The length of time that THC is in the urine depends primarily on two factors: the frequency of THC intake and the particular metabolism of each individual. However, there are some repeating patterns.
It appears that if a person is a first-time user of cannabis, the urine sample finds traces up to a week later. In case the person is an active marijuana smoker, the trials could last up to 60 to 90 days. Does everybody agree with these data? Not at all.
Other sources claim that the occasional smoker eliminates all the THC in approximately four days, the occasional smoker in ten days, and the very active smoker in about 67 days. On the other hand, others claim that there are tests that find THC even 100 days later.
Although we talk about how THC is detected in what remains, we would have to be more precise and say that what is noticed is THC-COOH, which is the product that is released once THC passes through the liver.
Saliva, which is the preferred test for driving tests, resists the least amount of time, a maximum of twelve hours. Hair is quite a different matter; THC can be detected even 100 days later. The least recommended is the blood test: THC does not mix with the blood, so it disappears almost immediately.
Any recommendations if we have to pass a urine test? If you are a very active marijuana smoker, the quick answer is "no." THC is going to remain active no matter what you do. Discontinuing consumption, drinking fluids (mostly water and cranberry juice, it seems), helps, but not too much.
Drinking a lot of water can mess up the sample, which would force you to repeat it. Another is to stop smoking during the week before the test. What is usually recommended is not to use the products sold as urine cleansers: they rarely work.
The only way to be sure: stop using for three months. And even then, you could still test positive.
Types of tests and how they work
There are many types of tests based on the analysis of biological material such as urine, blood, saliva, breath, hair, sweat, and even fingernails. When cannabis is smoked, THC levels rise rapidly and temporarily in the body: in as little as 9 minutes, peak levels are reached in the bloodstream.
After about 30 minutes, the levels drop and continue to fall over the next few hours and then spread through the tissues and are metabolized by the liver, leaving metabolites in the body that can take days to disappear.
Cannabinoids in marijuana such as THC and CBD are metabolic and fat-soluble compounds, accumulating fat reserves throughout the body. These molecules are released more slowly over time, so more extended periods are required than with other substances for the body to purge itself of the remaining traces, especially in heavy users.
The most common test to detect marijuana consumption is the saliva test that, for example, is carried out by state security forces in traffic controls; However, the urine test is the most commonly used by private companies due to its more excellent reliability.
The THC in saliva remains 24 hours to 72 hours after consumption, and some studies corroborate this margin. Therefore, these tests do not tell if you are under the effects of THC but can be positive even if you have consumed up to several days before, even if you are not under the psychoactive effects at the time of driving.
However, urine tests detect a different chemical called THC-COOH. This is formed by the breakdown of THC in the liver and remains in the body longer than the psychoactive substance. Urine tests are usually not positive for THC-COOH within a month of the last use; however, THC-COOH levels can be detected in a hair test up to 90 days after the previous use.
What amounts of cannabis can test positive?
There are different parameters to establish above what concentration of THC-COOH the test results are considered positive in urine testing. The most common cut-off level used in companies is 50 ng/ml (nanograms per milliliter). However, there are stricter ones such as 15 ng/ml and looser ones such as 100 ng/ml. Therefore, in the eyes of the companies, there is no consensus on the limits that supposedly pose a risk or a worrying amount in the organism.
Much lower is the concentration that THC tests usually detect in saliva to give a positive result: 5 ng/ml with drug tests in traffic controls and one ng/ml in the laboratory, which has raised many criticisms of the reliability of these oral tests.
According to studies, to give 50 ng/ml in urine, if the sample is collected from the same individual in saliva, it will correspond to 40 ng/ml. Such figures like five ng/ml (Drug test 5000, the one used by the DGT) and one ng/ml (in the laboratory) are tiny quantities compared to the 40 ng/ml required to confirm cannabis abuse by a saliva test calibrated in the same way as a urine test (let's remember that it is much more reliable).
And tiny if we compare it with the cut-off point to perform, for example, an Olympic test: According to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA/AMA), this cut-off point for sport is 150 ng/ml in urine, an amount that to reach we would have to consume (between 4-6 hours before the competition) at least 4-8 units of cannabis resin of high purity containing between 0.5 to 0.75 g of cannabis per unit.
Factors that help to speed up the elimination
One of the most recurring doubts for these tests is whether these urine tests also affect users of cannabis with CBD, the cannabinoid most commonly used in medical treatments. The truth is that both CBD oils and CBD medicines usually contain minimal THC, and therefore, there is little risk.
However, if you want to be 100% sure that these small traces of THC are not going to be positive, it is best to analyze them beforehand to determine their exact composition. At the moment, it is the tetrahydrocannabinol metabolites that are the main problem for consumer-facing urine tests. However, the risks can be reduced.
When faced with a urine test, the quickest solution is to drink plenty of fluids to help dilute the metabolites. Being dehydrated can be one reason for testing positive in control even if many days have passed since the last consumption due to the high THC concentration in the urine.
Some laboratories specialized in these tests consider the results suspicious when the levels of creatinine concentration (a waste substance expelled when urinating) are very low and may order to repeat the test or even consider it positive.
A healthy diet is also good. As THC is stored in body fat, it is advisable not to eat fatty foods, which, in addition to slowing down, can even give a new life cycle to the cannabinoid.
Detoxifying foods such as fruit, vegetables, and tea accelerate the process of elimination of tetrahydrocannabinol residues. Cardiovascular exercise or, failing that, saunas or Turkish baths are other good options to burn fat by sweating, a fast way to eliminate the cannabinoid.
In the circumstances in which we live, with the tightening of laws and many jobs hanging by a thread, it is difficult not to think that any day we will have to take a drug test to see if we have consumed marijuana.
In the case of cannabis, both businessmen and legislators fail to understand that it is used to combat some ailment we suffer from or that it simply helps us to relax or sleep better to perform better in our work. For this reason, to avoid surprises, it is essential to know what effect THC has on our body and act accordingly.
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