THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, is the chemical that causes the drug’s mind-altering effects. While THC is often abused in this way, there are also manmade versions of the chemical that have been synthesized for specific reasons. The chemical itself can actually remain in your body longer than the power of its effects, and a person who takes a drug test, even after they are no longer experiencing the effects of the marijuana they smoked or ingested, may still have trace amounts of THC in their body, depending on how it has been since they used the drug. But exactly how long does THC stay in your body?
Factors Affecting THC’s Lasting Power in the Body
It is difficult to know for sure how long the chemical will last in any given person’s body after they smoke marijuana or otherwise ingest THC. There are actually a number of factors that can affect the outcome, including:
- The amount smoked at a given time
o Someone who smokes a lot in one sitting will be likely to have THC stay in their body for a longer time.
- The amount smoked consistently by the individual
o THC will take a different amount of time to leave a person’s system whether they are a heavy smoker, a frequent smoker, an occasional smoker, or an individual who barely ever uses the drug.
- The user’s metabolism
o Like the way an individual’s metabolism affects a person’s ability to break down food more of less quickly, THC may stay in their system for a longer or shorter period based on the specific speed of the person’s metabolism.
- The amount of THC in the marijuana
o “The concentration of THC in the marijuana plant” that has been used will affect the user’s ability to break it down and for it to eventually leave their system (American University).
- Other factors
o These can include height, weight, body fat, etc. of the individual.
Because all these factors must be considered, it is very difficult to determine how long the chemical generally stays in the body. Each factor in one individual can affect the length of time the chemical remains present in their body and, because “marijuana was listed as a Schedule I drug” in 1970 “where it still remains today,” it is important not to speculate too much on how long it will last in the system of any given person (CESAR).
Many companies implement random drug tests in order to discover whether or not their employees are smoking marijuana, and depending on these factors listed above, one person may be able to pass the test while another won’t, even if they smoked approximately around the same time. While it isn’t beneficial to make statements about the chemical itself lasting in the body for any particular number of days, there are some ways in which the answers to this question may be made clearer.
User Based Factors
Many of the factors that affect the general amount of time it takes for THC to leave the body are based on the user. This may include their weight, height, metabolism, and body fat. Many of the reasons why these factors so affect the time it takes for THC to leave the individual’s system involve the way the chemical itself is processed through the body. According to the NHS, “THC… is stored in the fat cells, and takes longer than any other common drug to fully clear the body.” This is why someone with a faster metabolism or a lower body weight might not store the chemical in their body for as long as someone who has the opposite characteristics.
In addition, a person who commonly abuses marijuana (smoking frequently or heavily) will be more likely to keep the known chemicals in their system longer. A person who does not rely on it as much, or whose body is not as used to it, will likely see it leave their system much more quickly. In addition, “people who use lots of cannabis regularly store the drug as body fat. It is then released slowly over a longer period.” These factors should always be taken into account when considering how long the drug may be likely to stay in your system.
Drug Based Factors
The specific marijuana plant itself can also contribute to the time it may take THC to leave a user’s body. Certain types of marijuana are actually created to contain more THC than others. This can make it much harder to remove all traces of the chemical from the body. It is important to understand exactly what you are putting into your body, especially because there are currently many different types of marijuana, given the amount of money that goes into the industry.
THC also doesn’t stay THC for long when it is in the body, but it can still be detected by many drug tests. According to American University, “The 9-carboxy-THC is a product of the body’s metabolism of the main active ingredient, THC, and can be detected for much longer periods of time than just THC.” In fact, many drug tests actually check for 9-carboxy-THC instead of THC in general because it lasts longer in the body than the latter chemical.
For these reasons, it is so difficult to gauge a general timeline for how long THC will stay in the body. For some individuals, the chemical may be gone after several days to a week. This situation will likely occur for someone who does not smoke often, has a low percentage of body fat, and/or did not smoke a large amount at that particular time. However, if the person smoked marijuana with a higher concentration of THC, the chemical may remain longer.
Consequentially, those who smoke more often, have a higher percentage of body fat, and/or smoke a large amount at once are more likely to have the chemical linger in their systems for a longer period of time (possibly even a few weeks to a month or more). Unfortunately, there is no surefire way of knowing how long the chemical will remain in your system, but the above factors do make a difference. If you are concerned about passing a drug test, however, it is better to avoid the use of any drugs.