It does not matter if you are a recreational, habitual, or medicinal marijuana user, chances are you are wondering how long it stays in your system. You are not alone, as marijuana is the most commonly used, drug in the United States. Having traces of this drug show up in testing can have adverse effects on jobs, probation, custody, and many other areas of our lives. Even though it is becoming more socially and legally acceptable, marijuana is still considered either an illegal or controlled substance in much of the United States. Most people are aware of urine analysis, but what about a hair analysis?
Types Of Testing
There are four main types of testing that you may come across in the workplace or legal system. Urinalysis, or “piss test”, tests the urine for trace amounts of THC and can detect from 35-45 days from last use. Blood analysis uses a blood sample and can detect from 60-75 days although some sources say it is closer to a saliva swab and can only detect back a week. A saliva swab can detect trace amounts for roughly two days. If you use more often, or use particularly potent strains, it can last up to nine days. Last, and the one we are going to be focusing on, is a hair strand or follicle test. This type of testing can detect up to 90 days.
Hair Strand and Follicle Structure
At the time of the test, a technician takes a hair sample. The follicle is the muscle on the tip of the hair shaft that attaches it to the head. It looks like a small white bulb on the end of the hair. Strands that naturally shed do not have a follicle attached. The hair strand or shaft is composed of the outside or cuticle, the middle or cortex, and the core or medulla.
How Long Does Marijuana Stay in the Hair
First, you need to look at how often you use. Casual, recreational users or one time users will not show signs of marijuana in the hair. You need to be using enough for the THC to reach up to the follicle and once there, it is there forever. A hair strand test can reveal drug use for years prior but they typically look for the last 90 days. There is a 2015 study that suggests that environmental contact with THC, meaning you do not smoke but someone near you is, could cause a failed test result. Although rare, it’s important to be aware of if you feel that you received a false positive.
What to Expect
Getting called to provide a hair sample can be scary, especially when you do not know what you are walking in to and you only have word of mouth to go by. The process is usually done by taking the top part of the hair strand. Hair usually grows roughly .5 inches a month so the top inch or so tests for traces in the last two to three months. The administrator will take a sample of 100-120 hair strands from different areas on the scalp and run it through tests. These tests may be administered in a hospital or at the workplace using an in-home test that is sent in. It will take 24 hours for a negative result, 72 hours for a positive test, or possibly an incomplete test result that will lead to a retest.
Different Types of Marijuana Users
Some people enjoy marijuana only on special occasions, some used back in college but have not in years, and quite a few use it habitually for medicinal or recreational purposes. All are wondering how that will show on a hair analysis. The more you partake the easier it is to detect. This means if you are a one time, or infrequent user, it is unlikely that you will test positive in a hair analysis. If you have not used since college, unless college was 90 days ago, you have nothing to worry about. This type of testing is meant to identify a regular user and if you think you fall into that category, you might be tempted to find a way to “beat” the test.
Your buddy promises you that he has a way around that silly hair analysis. He swears by using a special shampoo, covering your hair in gel, even bleaching it or shaving entirely. Sadly, these will only be effective if you have our detox shampoo, any other won’t. THC enters the hair through the bloodstream meaning it is now part of the hair if you have been using often and long enough. No amount of the average shampoo, or product can fix this. Shaving your head may seem like the next best approach, but the test administrator will then take a body hair sample. Since body hair grows slower and does not shed as often, it amplifies your chances of a negative test result. You would have to shave your whole body for 90 days for this method to actually work, and that looks pretty suspicious.
Marijuana users may have cause for alarm if asked to provide a hair sample. Luckily, one time users, or people who recreationally use once and awhile, have very little to worry about. You could even use marijuana the night before as it takes 5-10 days for that hair to grow out of the scalp. If you are concerned about your results and a regular user, it would be smart to avoid taking the test or see if you can have an alternative one instead. You can purchase an at-home kit to see how you would do or if you are lucky enough to get some kind of heads up, stop all marijuana use for 90 days before your test is best.
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