When marijuana is used, whether it be through patterns of abuse, medicinally or legally, the drug remains in a person’s system beyond the time a person feels its effects.
While there are guidelines for how long the drug remains in a person’s system, the exact time the drug is detectable for can vary. Depending on the type of test, the drug may be detectable the day a person uses the drug or up to three months.
In certain cases, a drug test may look for only one drug, however, in many cases a test screens for multiple substances. One of the most common tests, a urine test referred to as the “SAMHSA-5,” tests for amphetamines, cocaine metabolites, opiates and phencyclidine (PCP) in addition to marijuana.
The Different Types of Marijuana Drug Tests And Their Detection Times
There are various ways that marijuana (also referred to as cannabis, pot or weed) may be detected after a person’s most recent use, including by urine, hair, blood, saliva or sweat tests. Maternal marijuana use may also be tested in a newborn.
Each type of drug test has a different cannabinoid detection window. In most cases, a test doesn’t look for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, marijuana’s active cannabinoid. Instead, it looks for a metabolite, or compound that THC is broken into.
How Long Does Marijuana Stay In Your Urine?
The time it takes for a person to have a positive urine drug test result can vary from roughly three to 30 days, depending on their level of use and other factors. A urine drug test is also called a urine drug screen (UDS) or more crudely, in slang, as a “piss test.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, marijuana can be detected for up to:
- 3 days after a single-use.
- 5 days after moderate use (or using the drug four times per week)
- ten days after daily, heavy use.
- thirty days after chronic, heavy use.
There are two types of tests, an immunoassay or a gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS), the former of which is cheaper and used more frequently. Sometimes both tests will be used, one after the other, in a two-step approach to confirm positive results or the presence of a false positive.
Urine tests are the most common way to test for marijuana use and abuse. This is large because they’re cheaper and more easy to administer than the other options, such as a hair test.
To take a urine test, a person must urinate into a cup and then seal it with a lid. While some places may test on-site for instant results, many send the specimen out so that an official report can be made.
How Long Does Marijuana Stay In Your Hair?
While more expensive, a hair test for marijuana (hair follicle drug test) can identify drug use up to 90 days. Metabolites of the drug may be found in the hair one week after a person uses the drug.
As a person’s hair grows, the drug metabolites become trapped in the core of the hair. A 1.5-inch hair sample can show drug use over the previous 3 months, due to the fact that most people’s hair grows a half-inch each month. A sample typically takes just over a hundred hairs from near the root and of the crown of a person’s head.
The long detection window of hair tests are helpful when working to identify chronic marijuana use, however, this method of testing isn’t the best for individuals who use on a sporadic basis. In order for a test to detect levels of a substance, a person’s drug use must be fairly heavy.
How Long Does Marijuana Stay In Your Blood?
Though not as common as a urine test, in certain cases a person may be asked or required to take a blood test to detect marijuana.
A blood test may point to marijuana use in a matter of minutes after a person uses the drug. However, some research shows that it may be detected for up to 25 days. Providers may prefer other tests due to the invasive nature of this type of testing.
Other Ways To Detect Marijuana
In addition to these tests, there are other tests that screen for marijuana use:
Marijuana Detection Time In Saliva Testing
The window for detecting marijuana in a person’s oral fluids or saliva is very brief. Saliva tests can only detect marijuana for up to 24 hours. Using breath sprays, mouthwash or another type of oral rinse that contains alcohol could potentially affect the results if used within 30 minutes prior to the sample being collected.
Marijuana Detection Time In Sweat Testing (Sweat Patches)
A sweat test can detect marijuana for one to two weeks. To test sweat, a patch is typically placed on the skin. Sweat patches detect if a substance or its metabolites are in a person’s bloodstream.
The FDA-approved patch remains on the skin for three to seven days before it is sent to a lab for testing. The patch tests for a substance both in the hours before the patch was applied and while it’s on a person’s skin. Skin swabs are available, however, there is doubt regarding their level of accuracy.
Roadside, DUI Or Breathalyzer Tests For Marijuana Intoxication
Research is currently underway to develop reliable roadside or DUI tests that detect recent marijuana use or intoxication. A marijuana breathalyzer that tests for THC is reported to detect this active compound in as little as two hours after a person last smoked pot. Studies are also examining saliva tests and how they could be used to detect edible marijuana consumption.
Marijuana Detection Time In Babies: Meconium Testing For Newborns
Pregnant women use marijuana more than any other illicit drug. In situations where the use or abuse is suspected, tests may be administered to test for marijuana exposure in a newborn.
This may occur if marijuana use or abuse is suspected by a doctor or other medical professional. One of the most frequently used tests to look for maternal marijuana use is meconium testing.
