Weed Withdrawal: get all the facts including how long cannabis stays in your system!

Weed Withdrawal: get all the facts including how long cannabis stays in your system!
Weed Withdrawal: get all the facts including how long cannabis stays in your system!
Weed withdrawal is an actual thing. As you may already know, as it is a recent hot topic, many people are misinformed about almost everything: politics, conspiracies, diet, pharmaceuticals and drugs. Weed is no different. There are theories out there that marijuana is a gateway drug and that it is highly addictive — this is wrong for many reasons. And some people will swear to you that cannabis has absolutely no effect — no addictive qualities and no harmful or physical side effects, which is also not entirely true. Weed withdrawal will cause symptoms, though it is an area of little research that has a lot of room for explanation. And, if you are trying to flush your system of cannabis for a test, you will have to understand more about the testing, the substance and how it interacts with the body — and individually at that.

Cannabis should definitely be considered first as an herbal plant, second as a medicinal property and third as a psychotropic substance. The word "drug" has too many negative implications. Though cannabis can have some psychoactive effects, it is not nearly as inhibiting as over consumption of alcohol. But, unlike alcohol, cannabis stays in the body long after the effects wear off, and weed tests can’t precisely account for an accurate scenario. So, whether you inhaled smoke in a hot box or ate a whole space cake, you can test positive (of course, there is more of an explanation to this). This makes determination of being “too high” difficult to render. It isn’t like the two drink alcohol rule — you could get busted up to 90 days after smoking! How long does cannabis stay in your system? Why? How to flush your system of THC quickly? Read below for all you need to know about weed withdrawal and THC testing.


How long does weed stay in your system?

You might first be wondering how long does marijuana stay in your system — good question. So, here’s the short answer: it isn’t exactly known, but somewhere between 4 and 90 days depending on how much and how long you smoked before. It is not so black and white. When being tested, usually the tests detect for THC metabolites. So, how long does THC stay in your system? Here is the long answer: THC metabolites have a half life of 7 days. What does that mean? Well, THC metabolites are what your body excretes through the urine after getting high. So, here we will cover how long THC is detectable in urine, hair, blood and saliva.

How long does THC stay in your urine?

If you want to know how long THC stays in urine, the answer is not satisfactory: it depends. Anywhere from 4-90 days is a good estimate range. You will light up, take a hit, store the THC in your fat tissue and then slowly excrete THC metabolites through your urine. Having a half life of 7 days means that after 7 days of your last toke, the metabolites in your body will decrease by 50% of that last toke. This last part is very important. Let’s say you’ve been smoking weed every day for the last few years. After seven days, do not expect your test to only show half the metabolites of that last toke. It will show a half life of those few years.
So, if you are a light smoker or just had a joint that one time, expect to be completely free of THC metabolites in your urine by week 4. That’s a long time! That is why urine drug tests are very difficult to fool.
For chronic cannabis users, you are looking at a long time of abstinence. This can also depend on how much body fat you have since THC is stored in the fat tissue before excretion. This theory is detailed more in how to pass a drug test below. It may give you piece of mind that in order to pass the urine drug test you don’t have to test 0, but just under 50 ng/ml.

How long does weed stay in your hair?

The hair test is far less sophisticated and accurate. You probably won’t have to face one of these because too many false positives have been reported with the hair test, so many people find it a waste of time. If the tester is worried you might give fake urine, they could choose the hair test. If they do, you would have much more precedence to ask for a retest since so many false positives have been recorded, thus giving you more time to pass. It is also interesting to note that it takes up to 7 days for cannabis to show up after toking. So, if you had your first hit of marijuana one day before testing your hair, nothing should show up yet.
For the hair test, Quest Diagnostics followed a U.S. official test and found that, because the hair follicle pushes out of the scalp every ten days, it is roughly estimated that after 90 days your hair would pass the drug test.

How long does THC stay in your blood?

On average, THC will stay in the blood for 30 days. If you are a chronic smoker, you could be looking at longer. Because a blood test is more invasive and takes more coordination and processes it is not commonly used. It is also not widely chosen because the window of opportunity to find THC in the blood is far less accurate than the urine test (and not as easy). This process takes more resources, and not many people are favorable to needles.

How long does marijuana stay in your saliva?

If someone wants to give you a saliva test, count your stars. This is the easiest test to pass if you didn’t just smoke in the last 12 hours. This is usually the favorite choice of parents since you can order it online and it is an easy test to administer right away. If someone suspects that you are high in the moment, they can test your saliva. And if you did just smoke, you will test positive for cannabis use. The best way to avoid this test is to become a master of hiding the fact that you are high in the moment or try to delay the test until 12 hours later.

Giving up Weed

How might someone give up weed? How to quit smoking cannabis is very individual, but we will cover a few of the basics. You can quit weed cold turkey and it should be quite simple. It could be helpful to find alternative hobbies and activities that keep you busy and do not offer the opportunity of getting high. For example, instead of going to the movies you could go roller skating, which might require much more concentration. Usually, most people are fighting the urge of the act of smoking and not just the high. This is why, if you have the time, you could quit slowly by transitioning to only eating cannabis.

