How Long Does THC from Vaping Stay Detectable in Urine?
The tide of marijuana legalization is still slowly, surely sweeping across the United States, and has even started to edge its way across other parts of the globe.
Unfortunately, individual state legislature and the fact that marijuana is still illegal at the federal level (in America at least) mean that your level of personal freedom really does depend on the geographical lottery of where you live.
Even for those fortunate enough to live in an enlightened place where marijuana isn’t criminalized, employers and potential employers can and often do require drug tests.
Whether or not this constitutes a vile imposition on civil liberties is a matter for a different day. The pragmatic question becomes – How long does THC stay detectable in urine?
How does THC get into your urine in the First Place?
THC is the most psychoactive compound produced by the cannabis plant. THC, along with many other cannabinoids and terpenes, is absorbed when cannabis is vaped, smoked, or ingested.
However, contrary to popular belief, urine drug tests don’t actually detect THC directly. Rather, they are designed to identify the products that your body creates when it breaks down THC to be excreted. These waste products are also called metabolites, and the one produced by the metabolization of THC is known as 11-Nor-9-carboxy-Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC-COOH).
To filter THC-COOH from your body, it must first bind with glucuronic acid. The compound is then filtered by your kidneys and passes into the bladder before it is excreted in the usual fashion.
How Long is THC Detectable in Urine?
Unfortunately, the question of how long a drug test will give a positive result for cannabis is not straightforward to answer. There are a large number of variables that can affect how long THC metabolites remain detectable in a person’s urine, including the regularity that the person smokes, their body fat percentage, and the strength of the cannabis they imbibe.
One of the main problems with THC is that it is highly fat-soluble. The fat-soluble nature of THC means that it binds to lipids in your body where it can remain for a very long time as your body slowly metabolizes and excretes it.
As THC binds to fat in the body, it is reasonable to suppose that people with a higher BMI and body fat percentage will take longer to completely eliminate all traces of THC from their system.
What Factors Affect How Long THC Remains Detectable in Urine?
A drug test can’t indicate how much you smoke, when you last smoked, or even if you were under the influence of cannabis at the time you took the test. The only thing a urine drug test can show is whether your body is still processing and eliminating THC.
As outlined above, numerous factors can impact the amount of time it takes for an individual to be THC-free after smoking cannabis.
According to one study, about 15% to 20% of the THC taken into the body from cannabis use is excreted through the bladder. The takeaway from this is a fairly straightforward one: The more you smoke, and the stronger the weed, the longer it will take your body to break down, metabolize and excrete the by-products that will cause you to fail a drug test.
To pass a drug test, your body must have completely eliminated all of the THC and the metabolic by-products associated with it from your body. Different people have different metabolic rates, and those with faster metabolisms will tend to excrete THC at a faster rate than people whose metabolisms are slower.
Though it may be counterintuitive, exercising before a drug test can increase the concentration of THC metabolites detectable in your urine.
A study of 14 habitual cannabis users looked at the effect of 35 minutes of moderately intense exercise on the concentration of THC metabolites in urine. The researchers discovered that urine levels of THC metabolites increased a significant amount with exercise, suggesting that exercising immediately before you take a drug test might not be the best idea if you hope to pass it!
The reason that exercise can increase your blood plasma concentration of THC metabolites is because of the way your body stores THC. As outlined above, THC is a lipid-soluble molecule. This means that when you ingest THC, it binds to the fat molecules that are in your body. As you exercise, your body breaks down some of these lipid molecules to use as stored energy, and this subsequently releases the stored THC molecules into your blood.
At the risk of stating the obvious, the more cannabis you consume, and the more frequently you consume it, the more THC that will be in your body when you submit your urine sample to be tested.
Following research done into this subject in 2017, it is clear that the frequency with which a person consumes cannabis is the main factor in determining how long after ceasing use they will be able to pass a drug test.
If you have never used cannabis before, it will take between 4 and 8 days for your urine to be THC metabolite-free. If you smoke one or two times per week, this rises to around 2 weeks. People who consume cannabis on most days will take from a month to a month and a half to eliminate all traces of THC from their system and daily smokers will test positive for two months (and potentially longer) from the last time they used cannabis.
- . For first-time smokers/vapers, cannabis is detectable for around 3 days in the urine
- . For regular/weekly smokers, the detection window is around a week
- . For daily/heavy users, the detection window is 30 days or more
Smoking vs Eating weed: Which stays detectable longer?
If you have made it this far in the article, you may be wondering if the method of consumption of cannabis affects how long you will fail a drug test.
