How Long Does THC Stay In Saliva Glands And Your System


With the legalization of marijuana spreading across the country, more workplaces, parole officers, and others are turning to saliva tests to check for THC, the main psychoactive component in cannabis. Unlike urine and hair testing which can detect weed for weeks or even months after last use, saliva testing offers a much shorter detection window of just hours to days. But how long does THC stay in saliva glands?

In this article, we’ll explore how saliva tests work, look at studies on THC detection times in oral fluid, and provide tips for passing an upcoming saliva drug screen. With cannabis remaining in your saliva for just 1-3 days in most cases, you may be able to test negative even if you occasionally consume weed.

How do Saliva Tests Detect THC?

How do Saliva Tests Detect THC

Unlike urine, blood, and hair testing which all require lab analysis, saliva drug screens use rapid on-site devices. An absorbent collection pad is either placed under your tongue or swabbed around your inner cheeks and gums to collect oral fluid containing traces of cannabinoids.

This saliva sample then migrates up the test strip to where gold-conjugated antibodies bind to any THC metabolites. If THC is present, even in very low concentrations of around 4 nanograms per milliliter, it will bind to antibodies and generate colored lines on the test to indicate a positive result.

So how long do edibles stay in your system? Studies provide estimates, though individual results can vary widely.

How Long Does Weed Stay in Your System?

Most marijuana compounds including THC are rapidly cleared from the blood, then deposited in fat tissues throughout the body. Over time, residues slowly leach back out into the bloodstream and make their way to the salivary glands where they can be detected.

Occasional users who consume low doses may test positive for only 12-24 hours after last use. However chronic heavy users can stay positive for THC metabolites for up to a week or longer as cannabinoids continue exiting fat cells.

According to a 2020 study in Forensic Science International, occasional cannabis consumers tested positive 1-3 days after last using weed. 20% of light users showed negative results within just 5 hours. Yet some heavy users remained positive for THC-COOH (the longer-lingering marijuana metabolite) up to 7 days later even though THC itself cleared faster.

How Long Does THC Stay in Saliva Glands?

A 2016 study found THC only present in saliva for 34 hours versus THC-COOH staying detectable for over 2 weeks in chronic cannabis consumers.

An older 2011 study detected THC in infrequent users' saliva for just 5-12 hours versus 1-29 hours in those who smoke weed multiple times per week.

So while detection windows are relatively short for saliva testing compared to urine or hair, they still span anywhere from less than a day up to nearly a month depending on frequency of use.

How Long Does Weed Stay in Your Blood Stream?

Most marijuana compounds including THC are rapidly cleared from the blood, then deposited in fat tissues throughout the body. Over time, residues slowly leach back out into the bloodstream and make their way to the salivary glands where they can be detected. THC itself is typically cleared from the bloodstream within a few hours of use, though trace metabolites may linger for a bit longer.

How Long Does Marijuana Stay in Urine?

Urine testing has a much longer detection window than saliva testing. THC and its metabolites can be detected in urine for up to 30 days or longer in chronic heavy users, though occasional users may only test positive for 3-4 days after their last use.

How Long Do THC Gummies Stay in Your System?

THC from edibles like gummies is processed through the liver before entering the bloodstream, resulting in a more gradual onset and longer duration of effects compared to smoking. THC levels may linger in the blood and urine a bit longer after consuming edibles as well. However, the exact detection times still depend on the same individual factors like frequency of use, metabolism, body fat percentage, etc.

Variables Impacting THC Detection Times

Many variables beyond usage patterns also influence how soon THC disappears from saliva:

  • Metabolism – Faster metabolism breaks down cannabinoids quicker.
  • Body fat % - More body fat provides more storage for THC release.
  • Weed potency - Higher-THC strains prolong detection times.
  • Test sensitivity - More sensitive assays detect lower THC levels.
  • Hydration - Well-hydrated individuals dilute oral THC faster.

