’re adolescents. They may also use other substances such as alcohol or cocaine and they may be addicted to these as well.
Research suggests that treating the mental health disorder with medication and behavioral therapies can help to reduce marijuana use, especially in individuals who use weed heavily and those who have chronic mental disorders.
Treatments that have proven to be effective include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy. This is a form of psychotherapy that teaches individuals how to identify and rectify problematic behaviors. The aim is to help them stop using drugs, improve their self-control, and manage the other problems that co-occur with drug dependence.
- Motivational interviewing. Sometimes, people struggling with marijuana addiction don’t feel capable of changing their behavior or they think it isn’t necessary to do so. Motivational interviewing is designed to rapidly increase individuals’ internal motivation to change. This form of therapy isn’t designed to treat addiction; it’s designed to help the person draw on their own resources for change so they can participate fully in treatment.
- Contingency management. This therapeutic approach focuses on encouraging positive behavior change by offering reinforcement or rewards when individuals meet their treatment goals in treatment, hence contingency management. When people participate in unwanted behavior, these rewards are withheld, or less commonly, a punishment is introduced.
Unlike alcohol and opioids, there are no Food and Drug Administration-approved medications to treat marijuana withdrawal. However, participating in an established addiction treatment program and undergoing medically supervised weed detox can help to make the process safer and more bearable.
Healthcare professionals can provide medications to treat specific symptoms such as headaches and nausea. Research shows that Ambien can help with sleep while Buspar can relieve symptoms of anxiety. Gabapentin or Neurontin may be helpful for people who need an anticonvulsant.
Long Term Recovery from Marijuana is Possible with the Right Help
If you or a loved one is struggling with your marijuana use, you should see an addiction treatment professional. There are many rehab facilities across the country, and they offer everything from medically supervised detox to aftercare planning. If you’re unsure about how to choose the best treatment center for your needs, reach out to Find Addiction Rehabs.
We can help you to narrow down your options and we may even be able to place you in a facility within 24 hours. Call us any time of day or night, we are here for you.
Edward lives and works in South Florida and has been a part of its recovery community for many years. With a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Massachusetts, he works to help Find Addiction Rehabs as both a writer and marketer. Edward loves to share his passion for the field through writing about addiction topics, effective treatment for addiction, and behavioral health as a whole. Alongside personal experience, Edward has deep connections to the mental health treatment industry, having worked as a medical office manager for a psychiatric consortium for many years.