On the face of it, it doesn’t seem obvious that whether you smoke or eat weed should affect how long THC remains in your body. However, a closer examination of the biological mechanisms behind getting high reveals some surprising facts.
Smoking and oral ingestion of cannabis produce subjectively different kinds of intoxication. Also, the amount of time that the high takes to onset, as well as the total duration of effects, is markedly different when you compare smoked to ingested cannabis. Smoking marijuana or using it in a vaporizer delivers a hit of THC directly into the bloodstream, where it very rapidly crosses the blood-brain barrier and accumulates in the brain.
By contrast, when weed or THC edibles are consumed, they must first be digested in the stomach and processed by the liver. The result is a much slower and more sustained “trickle” of THC and other cannabinoids (such as CBD) into your system, hence a slower and more sustained high.
When eaten, THC is first metabolized into a psychoactive substance called 11-hydroxy-THC. After this, it then follows the usual enzymatic pathway of conversion into THCCOOH and then excretion, but this extra step means cannabis might stay detectable in urine for a bit longer when eaten!
Vaping cannabis and THC detection times: The Verdict
No matter which way you look at it, the bottom line is that if you are anything like a habitual cannabis smoker, you will have to stop your habit way ahead of time if you are to have any hope of passing a drug test. But let’s be realistic. It is very unlikely you will have a full two months notice for a drug test, and there may well come a time in your life and career when you need a bit of extra help in clearing out the THC from your system.
A quick browse on your favorite search engine will reveal a huge number of potential hearsay solutions to passing a drug test. From the vaguely scientific-sounding THC detox programs to, frankly wild advice, the internet has no shortage of weird-sounding solutions for any imminent drug tests you may have coming up. But do any of them actually work?
Before you start doing anything crazy, let’s have a look at what the evidence says.
THC Detox Programmes
Picture the scene – Whether it’s for that shiny new career, as part of the terms for a sporting event, or for any other reason, you have a urine test coming up. To make matters worse, you have just finished vaping a nice big bowl of prime bud. Oops. Is there anything you can do?
It’s a nightmare situation. You’ve been enjoying your habit, when suddenly, out of nowhere, the man springs a surprise drug test upon you. Maybe it’s for a new job, or you’ve moved from a place where cannabis is legal to somewhere with less forward looking social policy. Either way, you know that pretty much every fat cell in your body is wearing a nice little coat of THC metabolites, and you’re starting to worry.
While there is no perfect solution out there, there are some steps you can take and programs you can run to ensure that you have the highest (no pun intended) chance possible of passing a urine drug test. These are collectively known as THC detox programs.
If you’ve got a urine test coming up and you’re starting to sweat, there are a few options that might speed up the rate your body eliminates THC.
The process of metabolizing and excreting compounds from the body is also known as detoxification. There exist a variety of different kits and drinks that purport to assist those who want to pass a drug test. But do any of them actually work? And if so, how?
Marijuana and THC Detox Options
At the risk of stating the obvious, the first and most important thing to do if you are to have any hope of passing a drug test is to stop. Taking. Cannabis. Without this step, nothing else matters.
So, you’ve put out your joints, hidden your vape, and locked the last of your stash away? Good. Now we can look at some of the options available to try and help you pass that looming test. The aim is to purge the body of any remnant of THC or its metabolites, so the longer you stop smoking before you have to take the test, the more likely it will come back clean.
A small piece of good news is that you don’t need to be 100% clean from THC metabolites, just clean enough to be below the detection threshold of the test
After stopping using cannabis, the second most important step in marijuana detoxification is to stay hydrated. Literally every reaction inside the human body requires the presence of H2O, so staying as hydrated as possible during detox is key to making it happen as quickly and efficiently as possible.
As well as staying hydrated during detox, you will want to increase your water intake dramatically in the 24-48 hours directly before your test. The aim is to flush your system, so the more you can urinate, the better. Additionally, diluting your urine will lower the concentration of any remaining THC metabolites.
However, there is a risk of “overdoing it” and producing a sample that is obviously diluted. This might lead to increased suspicion and further scrutiny, even if you manage to pass the first test.
Drug testing labs are wise to the practice of diluting your urine, so you need to take some additional steps to hide the fact that your urine is more dilute than it should be.
To regain that classic yellow color to your urine, it is advised that you take some B vitamins. Anecdotal reports suggest that vitamins b-2 and b-12 seem to have the most profound effect on urine coloration, so stock up on these and take around 100mg a few hours before your test.
Creatinine is a metabolic product that is created through the process of muscle contraction and relaxation. It occurs throughout the human body and is naturally excreted at a fairly consistent rate in the urine. A low level of creatinine present in a urine sample is one method that laboratories use to determine if it is diluted beyond an acceptable range.
