Thursday, August 11, 2016

How Long Does Marijuana (THC) Stay In Your System?

The amount of time that an individual’s body can retain traces of marijuana depends on several factors, including-
  • The kind and sensitivity of the test employed
  • Frequency of marijuana use
  • The dosage used
  • The last time of use
  • The individual’s metabolism rate, and the state of his/her digestive and excretory system
  • The person’s genetic make-up

Since the rate of THC metabolism varies per individual, no one can really say how long one will test positive for marijuana. Broadly, a first time user will likely test positive for one to three days, while a frequent user could test positive for around a week following last use. The basic marijuana test types and their approximate detection times - [12]

Marijuana - Single Use1 - 7+ days12 - 24 hoursDoubtfulNot validated (0 -24 hours?)
Marijuana - Regular Use7 - 100 days2 - 7 daysSeveral monthsNot validated (0 -24 hours?)

Marijuana Tests And Test Kits

Marijuana can be detected in the body long after the drug’s ‘high’ effect wears off.  

Urine tests 

Urinalysis is the most common way of screening for marijuana use. Urine tests detect a THC metabolite called THC-COOH for days to weeks after use.

THC-COOH is produced when the liver breaks down THC and can be detected within two to five hours after use, and remains in the body for much longer.

Blood tests

Blood tests that screen for marijuana use can detect the presence of active THC. While high levels indicate recent use, low levels may persist for hours or days after the last use. Unlike urine tests, blood tests are a better detector of recent use, and to determine if one is under the influence of marijuana.

Hair tests

Hair tests are more likely to detect regular than occasional marijuana use. They do not measure current marijuana use, but rather non-psychoactive residues that remain in the hair for up to 90-days or more. There is no evidence that suggest if hair tests are sensitive to one-time use of marijuana. Also, since THC does not always bind to the hair follicle it is not considered an accurate test for marijuana use.

Saliva testing

It is a newer, less proven technology. The sensitivity of saliva tests is not well established. Theoretically a saliva test is supposed to detect recent use by analyzing secretions from inside the oral tissues that cannot be washed out with mouthwash.

Test Kits

Several drug companies have come up with at-home test kits for detecting marijuana use by analyzing the urine sample. Companies most commonly use the cutoff level of 50 ng/mL for THC-COOH level.

Marijuana Effects

The effects of marijuana on the body can be noticed immediately as well as in the long term. Long-term effects may depend on the mode of administration, quantity, and frequency of use. Prenatal use of marijuana may result in birth defects and mental abnormalities in the child. The immediate effects of marijuana use include (1)
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Disorientation
  • Lack of physical coordination
  • Depression
  • Sleepiness
  • Panic attacks
  • Anxiety
  • Dilatation of blood vessels- leading to bloodshot eyes
  • Altered senses
  • Impaired memory

In the long term marijuana can lead to –
  • Bronchitis
  • Lung infections
  • Increased risk of lung cancer
  • Aggravation of existing respiratory illnesses like asthma and cystic fibrosis.
  • Palpitations
  • Increased risk of heart attack
  • Mental illness such as hallucinations or delusions
  • Suppression of the immune system, increasing the vulnerability to common illnesses
  • Changes in the structure of sperm cells. Even small amounts can cause temporary sterility in men.
  • Irregular menstrual cycle
  • Reduction in thinking, memory, and learning functions
  • Lack of motivation
  • Forgetfulness

Marijuana Facts

  • Marijuana is also known as weed, pot, bud, grass, Mary Jane, MJ, herb, reefer, skunk, boom, gangster, kief, and ganja. [2]
  • Marijuana contains more than 400 different identifiable chemical constituents. [3]
  • The first documented use of marijuana as a medicinal drug occurred in 2737 B.C. by a Chinese emperor named Shen Nung. [4]
  • Cannabis is at the third position among the top five substances which account for admissions to drug treatment facilities in the US. [5]
  • Marijuana is the most frequently used illegal drug in the United States, and worldwide. [5] 42% of Americans have tried marijuana at least once. [6] It is estimated that 53% of Americans favor legalization of marijuana. [7]
  • While the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not recognized or approved the marijuana plant as medicine, scientific study of cannabinoids (chemicals in marijuana) has led to two FDA-approved medications that contain cannabinoid in pill form. [2]
  • Till date there has been no known case of marijuana overdose. Nor has any death been reported due to smoking too much weed. [8]
  • The first cannabis-based prescription medicine was launched in the United Kingdom in 2010.