The best way to quit weed

The best way to quit weed is a slow transition by switching to only edibles and the occasional vape. Once you have kicked the habit of the beloved ritual of rolling and smoking your joints, you will really only be getting high more consciously rather than socially. This is one step towards soberness. The next step would be to restrict your consumption to every two days rather than every day and then, eventually, only on weekends. Finally, you might not have the urge and can go a week without consuming. After your first week, congratulations! The next few weeks should be much more bearable even though you might still have the urge to toke. Stay strong.

Benefits of quitting weed

There are some benefits for people who do not use cannabis medically to quit weed. For starters, you won’t get fired if you will have frequent drug tests for you job. There can also be a lot of physical and mental benefits, though cannabis use can also be beneficial so it is really up to your preference.
  • Less estrogen because cannabis has been reported as an estrogenic promoter
  • More energetic as cannabis usually has a sedative effect
  • More fertility
  • Less risk of lung problems
  • Less risk of paranoia or anxiety attacks
  • Less socially awkward and clumsy


Side effects of quitting weed

Quitting weed symptoms differ from person to person. Some report headaches after quitting weed, which is also a common symptom for people when they stop drinking coffee or taking aspirin after chronic use. Symptoms of THC withdrawal are caused by the lack of endocannabinoids in your system. When you smoke cannabis regularly, your body doesn’t need to create as many endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids are neurotransmitters that are naturally in our body that are an important part of brain function. They play an important role in our hormone function, releasing hormones for fertility, immune responses, anti-inflammatory properties and to regulate stress.
The question of how long weed withdrawal will last depends on your body and how it can function without the excess cannabinoids, which would increase endocannabinoids in the system, it was receiving through cannabis ingestion. Once your body can regulate its endocannabinoid function and hormone regulation without cannabis ingestion, you will not experience weed withdrawal anymore. This PubMed study reported that marijuana withdrawal lasted 3 weeks and exposed the symptoms below.
The most common signs of weed withdrawal are:
  • irritability
  • nervousness/anxiety
  • sleep difficulty
  • decreased appetite or weight loss
  • depressed mood
  • one of the following physical symptoms such as abdominal pain, shakiness/tremors, sweating, fever, chills, or headache.


Cannabis withdrawal

With pot withdrawal to dab withdrawal and everything in between, the cannabis withdrawal timeline is about three weeks. Many participants in the study experienced marijuana withdrawal anxiety, irritability and insomnia. The physical withdrawal from weed was less severe and more prominent in the first few days of withdrawal. The physical symptoms from weed withdrawal were typical withdrawal symptoms like shakiness, sweating, chills and headaches — similar symptoms to caffeine withdrawal.

Passing a drug test

If you need to pass a drug test, the only way to surely pass is to stop ingesting or smoking cannabis. If you are in a bind because you quit but not long enough time has passed for the THC metabolites to have fully excreted, then there might be a few things for you to try. Many people talk about detoxing and flushing but this doesn’t seem to do anything but excrete more metabolites thus making your test show higher amounts of THC.

NCSM (the Dutch Association for Legal Cannabis and its Constituents as Medicine) seems to have a more believable theory that involves flushing and then re-feeding. Though they still give some questionable advice. Because THC metabolites are stored in the fat tissue, the more fat that you gain in the short term right before the test, the less you will excrete. So here is the theoretically best advice, though not proven, way to pass a drug test:

  1. Reduce weight. Stoke your metabolism and drink lots of water so the THC excretes from your fat cells at a higher rate at least 4 days before the test.
  2. Gain weight. Two or three days prior to the test, start to raise your body fat. You can do this a lot of ways (just Google it). One way to do this is by eating a combination of fat and sugar. This, in theory, will inhibit fat burning (since you are gaining fat) and will stop the release of THC from your fat tissues.
  3. Pre-test. You could purchase a test for home use and test your progress before the real thing.
  4. Taking activated charcoal throughout the week prior could also help.


weed withdrawal refill cannabisHow do you feel when your canisters run dry? Photo: @eigna1992

weed withdrawal no smoking kushAll rooms are all-smoking non-smoking, photo: @hotmesjes

Cannabis withdrawal overview

Basically, anything that you abstain from that effects your biology like hormones or neurotransmitters (such as caffeine, herbal supplements and even aspirin) will cause withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms are not explicit to weed withdrawal, but it is a real thing. If you are a chronic user, you will feel the withdrawal effects much stronger than an occasional user. This is because your body in turn produces less endocannabinoids because it relies on your cannabis intake. When you take that away, it will take some time for your body to reach homeostasis again.

Too stoned to read any of this? Watch this instead:


Written by

Annie Loupy writer

Have you experienced weed withdrawal before? Have questions about the best ways to quit? Leave us a comment below!