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How Long Does THC Stay in Your Saliva

April 30, 2020

If you smoke weed frequently, you are probably wondering how long the THC stays in your body. Perhaps you are anxious about a school drug test or a routine drug test at your workplace. Whatever your concern is, the first step is to understand that there isn’t a hard rule as to how long THC remains in the system. The answer will depend on several factors. Let’s look at a typical test – the mouth swab.

What Is Oral Fluids Drug Testing?

In the past, most drug testing relied on urine and blood samples, but the tides changed about a decade ago when scientists went out in search of alternatives. The technique is used widely by employers, athlete associations, schools, the police, and any other organization or person that wishes to test for substance abuse. The test has many names such as oral fluids test, saliva test, or mouth swab.

The test has gained popularity because of its several advantages. Firstly, it is non-invasive, meaning that needles aren’t involved. It is also quick, and can be done anywhere without invading on the person’s privacy. Since saliva testing is done in the company of the person administering the exercise, it eradicates the possibility of exchanging specimen to give a false negative. 

How Does Saliva Drug Testing Work?

Your mouth contains three glands that can make quite a lot of milliliters of saliva every minute. The amount of saliva one can create is affected by several factors, such as emotions, hunger, and particular medication. It takes three minutes to gather adequate saliva for an accurate test. Sometimes you may face challenges in trying to accumulate enough amount of sample, especially if you are nervous.

Marijuana may also cause dry mouth as a side effect. That makes it harder to collect enough saliva for the mouth swab test. If this happens, the personnel administering the examination might ask you to take candy to help improve saliva production.

Not much preparation is required, besides not eating or drinking anything for ten minutes before swabbing. Saliva drug tests give results for an array of substances such as marijuana, alcohol, cocaine, anabolic steroids, amphetamines, and some prescription medications. The levels of the materials that the test detects are similar to those that a urine sample would identify.

All saliva tests are completed using these necessary steps:

  • The technician uses a stick with an absorbent pad or sponge at the end to swipe inside the cheek.
  • The pad or sponge will absorb some saliva, which is used as the specimen
  • The specimen is analyzed for traces of the specified substances. It can be done either in the lab or on-site.

The compound that is usually tested for in saliva is THC, which is responsible for the psychoactive properties in cannabis. The permissible level of THC is 50 ng per L for the preliminary test and 15 ng per L for confirmation tests.

How Long Does Marijuana Stay in Your Saliva?

Weed comprises hundreds of compounds that are broken down by the system at varying rates. When one smokes marijuana, THC gets into the bloodstream and peaks within ten minutes of inhalation. If you eat edibles, THC will enter the blood within two hours because it must first be digested. One may feel the effects a few hours after consuming it because the liver breaks down its active compounds. The process is multifaceted, and it changes THC into various metabolites. One of the most commonly detected is THC-COOH.

Over 80 percent of cannabis compounds will be excreted through the feces or urine over some days. However, THC is fat-soluble, and most of it is stored in fatty tissues, lungs, spleen, and liver. Some compounds, such as THC-COOH, might be re-absorbed into the bloodstream via the kidneys, implying that they might stay longer than THC.

Factors that impact detection include:

Test sensitivity

Highly sensitive kits can detect low doses of marijuana.

THC dose

Marijuana drug tests are after the THC and not the other compounds. So, if the weed you took has a high level of THC, you might test positive. The effects of THC are progressive. Therefore, if you smoke weed often there is a high chance of testing positive.


Dehydration may make the concentration of THC in your system to be higher. Although drinking a lot of water may not affect the result, severe dehydration could make it turn positive.

Body fat

Since fat stores weed, people with high body fat could break down marijuana slower than those with less fat.


Working out before the test may alter the rate at which your body breaks down THC.


Usually, females have more fat than males. Therefore, they might burn marijuana more slowly than males.


For a drug test to turn negative your body should excrete THC and other chemicals linked to it. Those with faster metabolisms may eliminate THC faster than those with slower metabolism rates.

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