Varieties And Strains and Preparations

Marijuana consists of dried flowers, leaves and stems of the Cannabis sativa plant. This is the most widely consumed form and contains about 3% to 20% THC (delta- 9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the main psychoactive chemical in marijuana that causes euphoric feelings. Marijuana can be smoked in a cigarette, ‘joint’ or a pipe. It can be ingested by baking it into foods. [9]  

Kief or keef is a fine powder obtained from dried resin glands (trichomes) that are found on the leaves of the cannabis plant.

It has higher levels of THC than just marijuana alone. Since kief is concentrated THC one needs to smoke a small amount to obtain the desired effects. This can help minimize the health risks associated with marijuana use and still provide the desirable effects of marijuana. [10]

Hashish or hash is a cannabis product composed of concentrated kief that is pressed together to form a cake or ball. It can be consumed orally or can be smoked. Hash is also more powerful than marijuana, containing 40 % THC. [11]

Infusion of Cannabis or cannabis tea usually refers to infusion of the cannabis leaves in hot water. This method of ingesting cannabis yields low psychoactive effects, as THC is not a water-soluble compound. Dissolving the THC in lipids or alcohol is more effective for psychoactive purposes. [11 

Marijuana tincture is essentially alcohol extractions of the flowers and trim leaves of cannabis. Tinctures are easy to make and inexpensive. Most tinctures are made to be used sublingually (under the tongue).  

Hash oil refers to the oil extracted from cannabis. It has three to five times higher concentration of THC than the plant itself, and can be smoked or vaporized directly, or used to make edible products. [2]

Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana refers to using the whole unprocessed marijuana plant or its basic extracts to treat a disease or symptom. [2] In states where medical marijuana is legal, the doctor issues a ‘marijuana card’ that allows the patient to buy marijuana from an authorized seller. Though marijuana is yet to be approved, the FDA has approved THC to treat nausea and improve appetite. It is available by a doctor’s prescription Marinol (dronabinol) and Cesamet (nabilone). Medical marijuana may be used by smoking, vaporization, eating or can be taken as a liquid extract.

Medical Uses of Marijuana

  • Pain- There are some evidences that suggest smoking marijuana thrice a day could help reduce nerve pain caused by HIV and other conditions. Oral administration of marijuana or cannabinoids can decrease pain in people with chronic pain.
  • Glaucoma- Smoking marijuana possibly helps to reduce the eye pressure. But, it also decreases blood flow to the optic nerve. It is still unclear if marijuana can improve sight.
  • AIDS- Smoking marijuana can help people deal with HIV/AIDS related weight loss. It stimulates the appetite of people with AIDS.
  • Multiple sclerosis -Smoking marijuana or using it in the form of a mouth spray can prove to be effective for the treatment of muscle tightness caused by multiple sclerosis.
Opponents of medical marijuana argue that it is just a front for drug legalization and recreational use of cannabis.

Addictions And Rehabilitation

Marijuana addiction appears to be very similar to other substance use disorders. It is estimated that approximately 10% of people who smoke marijuana will eventually get addicted to it. People with marijuana use disorders often suffer from other psychiatric disorders. Several studies have suggested that effectively treating the mental health disorder may help reduce marijuana use.

Several treatment options are available to overcome marijuana addiction. Recovery programs can involve medication, behavioral therapy, group and individual therapy and counseling services. [13] Medications that doctors prescribe for marijuana abuse could include. [13]
  • Bupropion is an antidepressant that helps to cravings and other withdrawal symptoms.
  • Divalproex is an anticonvulsant medication that has been used to reduce marijuana cravings.
  • Naltrexone is used to reduce marijuana use.
  • Nefazodone suppresses the withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting marijuana.
  • Orally administered THC is a synthetic version of THC used to reduce cravings, anxiety and chills seen with quitting marijuana.
Behavioral treatments that have shown promise in rehabilitation of marijuana addicts include- [13]
  • Cognitive - behavioral therapy
  • Contingency management
  • Motivational enhancement therapy
These programs have been shown to produce extremely positive outcomes with regard to rates of abstinence from marijuana use.