Ah yes, the dreaded drug test. You’ve applied for the job, you’ve aced the interview, and the company of your dreams has officially extended an offer. It’s all going to plan as you look through the contract, until you get to the bottom of the page and read the fine print. “…upon passing a routine, mandatory drug test.”
Your heart drops and panic sets in as you think back to the last time you smoked weed. Was it two weeks ago? Three? Just last night? And then you begin to wonder how long it’ll stay in your system. You’ve always heard 30 days was the principal amount of time, but who knows if that’s true. Questions and worries continue to flood your brain.
Determining how to prepare for a drug test is a complex process with no simple answer. Numerous drug tests are available to employers, each of which is unique with varying levels of sensitivity. Meanwhile, your personal biology and patterns of usage will influence the detection window (the period of time that cannabis can be detected in your system after you’ve ceased using), making matters even more complicated.
Take a deep breath as we break this down. Read on to learn more about drug tests, how they work, how long cannabis stays in your system, and what you can do to get THC out of your system to pass that drug test with flying colors.
How Do Drug Tests Work?
Drug tests are conducted by employers millions of times each year on potential new hires and established employees alike. Though we’re most familiar with drug tests that analyze urine, other tests can examine your hair, blood, saliva, sweat, and even your fingernails. When cannabis is consumed, THC levels will rise in your body that are detectable from several hours to several days after consuming cannabis. The presence of THC is what these tests are looking for.
So how do these drug tests actually work? When you consume THC or CBD, metabolic byproducts called metabolites will accumulate in fat reserves throughout your body. Over time your body releases these metabolites, but this occurs slowly and it takes even longer if you’re a chronic user. For instance, a hair test can detect traces of THC in your body up to 90 days after you last used cannabis in any form. Drug tests will attempt to detect these metabolites, thus confirming that you’ve recently used cannabis.
Though many different testing options exist, urine tests are by and large the most popular method because they’re recommended by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that creates guidelines for drug testing of government employees. Urine tests won’t directly measure how much THC is in your body, but they will measure levels of THC metabolite.
When the time comes to choose the sensitivity of the test, a cutoff will be established that acts as a standard to determine if cannabis is detected. For instance, the primary cutoff for cannabis urine tests is 50 ng/mL, which means that a measurement above 50 represents a positive test. That being said, cutoff windows can vary drastically from 15 ng/mL to 100 ng/mL, which will alter the sensitivity of the test and the detection window. For this reason it can be extremely difficult to know whether or not the test you take is sensitive or otherwise.
How Long Does Cannabis Stay in Your System?
Your metabolism will dictate how long cannabis remains in your system. And because everyone’s metabolism operates differently, there’s no single answer to satisfy the crowd. Lifestyle choices such as diet and exercise can influence the amount of time required to pass a drug test, as those with a higher percentage of body fat will store cannabinoids more readily than lean individuals, but even this isn’t a certainty. That being said, research has provided general guidelines for those that await their nearing drug test.
A study conducted in 1989 by researchers in Sweden concluded that cannabis could be detected at levels above 20 ng/mL up to 25 days after consumption. Yet it’s important to note that only one subject tested positive beyond 14 days, and the average amount of time it took before cannabis levels were no longer detectable was a mere 9.8 days. A second study conducted in 1984 found that it took 40 days for participants to get clean, but 8 out of 10 subjects were clean within 13 days.
Using expert opinions we can create a usage spectrum that illustrates the number of days until the detection window ends. On one end of this spectrum you’ll find the occasional or first-time users; cannabinoids will remain in their urine for approximately one week if we follow a 20 ng/mL threshold, and even less (3-4 days) if that threshold is 50 ng/mL.
On the other end of the spectrum you’ll find the chronic users that consume cannabis rather often; these individuals have a detection window that extends to 21 days if we follow the 20 ng/mL threshold, or 10 days if the threshold is 50 ng/mL. Most of us will fall somewhere in-between these two points.
Remember that these figures relate solely to urine tests. Hair tests, as mentioned above, can detect cannabis up to 90 days post-use, while blood tests can detect cannabis for up to a day.
How to Pass a Cannabis Drug Test
Ah yes, the information you’ve been searching for. Your drug test is approaching, and you’d like to know what you can do to ensure you pass with flying colors.
Let’s start with the obvious answer. If you want to pass a drug test, don’t smoke weed — plain and simple. It may sound like a cop out, but the easiest way to pass is to be abstinent. That being said, you would also be wise to avoid spending time in the vicinity of others that are smoking, as secondhand exposure can also lead to a positive test.
Stoner flicks might depict the usage of chemicals to tamper with a urine sample, but modern tests now check for these chemicals, so don’t try them. Not to mention you’d look far less professional messing with your urine test than you would if you simply failed.
Another common technique simply involves drinking lots of water to flush your system, as dehydration will lead to the concentration of your urine and increase the chances of a positive result. But if you really want to avoid detection, hit the gym or start exercising as soon as possible. Because cannabinoids are stored in fat, any fat you burn will release cannabinoids and decrease your likelihood of detection.
Puff Puff Pass the Test
At the end of the day, it’s important to give your body enough time to clear itself of any cannabinoids. While research suggests this can occur within 1-3 weeks (depending on your level of consumption), the 30-day rule is a tried and trusted option that ensures you’ll pass with flying colors. If you don’t have that kind of time, hit the gym and drink liquids to cleanse your body quicker. And if you have even less time than that, look at this whole dilemma as a learning experience. No matter your situation, we hope you puff puff pass your test with flying colors.
Disclaimer: Diem Cannabis LLC would like to remind you that possessing, using, distributing and/or selling marijuana is still a federal crime, and no advice we give is intended to provide any guidance or assistance in violating federal law, nor will it provide any guidance or assistance in complying with federal law.