How Long Does Marijuana Stay in Your System?

To sum up some information from the last posts, we state that a regular joint has more than 60 cannabinoids, with the most important being the THC. The intoxication for cannabis begins with a pleasant sensation, which starts in 10-30 mins from the moment you smoke it and lasts for about 2-4h. The motor and cognitive affection, though, can last for even 5 to 12h.

A Bit of Medical Science to Enlighten Your Minds

Minding the chemistry behind it, the plasmatic concentration of those cannabinoids is very variable, depending on the consumer’s experience. In order for us to understand this subject to the fullest, we must be aware of some pharmacology concepts. Don’t be afraid, these are the basic ones – pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics. On a not-so-nerdy approach, these can characterize cannabis’ behavior once it gets into your bloodstream:

  • Pharmacokinetics: the compounds are absorbed and distribute themselves very quickly as the molecules are very lipophilic – minding its ability to be dissolved in fats and organic solvents. Once the compounds get to the liver, they are metabolized into even more active compounds. These second-stage compounds intensify the “high” retroactively, producing an initial positive feedback. After that, they have a slow excretion rhythm which allows the detection of those after even months (this topic will be further developed in the following posts).
  • Pharmacodynamics: once the compounds reach the brain, they utilize their own endogen system, a pathway dedicated to cannabinoids only. In fact, scientists have identified and cloned cannabinoid receptors and found its main ligand is anandamide, a fatty acid neurotransmitter derived from arachidonic acid. As it is a neurotransmitter, it acts as a neuromodulator, as stated in previous posts, potentiating the dopaminergic pathways of the neural system.

But What Does This Mean on the Practical Side?

With this being said, and now that we understand a bit more about the pharmacological characteristics of the (−)-trans-Δ⁹-tetrahydrocannabinol – commonly known as THC – we are able to further acknowledge its metabolism.

The biological half-life – a concept that describes the amount of time it takes for a half of the amount of substance to be eliminated – is described to be from 1.6 to 59 hours. Therefore, cannabis remains stored on one’s fat for about 8 days on average, based on its highly-lipophilic characteristics.

Once the metabolites are ready to be excreted, there are two options for them to be expelled from our body – urine (30%), which is why one of the tests for the drug is exactly the urine test, or by the feces (most of it, 70%).

To conclude, linking the subject of this post and the previous one – addiction – we can state that due to its large half-life, along with the slow metabolism of the drug, physical dependence could never be very significant. Even so, please bear in mind that the regular smoking can make THC traceable for a long time… and that is important if you need to pass a drug test… Don’t miss the next post to know more about this!