There’s no doubt that cannabis usage has increased in recent years. Although the drug remains illegal at the federal level, many states — and politicians — are pushing back against this. As of May 2023, 23 states have moved to legalize recreational marijuana use, and some state legislatures have even submitted bills aiming to decriminalize the substance.

The increased popularity of marijuana has raised many questions, and one of the most frequent is, “How long does weed stay in your system?” The answer depends on a wide range of factors, from the amount of THC consumed to how often you use the drug. Here, we’ll take a closer look at these factors and the different methods used for weed testing. We’ll also share resources for those looking to reduce or eliminate their marijuana use.

How Long Does Weed Stay in Your System?

When THC enters the body, it’s metabolized in the liver. Approximately 65% of cannabis is excreted through the bowels, while 20% will be excreted through kidneys. After 5 days, about 80% to 90% of the cannabis will have left your system. This means about 10% to 20% of the THC still remains in your body.

How long does THC stay in your system? In general, THC can be detected in the body for several months after use. The exact answer can vary depending on the following factors:

  • Body weight: Cannabis is stored in body fat, so those with higher body fat percentages may retain cannabis for longer periods of time.
  • Method of ingestion: THC ingested through edibles usually remains in the system longer than THC inhaled through smoke.
  • Hydration: Being dehydrated can cause THC to remain in your system longer.
  • Amount of THC consumed: The higher the concentration of THC, the longer it will remain in your system.
  • Frequency of marijuana use: Studies show that people who frequently use marijuana retain higher THC levels than infrequent users.

Ultimately, there’s no single answer when it comes to how long weed stays in your system. For those concerned about drug testing, the results will be highly dependent on the type of test taken.

What Factors Affect How Long Weed Stays in Your System?

First, you need to consider how often you use cannabis. If you’re a regular user, the drug can stay in your system for up to 90 days. If you’ve only taken THC occasionally, it’s probably out of your system within a week.

The type of test also influences the length of time that THC remains detectable. Typically, drug tests look for the presence of a molecule called THC-COOH. Most employers use urine tests, which show THC ingested within the last 24 to 72 hours. Saliva tests detect cannabis use within the past few hours up to 48 hours. Hair tests can show whether someone has used marijuana within the past 3 months.

Why Would You Need to Remove THC Quickly?

Even if you live in a state where cannabis has been legalized, you may need to pass a THC screening for jobs in certain industries, such as transportation. In fact, the Society for Human Resource Management reports that 57% of employers still drug test their employees, and 69% of those businesses have been screening potential hires for substances like cannabis for more than a dozen years.

If you’re a young adult, you may have school or sports obligations that require a clean test. Perhaps you just want a fresh start and you want to remove THC or other toxins from your system before you quit smoking, vaping or ingesting weed. Cannabis can negatively impact your life, even when it’s legal in your state. Some of the well-documented effects of THC abuse include:

  • Challenges at work or school. You simply can’t perform up to your best ability if you’re usually high. You might also start missing school and work due to the impacts of cannabis on your life, which further affects performance.
  • Relationship struggles. This can include conflicts with family, friends, partners and loved ones. Often, overuse of marijuana results in loss of interest in the activities you used to enjoy.
  • Financial difficulties. Cannabis can take a big chunk out of your budget, especially if you chronically partake in the plant. If you lose your job or run into other money issues, you could be in a world of trouble.
  • Association with other bad habits. For example, you may tend to drink alcohol, use tobacco, gamble or participate in other risky behavior when you’re high on THC.

How Does Weed Affect the Body?

Before we discuss how long weed remains in the body, it’s important to understand its effects. Weed contains a chemical called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is known to cause relaxation and elation. It may also trigger the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Poor concentration and memory
  • Slower reflexes
  • Anxiety and fear
  • Paranoia and confusion
  • Increased heart rate
  • Dry mouth
  • Bloodshot eyes

There are two main ways in which THC is ingested: smoking and consuming edibles. When choosing a method, many people wonder, “How long does one smoke stay in your system compared to consuming an edible?” While there’s no specific answer, the two methods produce different experiences.

