How do the active ingredients of cannabis behave in our body when they come into contact with our blood? Are there tests that can positively prove the presence of cannabis in the days and hours after we have consumed it?
I am sure we have all more then once asked ourselves these type of questions.
We are all now totally accustomed to police checks for alcohol on the roads. And people that drink alcohol tend to know how many glasses of beer or wine or other drinks they can have to pass these tests, should they be stopped by the police. We are hearing reports from the countries where cannabis is legal, that it is becoming increasingly common for employers to carry out drug checks either as part of the interview process, or randomly, to control productivity. This is not yet standard practice in Europe, but each week there are more employers that are adopting these techniques. And herein lies the question. Is there a way of knowing how long THC remains in the saliva and our body? In this article we aim to throw a little more light on this issue.
How does THC work in our body?
When cannabis is inhaled, it’s active component, THC, is absorbed into our bloodstream. After a few minutes, it reaches maximum level, but just a few hours later, only 60% continues circulating in the blood. This THC-laden blood will keep circulating round the body for the next 6 to 8 hours before the liver cleans it.
When the liver processes THC, it converts it into another substance called THC-COOH, which is what is mainly looked for in urine, blood and hair strand tests. This is a new metabolite which adheres to fatty tissues (heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, and body fat) in our bodies. As with other toxins, THC-COOH is passed from our body in the urine and faeces, so a healthy lifestyle will aid this process; lots of hydration, sport and foods high in liquid.
But before this point is reached we have another issue, our body does not eliminate THC-COOH so quickly. It all depends on the size of our bodies and the amount of cannabis we have consumed, as well as other factors such as the percentage of THC in the plant and the speed of our metabolism. Of course if we are regular users, this process is repeated again and again, and this metabolite enters out system every time we consume cannabis. This can be detected through tests that look for long term presence of THC-COOH, during a prolonged period after its use, up to months, through blood analysis, urine and hair strand tests.
And so what happens with the THC in our saliva?
As we have already said, urine, hair-strand and blood tests look for long-term presence of the metabolite. But are saliva tests the same? The oral swabs used in these tests only look for THC, which is easy to detect in the saliva if you have recently consumed cannabis., although as we saw earlier, in the majority of cases, any trace of THC will have been absorbed by the blood stream after 8 to 12 hours. This means that saliva tests cease to be effective after 24 hours. The downside is that this is a test that can be done by the roadside or without warning at work. So, it is all relative because habitual users of cannabis are still likely to test positive.
On the market there are products that can help you pass a saliva test, and even home techniques, (mouthwash, or gargling with low concentration of hydrogen peroxide) but what is particularly recommended is to “ live a healthy lifestyle low in fat” so that the metabolites don't stick to the fatty tissues, plus a routine of sports and good hydration that will help to eliminate the toxins.
There are many factors (general and individual) that affect/influence the time it takes THC to leave out body completely. Amongst the general factors, the composition of the herb is important (more THC, higher accumulation of THC-COOH), the frequency and time of consumption, the method of ingesting (THC levels in the blood drop more quickly in those that smoke than those that eat cannabis) and amongst the individual factors, the speed of our metabolism, the percentage of body fat, if we are also taking other substances or supplements, if we regularly exercise, as well as if we eat and sleep well.