Marijuana has an active ingredient known as Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. This is the chemical compound that is responsible for the “high” that individual experiences after smoking or ingesting marijuana. These effects usually fade quite fast, but marijuana can be present in the body for extended periods. Sometimes, days or even weeks after it used. This has led researchers to wonder how Marijuana is stored in the body.
There are two major ways through which marijuana is consumed. One of the common ways is through smoking it. The second way is through ingesting it orally or by mixing it in food. After marijuana is consumed, the THC is absorbed in the bloodstream then it is distributed throughout the entire body. People who smoke marijuana will feel its effects faster than those who ingest it orally. The THC will attach itself to two different receptors in body cells. THC will attach itself to the CB1 receptor which is mostly found in the brain. This receptor is responsible for memory, body movement and vomiting. This explains why marijuana affects short term memory, and why it is used to reduce nausea. THC also attaches itself to the CB2 receptor. This receptor is found in small numbers throughout the human body, mostly in the immune system tissues. This explains why marijuana use can suppress the body’s immune system.
However, marijuana is not present in the bloodstream for a long time. The half-life of THC in blood is about twenty hours. This is because the THC in the user’s bloodstream is metabolized into molecules known as metabolites. THC and metabolites are highly soluble in lipids. They are “therefore” selectively absorbed by fat tissues in various parts of the body. The metabolites that are stored in body fat have a half-life of several days. The amount of time that THC stays in the body depends on how often the individual uses marijuana, how long they have been using it, and the amount of marijuana that they usually use. For people who use marijuana regularly, THC can be detected in a drug test for up to forty-five days. People who used marijuana heavily before quitting can test positively for the drug ninety days after they stopped using it. Since THC and metabolites are stored in fat, a user’s weight will also affect the amount stored in the body. The metabolites are slowly eliminated from the body through the urine and feces.
How marijuana is stored in the body affects drug tests that are used to detect its use. Saliva and blood tests can only be used to show that a user is currently intoxicated. Unfortunately, they cannot show the extent of intoxication or the level of impairment. Because of the time marijuana takes to be eliminated from the body through urine after consumption, urine tests can only be used to show marijuana use, but not intoxication. Urine tests are preferred in workplaces that have a zero tolerance to drug use. There is a hair test that is used to show if a person has ever taken marijuana. THC is very sticky, and it attaches itself t hair follicles. This test is rarely used, but it can detect regular marijuana use for up to three years after the person stopped using the drug.