Creatine, which the body breaks down into creatinine, is a commonly used and widely available bodybuilding supplement. Take 2-3x the normal dose, so around 10g total, for several days before your test.
Activated charcoal is everywhere these days. Wander down the aisle of any high street pharmacy and you will find face creams, soaps, and toothpastes, all containing this useful ingredient. You can even buy pitch-black ice cream made with the stuff!
Without going too deep into physiology and human biology, there is a process in the body known as “enterohepatic recirculation”. Despite the complicated-sounding name, all you really need to know is that glucuronide, a metabolite of THC-COOH (the one most drug tests look for), can be converted back into THC-COOH in the intestine. This cycle can repeat many times, drastically prolonging the amount of time that THC-COOH remains in your body.
Activated charcoal provides a means of blocking enterohepatic recirculation. Clinical studies have proven that activated charcoal significantly speeds up the elimination of both glucuronide and THC-COOH, as well as other metabolites of THC.
Charcoal Detox Protocol
Activated charcoal works best as a short-term detox solution. The recommended dose of charcoal is quite high, and although it is generally well tolerated for 48 hours, using it for much longer can lead to negative outcomes, including bowel irregularity and constipation.
As well as the risk of gut issues, the peak effect of activated charcoal on reducing metabolites is achieved at around 36 hours. There are diminishing returns after this point.
You should note that the metabolite reducing effect of activated charcoal is short-term and temporary. This is because it only works on the metabolites that are already floating around your system, not on the stores of lipid-soluble THC in your fat cells.
There is no evidence that taking activated charcoal for longer than 48 hours has any increased benefit when it comes to passing a drug test.
Detox Kits and Drinks
Even with the last-minute tips and tricks outlined above, naturally detoxing the body from THC and all of its associated metabolites can take 30-60 days.
If you have an imminent test and little time to prepare, you may wish to opt for either a detox kit, detox drink, or combination of the two.
Detox drinks, as the name suggests, are beverages that, in theory, speed along the metabolic processes involved in eliminating THC out of your system. Same-Day detox drinks are designed to give you a window of a few hours where you should test negative for THC. But do they work?
Anecdotal reports on the efficacy of same-day detox drinks vary, but this article from Vice at least seems to suggest that they work.
Your results may vary, and regulation of these products is basically non-existent. if you do decide to go down the detox drink route, always ensure that you are as informed as possible about the specific brand you buy.
In contrast to detox drinks, which give aim to give you a window of opportunity within which you should pass a drug test, a detox kit is a more long-term affair. Generally, detox kits are based on a protocol that lasts several days, usually between five and ten. The aim of a detox kit is to ensure that your system is permanently (well, at least until the next time you vape) and completely stripped of THC and its metabolites.
THC detox kits combine dietary detoxification fiber, liquid, and capsules. For daily smokers, a detox kit is essential to passing a urine test.
Good quality THC detox kits from reputable sources will ensure that THC is absent from any urine you produce, however, they require a bit of commitment. To put it bluntly, expect to spend a lot of time getting acquainted with the inside of your bathroom. Research indicates that over 60% of THC metabolites are excreted in feces, so…
Just make sure you’ve stocked up on some good reading material (and TP!) is all we are saying.
Detox Kits vs Detox Drinks
THC from vaping weed can stick around in your body for a significant time. If you are a light user, or it has been a significant amount of time since you last used cannabis, a detox drink may help to get you into the clear. Detox drinks can work if you are already close to the point where you would pass a urine test anyway.
However, for daily and heavy smokers, there really is no alternative to a high-quality detox kit. Sure, a well-formulated kit from a well-known brand can be expensive, but this is not the time to try and save pennies! Especially if there is something substantial at stake, such as your career.
Final thoughts on THC from Vaping and urine tests
If you use cannabis at all, whether smoked, vaped, or eaten, you will need to take some steps to pass a urine drug test. The more often you smoke, the higher the strength or the longer you’ve been smoking, the longer it will take before you can pass a urine test.
Asides from simply giving up (let’s be real, you wouldn’t have read this far if that was an option), your best bet to eliminating all traces of THC from your body is to do a home detox kit. Ensure you buy your detox kit from a reliable source, and follow all of the instructions to the letter.
Ultimately there is no way to guarantee a clean drug test if you take cannabis, but unfortunately, that is the risk we agreed to bear. Until governments finally wake up and stop their ludicrous, unwinnable war on drugs, purveyors of the herb will have to resort to the kind of actions outlined above.
Good luck, stay safe, and happy vaping.