Those who smoke cannabis may feel the effects within minutes, and these can persist for over 6 hours. Those who eat cannabis, meanwhile, may not notice the effects for up to 2 hours. Once the effects kick in, they can last for over 12 hours.

Whether you smoke or eat cannabis, the side effects usually don’t last too long. However, THC can still linger in your body.

Clearing Weed From Your System: Tips and Myths

If you’re wondering whether you can clear weed from your body to pass a blood test, it’s unlikely. There are ways to help your body process THC faster, such as staying properly hydrated or consuming low concentrations. You could also try speeding up your metabolism through exercise. However, none of these actions are 100% effective at preventing a drug test from detecting THC.

Ultimately, the only way to completely clear weed from your system is to avoid ingesting it in the first place. For some people, however, this is easier said than done, as long-term marijuana use can lead to both physical and psychological dependency. Known as marijuana use disorder, this dependency may result in the following symptoms:

  • Consuming increasing levels of marijuana
  • Struggling to reduce marijuana use
  • Frequently craving marijuana
  • Neglecting obligations to consume marijuana
  • Experiencing discomfort after stopping marijuana use

If you or a loved one is exhibiting signs of marijuana use disorder, treatment can help.

Does Flushing THC Really Work?

When it comes to detoxing from marijuana, myths about what works aren’t necessarily the best ways to get THC out of the system. You probably won’t see the results you’re looking for from a cranberry juice detox. Although drinking enough cranberry juice could help dilute your urine enough to pass that type of test, it won’t be any help if you need to pass a hair or saliva test. Over-the-counter detox teas, weed detox kits and products advertising a same-day detox don’t guarantee a clean drug test. These products aren’t regulated and won’t necessarily do what they say, especially if you need to pass a test quickly.

On the other hand, consider these tried-and-true techniques for flushing THC from the body:

  • Physical activity. Exercise helps remove the substance from where it’s stored in your fat cells while increasing the body’s ability to produce natural endocannabinoids to regulate mood.
  • Balanced nutrition including lots of veggies. Greens like kale and spinach increase metabolism, which supports the natural detox process. Healthy fibers like beans, legumes and whole grains benefit the body as it flushes free of THC while helping to stabilize the mood.
  • Herbal tea. Milk thistle and dandelion varieties help the liver detox the body, an essential part of removing residual cannabis. Green tea contains antioxidants, which also support the immune system in fighting off toxins.
  • Discontinued use of the drug at least 30 days before your test. You’ll need to allow at least 90 days before you get a clean screen if you’re a daily cannabis user, so it helps to plan ahead.
  • Moderate fluid intake. Aim for about eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day, and avoid sugary beverages like soda and juice.
  • Relaxation techniques to balance the mood and reduce stress. Examples include yoga, meditation and breathing exercises.

Some strategies for flushing THC can harm your health. Don’t try to detox by using:

  • High doses of niacin. This can cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, cramps and other unwanted symptoms.
  • Gallons of water ingested over a short period of time (24 hours, for example). This method can lead to hyponatremia, and low blood sodium levels that can be life-threatening.
  • Apple cider vinegar detox. Like excessive water intake, drinking vinegar causes hyponatremia.

People may try to pass drug tests by adding cleaning fluid to their urine or even using synthetic urine. Most modern drug tests are designed to detect these attempts, and you could immediately fail or at minimum have to take the test again. In fact, even drinking too much water can result in the need to retest.

Overcoming a Marijuana Dependency

Marijuana may be illegal at the federal level, but that hasn’t stopped the substance from growing in popularity. As more states legalize recreational marijuana use, an increasing number of people are experimenting with the drug. However, many individuals don’t realize that THC can remain in their body for over 3 months. And, more importantly, marijuana use can lead to drug dependency.

At Sunlight Recovery, we’re committed to helping people overcome substance use. In addition to inpatient treatment and medical detox, we offer therapy sessions designed to deliver emotional support. Our resources, combined with our team of licensed clinical and medical professionals, have helped many people regain control of their lives. Contact us today to learn more.