If you’ve quit smoking weed, there’s a good chance you could be experiencing highs for quite a while after you’ve smoked for the last time.
This random feeling of being stoned—while you haven’t been near or touched a joint—is called a phantom high. Out of nowhere, you could be laughing uncontrollably, feeling unfocused, or mildly hallucinating.
Does this sound familiar? First of all, you aren’t alone.
One study revealed that it can take a minimum of 30 days to have weed-free urine after quitting using cannabis, while for others it can take more than two months. THC can also be detected in your body for 100 days or longer after you’ve stopped smoking weed.
Secondly, want to know the reason behind the high? We’ll get into that now.
THC and Your Body: What Happens?
When you smoke weed or use other cannabis products, the chemicals make their way into your bloodstream, brain, and then the rest of your body. As a result, the levels of THC in your blood increase.
Your liver metabolizes cannabinoids like THC, CBN, CBG, and CBD.
The fastest way to get THC into your bloodstream is by smoking weed. When you inhale the smoke from your joint, the cannabinoids and terpenes enter your lungs. With the help of your alveoli in the lungs, the chemicals make their way to the rest of your body.
Eating cannabis edibles means the THC enters your stomach or digestive tract. From here, THC enters your bloodstream, and then it travels to your liver and the rest of your body.
Your body metabolizes THC at a slower rate when you consume edibles (versus smoking weed). The THC levels are also lower, but the effects of the drug last longer. Once your body has processed the THC, the cannabinoid leaves more than 80 inactive chemicals behind. These chemicals are called inactive because they can’t make you high like THC.
However, one of these metabolites, called 11-hydroxy-delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or 11-OH-THC, is active. It has psychoactive and sedative effects. Levels of this active metabolite are higher if you eat cannabis compared with smoking it because, with edibles, it passes by the liver first.
The main inactive chemical is tetrahydrocannabinol carboxylic acid (THC-COOH). It’s a natural byproduct or metabolite of THC that’s created when 11-OH-THC is oxidized.
After you’ve smoked weed, for example, it takes about 10 minutes for the concentration of THC to peak in your body. It takes about 80 minutes for THC-COOH to peak.
Once your body creates the metabolites, they are eliminated by urination or bowel movements. However, not everything is excreted.
Some inactive metabolites stay in your body’s fatty tissue because they are lipid (or fat) soluble. After all, THC is a lipophilic molecule. Eventually, these metabolites are released; it just happens slowly. How slowly depends on various factors.
If You Stop Smoking Weed, Why Can You Still Feel High?
Once you’ve stopped smoking weed (or even quit consuming cannabis edibles), you can still experience phantom highs. This is because of the THC metabolites stored in your fatty tissue.
How slowly or quickly the metabolites are expelled from your fatty tissue depends on various factors. It’s different for each person.
The factors that determine how many metabolites are stored in your body and how quickly these chemicals can be excreted are:
- How often you use cannabis
If you occasionally use cannabis, you’ll have fewer metabolites stored in your fatty tissue.
However, if you smoke weed or eat edibles more than once a week, you’ll have a higher buildup of these metabolites, and thus a higher likelihood of being ghost high.
How fast or slow your metabolism depends on your age, weight, genetics, gender, and how physically active you are. So a higher metabolic rate equates to faster THC absorption, metabolite conversion, and excretion.
- How many fat cells you have
A lean body with a high muscle mass and low-fat mass means your body won’t be able to store excess THC or metabolites. So the more body fat, the larger the storage capacity for THC and its metabolites.
- Exercise, Dieting, and Stress
Exercise, high stress levels, and dieting help you break down fat. As a result, your fatty tissue releases THC and its byproducts faster.
- The THC strain you use and dosage
Using a higher THC strain results in higher levels of THC, terpenes, and metabolites in your system.
The Last High
Experiencing a ghost high when you take a break from smoking weed or have entirely quit is not fun. It interferes with your daily life and can make things difficult for you.
At least now you know why you are experiencing these highs now and again. The best thing you can do is ride it out; it’ll pass.