Monday November 8, 2021
By Erin Hiatt
Gone are the days of only one cannabinoid that can get you high. Until recently, Delta-9 THC was the only psychoactive cannabinoid on the block. Not so anymore. Today, there are a couple of new euphoric compounds on the block, Delta-8 THC and Delta-10 THC. They are molecularly similar to Delta-9 but have significant differences to distinguish them.
But they do have at least a couple of things in common. One is that they will get you high - though it’s anecdotally argued that Delta’s 8 and 10 do so with less efficacy than Delta-9 (the research on Delta-8 and Delta-10 is in its very early stages, and there is much to learn). And importantly, they share a metabolite, THC-COOH.
What is THC-COOH?
First, let’s dig in on what THC-COOH is not. It’s not a cannabinoid and does not have any of the three Delta's effects. It won’t get you high or produce any of therapeutic benefits, such as reducing nausea and promoting appetite — common reasons why clinicians prescribe them.
What it is, is the metabolic evidence that you’ve consumed cannabis. Just like food, when a cannabinoid is consumed, our metabolism gets to work in breaking those substances down.
THC-COOH, also called 11-nor-9-carboxy-THC or THC-11-oic acid (11-nor-9-carboxy-Δ⁹-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the most common metabolite found and is the second metabolite to appear after cannabis consumption, just after hydroxy-THC (11-hydroxy-Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol).
THC-COOH is not water-soluble; it hangs around in our fat cells for several days to a month or longer depending on personal biology and frequency of cannabis consumption. Whereas the cannabinoid THC exits the system typically within hours.
THC-COOH and Testing
Drug tests do not look for cannabinoids like Delta-9 or a level of impairment. Instead, they search for the THC-COOH metabolite. Because THC-COOH has a long half-life, it may be detected in urine for up to seven days after a single use.
According to Mayo Clinic Laboratories, “the major metabolite of Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol in urine at concentrations greater than 15.0 ng/mL is a strong indicator that the patient has used marijuana.” They further clarify by saying, “The presence of THC-COOH in urine greater than 100.0 ng/mL indicates relatively recent use. Levels greater than 500.0 ng/mL suggest chronic and recent use.”
It’s important to remember that the presence of THC-COOH in a drug test does not indicate that a consumer is currently impaired. The impairing effects of THC are most evident from approximately one-and-a-half to three or four hours after consumption.
Nonetheless, this is cold comfort for consumers who may be subject to drug tests as a condition for employment, though this may be changing given recent actions by the state of New York and mega-employer Amazon.
The most common kind of drug test used to detect cannabis metabolites is a urine test, but some do check for THC-COOH in saliva, but this isn’t necessarily better news. The metabolite threshold for a saliva test is 25 ng/mL, half that of a urinalysis. One study published in Drug Testing and Analysis in August 2015, found THC-COOH in saliva could be found up to 29 days after a chronic consumer’s last use.
If you have a drug test coming up and are hoping to get THC-COOH out of your system, you can try a few methods, and we’ve got a terrific guide with a lot of tips and tricks. However, the only way to pass that drug test with flying colors is to abstain from cannabis for a period of time (depending on your frequency of consumption) that may range from a week to possibly as long as 60 days.
THC-COOH is a cannabis metabolite that gets stored in your fat cells and cues a positive drug test. It is not a cannabinoid and offers none of the therapeutic or psychoactive effects of Delta-8, Delta-9, or Delta-10 THC.
What is THC-COOH on a drug test?
THC-COOH is the metabolite that gets stored in your fat cells after you’ve consumed cannabis. Depending on the frequency of consumption, THC-COOH can stay in your body anywhere from 3-60 days.
What is a high level of Delta 9 THC?
For a urine test, THC-COOH in concentrations higher than 15.0 ng/mL will indicate cannabis use. THC-COOH in urine greater than 100.0 ng/mL indicates relatively recent use, and levels greater than 500.0 ng/mL suggest chronic and recent use.”
Is THC-COOH a cannabinoid?
No. Cannabinoids are a group of substances found in the cannabis plant that bind to cannabinoid receptors throughout the body. The most common and best researched cannabinoids are THC and CBD. THC-COOH is a metabolite of THC.
What is THC metabolite?
It is a broken down (metabolized) cannabinoid that remains in your system after consumption.
How to flush/how to get rid of THC-COOH?
The best way to get THC-COOH out of your system is to abstain from cannabis. You can try flushing it out of your system, but there’s no guarantee that doing a cannabis flush/detox will help you pass a drug test.