Before we answer your question - how long does THC stay in saliva glands? - let’s first understand what THC is. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is a cannabinoid produced by cannabis plants that’s responsible for its euphoric or psychoactive effect. Even with cannabis legalized in the majority of US states for recreational or medical use, some of the population is still subject to THC testing.
No matter how you consume cannabis, THC will stay in your system and in your saliva glands for varying periods of time. That means, if you’re testing regularly for work, or other reasons, it’s essential for you to know how long THC remains in your saliva.
We’ve got your answer here with our ultimate guide on ‘How long does THC stay in saliva?’ and more!
So, How Long Does THC Stay in Saliva Glands?
Most drug testing is done with urine or blood samples. However, drug testing on saliva is increasing in popularity especially among employers, police, and sports organizations. That’s why an increasing number of cannabis users are wondering - how long does THC stay in saliva glands?
So far, there’s only been one study with results that’ll answer such a question. In that research, it was found that for infrequent or occasional consumers, THC will stay in the saliva for 24 to 72 hours. For more frequent, or regular consumers, THC can stay in the saliva glands for up to 30 days.
To learn more about how such a big variance can occur, we will learn more about the basics of saliva drug testing for THC and how it’s done. But before that, let’s take a quick look at the latest that we know regarding saliva testing techniques for marijuana or cannabis.
The 5-minute Saliva Drug Test for Marijuana
Testing for marijuana traditionally relied on scanning urine and blood samples. But authorities have now woken up to the utility of quicker techniques, such as saliva drug testing.
Last year, a study found that a rapid test can detect recent marijuana use in the saliva in just five minutes. The authors of the findings said the new method involves sensors that detect marijuana quicker than conventional tests.
The study was published in the October 20, 2021 issue of Science Translational Medicine.
How is a Saliva Sample Taken?
Just like blood and urine can be tested for THC and drug use, so can saliva. The test is conducted with a sample of saliva that’s collected by spitting into a vial or the individual holding a pad in their mouth for a specified period of time.
Many agencies are turning to saliva tests for THC due to its quick collection, fast turnaround of results, and non-invasive nature. To understand the science behind THC detection in saliva, let’s review how saliva tests actually work.
How a Saliva Test Works
In the mouth, there are three saliva glands that are responsible for producing varying milliliters of saliva. The amount of saliva that’s produced varies depending on various factors. They include hunger, medication, illicit drug use, stress, and hunger.
To know - how long does THC stay in saliva glands? - normally, it takes just 1-10 minutes to complete a saliva test for THC accurately and get the results. It includes the time it takes to collect the sample, by spitting or sucking on a pad, while some tests will swab the inside of your mouth for THC metabolites.
But keep in mind, drug tests often induce anxiety, which may lead to drier mouths than normal. In such cases, it could take longer to collect enough saliva for testing purposes. For the presence of THC, the cut-off level set by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is 50 ng/L for the initial test, and 15 ng/L for confirmation tests.
Saliva tests can also test for traces of alcohol, cocaine, opioids, amphetamines, steroids and various medicines
Of course, saliva testing isn’t the only method that can detect traces of THC. Blood tests are another common method for verifying if THC has been consumed. So, you may be wondering - how long does THC stay in the blood?
When consuming THC through vaping, using THC oil cartridges, or smoking, the cannabinoid enters your bloodstream through the lungs. It will remain detectable by blood drug tests for anywhere from three to 36 hours after consumption.
However, if you’re a frequent consumer, THC may be detected in your blood for longer than this small window as shown below:
- Frequent user - Up to 7 days
- Heavily frequent user - Up to 21 days
THC and Urine Testing
Urine drug tests are also fairly prevalent for detecting traces of THC. So, it’s helpful to know how long THC remains detectable in urine. Out of all the bodily fluids, urine has the longest duration of detection.
In general, THC can remain in urine for up to 30 days. However, the precise length of time depends on an individual’s unique metabolism, hydration and other factors, such as gender and weight. Since THC is stored in fat, it may be detected for longer in those who are overweight.
It means women may store THC for longer, since they tend to have a higher fat percentage than men. Speaking of metabolizing THC, we’ll next learn about the process so you can better understand how it works for testing purposes.
The Metabolization Process of THC
When consuming cannabis, its cannabinoids and compounds are broken down into metabolites and transformed into varying forms. THC is transported to the liver via the bloodstream for metabolizing.
During this THC metabolism process, the body can produce up to 80 metabolites that drug tests are able to detect. In the meantime, your body will excrete THC, too. In a study, experts said that over 65% of cannabis gets excreted by feces, and around 20% exits the body through urine.
Can I Speed Up the THC Metabolism Process?
Unfortunately, if you’re in the position where you need to metabolize your THC more quickly for testing - there is no way you can do it. THC is metabolized naturally, which means it takes time for the compound to exit your system completely.
However, if you’re an infrequent user, exercising more and drinking more water might help speed up your body’s natural process of metabolizing THC.
The Bottom Line: It’s All About Frequency of Use
Now that we’ve answered the question - how long does THC stay in saliva? - you can plan ahead for your next drug test keeping in mind the factors we’ve discussed. Just remember, frequent smokers should expect THC to stay in their saliva for up to 30 days, while infrequent consumers can expect it to remain for three to four hours.
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