Most people are aware that when you smoke THC, it is directly absorbed into the blood stream from the lungs. What is often unknown is the path that the drug takes after the fact.
The journey starts with an inhale – as the gasses from smoke enter tiny lung pockets called alveoli (sounds like ravioli, anyone else hungry?), and diffuse into the surrounding blood vessels. Blood that supplies these alveoli travels back to the heart, where its redistribution to the rest of the body occurs. Think of the bloodstream like a highway. Since the brain is the first major “exit”, it is the first to receive THC-rich blood supply, and the onset of the buzz is almost immediate.
The THC-rich blood then travels to the rest of the body, including the adipose tissue (body fat), kidneys, spleen and liver, where its metabolism occurs. Due to the lipophilic (fat-loving) properties of THC, it gets stored away in fatty deposits of various organs, and may remain in storage for several days. Slow release of THC and its metabolites out of storage will maintain the mental and physical effects on the body for up to 3 days afterwards. This may be why you might feel groggy the next day after smoking some weed.
The final clearance from fatty tissue and ultimate elimination happens slowly – over 2 weeks in some cases. Primary route of elimination happens to be through feces and urine, excreting up to 80-90% of THC breakdown product. The remaining traces of the drug released through sweat or deposited into hair.
Similar movements of THC in the body occur when consuming edibles. The only difference is the lack of immediate absorption into blood stream through lungs. Edibles begin their journey by traveling through gastrointestinal tract instead, just like everything else you eat. At the small intestines, they are absorbed into the “portal circulation” where THC is first metabolized before being released into the “blood vessel highway”. Finally, they are sent out to the brain and other organs for storage.
Got questions? Let’s weed them out. Feel free to message our resident Naturopath, Dr. Ana, ND with any concerns!References
Sharma, P., Murthy, P., Bharath, M.M.S. 2012 Chemistry, Metabolism, and Toxicology of Cannabis: Clinical Implications. Iranian Journal of Psychiatry 7(4): 149–156.
Huestis, M.A. 2007 Human Cannabinoid Pharmacokinetics. Chemistry & Biodiversity 4(8): 1770–1804.