Oh no! You just had a late-night smoke session with your buddies and you’ve just found out that there’s a random drug test coming up at work. Or maybe you’re looking for work and realize that your dream job includes a drug test. Now you’re sweating and panicking and wondering just how long that brownie you ate last week is going to remain in your system.

If you’re more fortunate, perhaps you’re new to consuming cannabis and want to know how long it will remain in your system before committing to it as a medicinal or recreational therapy. Relax. We have the data you need so you can make an informed choice.

How Long does the High Last?

Joints and vape pens are the quickest delivery methods to get THC into your system. Blood THC levels peak between 9 and 10 minutes into a smoke session. However, just 15 minutes after the last puff, THC levels plummet nearly 60%.If it is a person’s first time smoking marijuana, THC levels fall below detectable levels within 3 to 12 hours. Keep in mind that this can vary widely depending upon how deeply one inhales, the number of puffs taken, strain, and other factors.

Then there are edibles. One you eat that brownie, THC levels in your bloodstream are going to peak within 1 to 5 hours. This peak can have several factors, including preparation method, which may affect the rate of absorption. In a first-time user, THC levels from edibles tend to drop significantly 25 hours post absorption. They have been detected up to 50 hours post-ingestion, so it is clear that orally ingested cannabis is detectable longer than smoked cannabis.

But What Exactly is a Drug Test Looking For?

Regardless of what is being tested (blood, urine, saliva, or hair), most drug tests don’t measure THC directly because of the quick breakdown period and difficulties in measurement. Instead, they measure the THC metabolite THC-COOH. This is basically what your liver breaks THC down into once it is done processing it. Most places consider a positive result at 50ng/mL, but some tests can go as low as 15ng/mL or as high as 100ng/mL.

Because THC and the metabolite are fat-soluble, it may take chronic consumers of cannabis a lot longer to return a clean result than a first-time smoker. This is one of the dangers of chronic cannabis use.

A 2005 review by the director of the Toxicology and Drug Monitoring Laboratory at the University of Missouri revealed that while detection times of longer than 30 days occur, they are not the norm. Director Paul Cary went further, saying, “it would be unlikely for a chronic user to produce a positive urine drug test result for longer than 10 days after the last smoking episode.” If you just tried cannabis for the first time, Cary states, “It would be unusual for the detection of cannabinoids in urine to extend beyond 3-4 days following the smoking episode.”

The Different Kind of Drug Tests

Depending on what is being tested for the presence of THC, detection times can vary. Hair, for example, can hold metabolites for much longer than other sources. Saliva and blood hold it the shortest. Most workplaces use urine due to how easy it is to get, and holds metabolites for an average amount of time.

Hair Tests

Thankfully, hair tests are rare and for good reason. Cannabis metabolites don’t show up in the hair until seven days after consumption, but once they are there they can last for at least 90 days. Blood is also uncommon due to the hassle of getting blood tested safely in the workplace. Blood doesn’t carry much fat, so the metabolites don’t stick around long in the bloodstream.

Blood Tests

If you know you are getting a blood test, here are the average times you can expect to wait to get a clear result.
● First time use: up to 24 hours
● Frequent use: up to 3 days
● Regular use: up to 1 week

Saliva Tests

Similar results also apply to saliva tests, which is the most common method used by police during drug stops to check for DUI. Naturally, for chronic users, this presents some big legal problems since the presence of THC metabolites doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re high.

Urine Tests

A urine test is the test of choice for workplaces. It has the widest windows of uncertainty due to differences in metabolism and kidney health. Here are the averages for different types of users:
● First time use: up to 8 days
● Frequent use: up to 15 days
● Regular use: up to 30 days
● Heavy use: up to 45-77 days

We must stress that these are just averages for how long cannabis can stay in a person’s body. There are many differing factors that can affect how long it can be detected. A person with a fast metabolism will clear THC-COOH faster than someone with a slower metabolism. Body fat percentage can also play a factor because THC and THC-COOH like to take up residence in fat cells.

Additionally, other supplements that you may be taking can speed or slow the clearing of THC from your body. Lifestyle also has an effect – factors such as diet, stress management, exercise and sleep can all contribute to how long cannabis stays in your system.

Cannabis can definitely stay in a person’s system for a while, but there are mitigating factors which can change how long. These factors can vary from person to person, meaning that THC can stay with your buddy longer that it resides and is detectable for you.

If your workplace isn’t cool with cannabis, we hope that this data will help you make smart choices about your use so your job isn’t threatened. If you’re a medical user and you’re worried about testing, speak with your company’s HR department. Some states have workplace protections for medical cannabis users.

Author's Bio: 

A passionate writer and a blogger leading her own blog at awebtoknow.com. She started freelancing as a way to connect to other people, to reach to their hearts and make a difference with her word. The blog was born out of a pure desire to connect… to have the freedom of writing what really matters, what actually makes a difference.