To administer this test, clinicians collect a meconium sample from the newborn. Meconium is the first stool of a baby. Meconium first starts forming while the child’s in the womb, developing at 12 to 16 weeks of pregnancy, or roughly the beginning of the second trimester. Due to this, meconium testing can detect marijuana use in the last four to five months of a women’s pregnancy.
If the meconium tests positive, child protective services (CPS) may be notified. Additional drug tests on newborns also include blood, hair, urine or umbilical cord blood or tissue samples.
Factors That Influence Marijuana Detection Times
The amount or dose a person smokes or otherwise uses can alter the time the drug remains in their system. This can change how long marijuana will show up in urine, blood, hair, etc. sample.
Marijuana is fat-soluble, meaning that it’s stored in a person’s fat. On account of this, a person’s body fat content or body mass index (BMI) could influence detection times.
In addition to these, other factors can affect marijuana detection times:
The Type of Marijuana Can Affect Marijuana Detection Times
The amount of THC, the component in marijuana responsible for the high, can vary widely between different strains of marijuana. Because of this, the variety of marijuana used could potentially change the window of detection.
Further, if a person uses a more concentrated form of cannabis, the amount of
THC and metabolites in their system could be higher. This can occur during dabbing or vaping, or when a person smokes or vaporizes various extracts like hash oil, budder, shatter or wax.
How The Duration Or Frequency Of Use Can Alters Marijuana Detection Times
The longer a person uses the drug for and the more frequent the use, the longer the substance remains in a person’s system. For instance, after a single use, the drug exits a person’s system fairly quickly, while chronic use causes it to remain longer.
How A Person’s Metabolism Can Changes Marijuana Detection Times
Every person’s body is different, including their metabolism and the rate by which it will clear a drug from its system. Individuals whose metabolic functions are high will likely break cannabinoids down faster.
How to Test Sensitivity Can Impact Marijuana Detection Times
A drug test has a cutoff concentration (cutoff level), or the point at which testing begins to trace amounts of a drug or its metabolites. Anything above this is considered a positive and anything below a negative drug test.
The greater the sensitivity of the test for marijuana, the greater the detection window. Testing administrators may have the opportunity to select from different cannabinoid testing cutoffs.
How to Test Specificity Can Influence Marijuana Detection Times
When a greater number of cannabinoid metabolites can be detected, a test is considered to be less specific. The less specific the method of testing, and the wider the range of metabolites that could show up, the greater the detection window.
Does Changing The Way Marijuana Is Used Alter The Detection Time?
While any amount or type of heavy or chronic marijuana use increases the odds of detection, the way marijuana is used could affect how quickly it shows up, even in a person who has used the drug minimally.
When marijuana is smoked or vaporized it enters a person’s system quite rapidly. This can cause it to show up in a blood test nearly immediately. However, if a person takes marijuana orally, such as in an edible, the substance has to be digested before it enters a person’s system. This could delay how fast it shows up on a blood test.
Using Do-It-Yourself Marijuana Detoxes Or Flushes To Pass A Test
While some people will attempt to at-home marijuana detoxes or flushes to cleanse the drug out of their system, marijuana may still be present during testing.
Even more, if a person has a marijuana use disorder that is endangering their health, quality of life or family member’s well-being, a positive test result could help them get treatment and better stability.
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When Are Marijuana Drug Tests Used?
Marijuana drug tests are administered for a variety of reasons. Testing may be voluntary or required. In certain cases, a person may be notified of their test or it may be part of random drug testing. Tests may be given in the following circumstances:
- by a doctor, if marijuana use is suspected
- by an employer, as either part of routine screening or because is suspect
- as part of court-ordered sentencing requirements
- at a drug or alcohol treatment center
- to a person serving in the military
- during pregnancy and/or when a child is born
- at home, if a loved one wants to monitor a person’s use
Though marijuana tests do identify that a person has used the substance within the window of detection, they don’t necessarily show that a person currently uses or abuses the drug. Despite this, a positive test result could be a cause for concern and be used to help a person get help for marijuana abuse or addiction.
Getting Help For Marijuana Abuse And Addiction
Contrary to what many people may think, marijuana can be addictive and cause harm to a person’s body and mind. Nearly three out of ten people who use marijuana have a marijuana use disorder. A marijuana use disorder can cause cognitive problems, an increased risk of heart attack, impair brain development and lead to risky behaviors.
In certain cases, a person may be able to overcome an addiction to marijuana on their own, or in an outpatient treatment program. However, after experiencing the toll of addiction on their life and health, some people may prefer an inpatient drug rehab program. This can be especially true if a person’s abusing or addicted to another drug.
Marijuana treatment programs may use therapies or counseling to help a person build sober living skills so that they can live a more fulfilling, sober life.
Contact Vertava Health (formerly Addiction Campuses) for more information on marijuana abuse, addiction, and treatment.