While studies provide estimates for average detection windows, your results can differ significantly based on these variables.

How to Pass a Drug Test?

Fortunately, saliva tests afford recreational marijuana users multiple options for passing upcoming screens:

  • Abstain from smoking weed several days prior, to reduce salivary THC below test cutoffs.
  • Flush out residual THC by drinking plenty of water leading up to your test.
  • Use an effective THC detox mouthwash to help remove traces from saliva on test day.
  • Collect clean oral fluid from cheek pores rather than potentially contaminated saliva from glands.

As long as you cease weed use for 48-72 hours leading up to an oral swab screen, stay hydrated, and use cleansing mouthwash, your odds are reasonably good for testing negative. Home tests can verify your THC levels before undergoing an official screen. However, it might not be as easy to pass a urine test.

How to Pass a Urine Test for THC?

To pass a urine drug test for THC, the main strategies are abstinence and dilution. Avoid using cannabis for 2-4 weeks before allowing THC metabolites to fully clear your system, and drink plenty of fluids leading up to the test to dilute your urine concentration of THC below the threshold for a positive result. Home testing kits can verify low THC levels before taking the official test.

How to Get THC Out of Your System Fast?

  • Abstain from marijuana use. The first and most important step is to stop consuming any marijuana products immediately. THC can linger in your system for weeks after use.
  • Exercise and sweat. Working out and getting a good sweat going can help burn fat cells and release stored THC. Cardiovascular exercise like running, biking, or using an elliptical is recommended.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water to help flush out your system. Aim for at least a gallon of water per day.
  • Try detox drinks or supplements. Some detox products claim to help eliminate THC by masking it or adding nutrients to metabolize it faster, though their effectiveness is debated. Popular options include cranberry juice, lemon water, and zinc.
  • Use a sauna. Sitting in a sauna or steam room can induce heavy sweating to help excrete THC metabolites through your pores.
  • Eat fruits and vegetables. A diet high in fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins may help speed up THC processing.
  • Avoid fatty foods. Eating foods high in fat can cause THC to be re-absorbed into your bloodstream. Focus on lean protein and carbs instead.
  • Use cranberry pills and vitamin B complex. These supplements may help cleanse your kidneys and urine.

Keep in mind there's no guaranteed way to immediately flush out THC. Abstinence over time is ultimately required to let your body metabolize and eliminate it naturally. These tips may provide some help, but can't beat a drug test in the short-term if you've consumed marijuana recently.

Is HHC Stronger Than THC?

HHC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is a minor cannabinoid that has similar effects to THC but may be slightly less potent. While research is still limited, some users report that HHC produces a more mellow and clear-headed high compared to regular delta-9 THC. However, they are chemically similar compounds that both activate the body's cannabinoid receptors.

Final Result

While urine and hair testing detect cannabis for much longer after you stop smoking weed, saliva drug screens offer a relatively short 1-3 day detection window for only occasional marijuana consumers. Passing an upcoming oral fluid test is certainly possible with some advanced planning and preparation.

By understanding how saliva tests work to detect THC metabolites, typical detection times from studies, and variables that influence results, you can take proactive steps to avoid failing your next screen. Lay off weed several days ahead of time, drink plenty of fluids, use detoxifying mouthwash on test day, and ensure the swab collects clean oral fluid rather than contaminated saliva from deeper glands.

With saliva testing only suited to confirming very recent marijuana use, employers and parole officers may utilize this instant method for post-accident or reasonable suspicion testing scenarios. But for pre-employment screening, longer-term urine, blood, or hair analysis is still preferable.

What has your own experience been in terms of how long weed lingers in your saliva after smoking or ingesting edibles? Have you used any effective methods for passing an oral fluid THC test? Let us know in the comments below!

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Dr. David G Kiely is a distinguished Medical Reviewer and former General Medicine Consultant with a wealth of experience in the field. Dr. Kiely's notable career as a General Medicine Consultant highlights his significant contributions to the medical field.

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