How Long Does Medical Cannabis Stay in the Body?

Jeff Yauck | June 17, 2024
pj au-article-how long does medical cannabis stay in the body

In the heart of Australia’s ever-evolving healthcare landscape, thousands turn to medical cannabis prescriptions for relief and healing. But as the popularity of this natural remedy grows, so does the need to understand how our bodies process it.

If you’re among those navigating the world of medical cannabis, it’s crucial to grasp the intricate journey it takes through your system. By gaining insight into its metabolism, you’ll not only feel empowered in your treatment but also equipped to navigate potential challenges such as impaired driving laws and workplace regulations.

How Does Your Body Process Medical Cannabis?

The path medical cannabis takes within your body varies depending on how you consume it. Inhalation and ingestion represent the two primary methods: inhaling through smoking or vaping and ingesting through edibles, capsules, oils, or tinctures.

When you opt for vaping, the active cannabinoids, including THC and CBD, are vaporized and swiftly enter your bloodstream through the lungs, resulting in rapid effects. Conversely, ingested medical cannabis undergoes metabolism in the liver before entering the bloodstream, leading to a delayed onset of effects, typically experienced 30 to 60 minutes after consumption.

Following ingestion or inhalation, THC undergoes a common metabolic process. Initially, it enters the liver, where it is metabolized into 11-OH-THC, the compound responsible for cannabis’s intoxicating effects.

Subsequently, 11-OH-THC is converted into THC-COOH, an inactive compound stored in fatty tissue. It is gradually released into the bloodstream over days or weeks before being eliminated as waste.

What Factors Influence THC Metabolism?

The metabolism of THC varies from person to person. It is influenced by several factors, such as the dosage, THC concentration in the medication, consumption frequency, and individual metabolism and body composition. Higher THC concentrations in medical cannabis prolong its presence in your system.

The method of consumption also affects the peak concentration of THC in your body. Ingested THC reaches its peak approximately 1.5 hours post-consumption, while inhaled THC peaks much quicker, with delta-9-THC peaking within 3 to 10 minutes and 11-OH-THC reaching its zenith after 15 minutes. However, traces of THC may linger in saliva for up to 12 hours in occasional users and as long as 30 hours in frequent users.

For regular medical cannabis users, THC may persist in the body for an extended duration due to the accumulation of THC metabolites like THC-COOH in fatty tissues and organs. In heavy users, THC-COOH has been detected more than 25 days post-use.

Detecting THC in Your System & Understanding Testing Methods

The duration of THC detectability varies depending on the type of test employed and individual usage patterns. Saliva tests typically detect THC for 4 to 6 hours after inhalation, potentially extending to 12 hours for occasional users and three days for heavy users.

Blood tests can identify THC in occasional users up to seven days post-use and up to 30 days in heavy users.

Urine tests, commonly used in workplace settings, may detect THC for up to 24 days, while THC-COOH, the metabolite targeted in drug tests, may remain detectable for three months in heavy users.

Hair follicle tests offer long-term detection potential, capable of revealing THC use from months prior.

Navigating Drug Testing as a Medical Cannabis Patient

Despite the therapeutic benefits of medical cannabis, legislation in Australia has yet to fully accommodate its widespread use. As a medical cannabis patient, understanding when and where you may encounter drug testing is crucial for ensuring your safety and legal compliance.

Roadside drug testing, a common practice in Australia, aims to detect any presence of THC in your system, regardless of impairment. It’s imperative to note that even non-intoxicating levels of THC can trigger a positive result.

Workplace drug testing, prevalent in safety-sensitive industries, may detect medical cannabis use from days or weeks prior. Familiarizing yourself with your workplace’s policies regarding medical cannabis and prescription medications can help you navigate potential testing scenarios with confidence.

Conclusion: Make Informed Choices!

In conclusion, the metabolism of medical cannabis is a complex yet fascinating process that varies from person to person. By understanding how your body processes THC and the factors influencing its detection, you can make informed decisions regarding your medical cannabis use. Whether for pain management, anxiety relief, or other therapeutic purposes, medical cannabis offers a natural alternative worth exploring.

However, it’s essential to remain vigilant and comply with legal regulations, particularly regarding drug testing, to ensure your safety and well-being in Australia’s evolving healthcare landscape.