How is hashish broken down in the body?

Wie wird Haschisch im Körper abgebaut?

Niklas Bergmann, M.A.

Biochemiker, Fachautor

Inhaltsverzeichnis: How is hashish broken down in the body?

What is hashish?

Hashish, often simply called "hash", is a product obtained from the cannabis plant. It is one of the oldest and most widely used intoxicants in the world. Hashish is produced by collecting the resins of the cannabis plant and pressing them into a compact mass. These resins are rich in THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the main active ingredient responsible for the intoxicating effects of cannabis.

Compared to other cannabis products such as marijuana, which uses dried leaves and flowers of the plant, hashish is often much more potent. This is because it is more concentrated and contains a higher amount of THC. This makes hashish popular with users looking for a stronger effect.

Hashish can be consumed in a variety of ways. The most common methods are smoking, often mixed with tobacco in a cigarette or pipe, and eating, where it is added to food. When smoked, the effect is almost immediate because the THC quickly enters the bloodstream via the lungs and then into the brain. When hashish is eaten, it takes longer for the effects to be felt because the THC must first be processed in the gastrointestinal tract.

The effects of hashish can vary greatly, depending on the amount of THC consumed and the user's personal tolerance. Typically, users report feelings of relaxation and euphoria, as well as heightened sensory perceptions such as more intense colors and sounds. However, negative effects such as anxiety or paranoia can also occur, especially at higher doses or in people with little experience.

In many countries, the possession and consumption of hashish is regulated or prohibited by law, although laws vary widely around the world. In some regions, the medicinal use of cannabis products, including hashish, is increasingly recognized and legalized, leading to changing perceptions of its safety and acceptability.

Understanding these basics about hashish helps to get a clear picture of its role and effects in society, as well as the challenges and debates associated with its use.

How does hashish enter the body?

Differences: smoking vs. eating

When it comes to how hashish enters the body, there are two main methods: smoking and eating. Both methods have their own specifics and effects that are important for users to understand.

Smoking: Smoking is the most common method of consuming hashish. The hash is smoked either in a pipe, a joint (a type of cigarette) or a special device such as a bong. When smoked, the hash is heated and the smoke, which contains THC, is inhaled directly into the lungs. From there, the THC enters the bloodstream almost immediately and reaches the brain within minutes. This rapid absorption leads to an almost immediate high, which can vary depending on the strength of the hash and the amount of smoke consumed.

Eating: Eating hashish, often in the form of so-called edibles such as cookies, brownies or other foods enriched with hashish, is another popular method of consumption. In contrast to smoking, THC takes a longer route through the body when eaten. It is first digested in the stomach and then in the small intestine before entering the bloodstream and finally the brain. This method leads to a delayed, but often longer and more intense effect. The high can sometimes only set in after 30 minutes to two hours, but often lasts longer. This is because the THC is converted into a stronger chemical form during the digestion process.

The choice between smoking and eating can be made based on the desired speed and duration of the effect. Smoking produces a quick but shorter effect, while eating hashish produces a slower but more lasting effect. It is important to note that especially when eating hashish, the dosage is difficult to control, which can lead to unexpectedly strong or long-lasting effects.

Breakdown of THC: How does it work?

What happens in the liver?

Once THC enters the bloodstream, the liver plays a crucial role in breaking it down. The liver is the central organ for detoxification in the body and for processing substances that are ingested through food or other routes. THC is processed here by specialized enzymes, in particular the cytochrome P450 group.

These enzymes convert THC into various metabolites, the best known metabolite being 11-hydroxy-THC. This substance is still psychoactive and can have even stronger effects than THC itself. After being converted into 11-hydroxy-THC, this is further converted into THC-COOH (11-nor-9-carboxy-THC), which is no longer psychoactive. It is these metabolites that are eventually excreted in the urine and feces.

Why this is important

Understanding the breakdown process of THC is important for several reasons. First, it can help to understand the duration of the effects of hashish. Because some of the THC metabolites are themselves psychoactive, the effects of the original consumption can be prolonged even if the original THC has already been processed.

Secondly, the breakdown of THC has significant legal and medical implications. THC and its metabolites can be detected in standard drug tests, which are often conducted as part of workplace inspections or legal assessments. Knowing the length of time THC and its metabolites remain in the body is critical for individuals working in environments where regular drug testing is common.

Third, there are health considerations. The process of how the body breaks down THC may be different for individuals with impaired liver function or other health conditions, which may influence the effects of hashish. In addition, this knowledge can help medical professionals develop treatment plans for individuals who use cannabis medicinally and may need to avoid interactions with other medications.

THC in the body: storage and excretion

Where does the body store THC?

After THC enters the bloodstream and is processed by the liver, it is distributed throughout the body. Due to its chemical properties, THC is lipophilic, which means that it prefers to dissolve in fatty tissues. This means that THC accumulates in the fatty areas of the body, such as the brain, organs, adipose tissue and cell membranes.

This storage in fatty tissues means that THC can remain in the body for longer, especially in people with a higher body fat percentage or regular users. As THC is slowly released from these fat deposits, it can remain detectable in the bloodstream for a longer period of time after actual consumption.

How and when does THC leave the body?

The process by which THC leaves the body is complex and can vary depending on individual factors. The main routes of excretion of THC and its metabolites are via the urine and feces. A smaller amount can also be excreted through sweat and breath.

  • Urine: Most THC metabolites are filtered through the kidneys and excreted in the urine. This process can take several days to weeks, depending on the frequency of use and the metabolic rate of the individual.
  • Stool: A significant proportion of the metabolites are excreted into the intestine with the bile and leave the body in the stool. This excretion route can also take several days.
  • Sweat and breath: Smaller amounts of THC and its metabolites can be excreted through sweat and breath, but this plays a minor role compared to urine and stool.

The speed at which THC leaves the body depends on various factors, including the individual's metabolic rate, body fat percentage and consumption habits. For occasional users, THC can be completely excreted within a few days, whereas for regular users it can take weeks to months for all traces to be removed from the body.

This knowledge about the storage and excretion of THC is important as it affects the detectability of THC in drug tests and can also explain the duration of effects after use. It also helps to understand why some people have longer positive drug tests even though they have not consumed hashish for a long time.

What influences how quickly THC is broken down?

Personal factors: What matters?

The speed at which THC is broken down in the body can depend greatly on individual factors. Here are some of the most important personal factors:

  • Metabolic rate: people with a higher metabolism break down THC faster. Metabolism can be influenced by genetic predisposition, physical activity and general health.
  • Body fat percentage: As THC is stored in fatty tissues, people with a higher body fat percentage tend to have a longer detection time. The stored THC is released and broken down slowly.
  • Gender: Women tend to break down THC more slowly than men due to a higher average body fat percentage.
  • Age: With increasing age, the metabolism slows down, which can delay the breakdown of THC.
  • Liver function: The liver is the main organ for the breakdown of THC. People with impaired liver function can break down THC more slowly.

Consumption habits: What is changing?

The way in which THC is consumed and the frequency of consumption also play a major role in the breakdown of THC in the body:

  • Frequency of use: regular or chronic users store more THC in their fatty tissue, which can significantly increase detection times. Occasional users break down THC more quickly.
  • Amount of THC consumed: Higher doses lead to higher concentrations of THC and its metabolites in the body, which can prolong the breakdown.
  • Form of consumption: How THC is consumed (smoking, vaporizing or eating) can influence the speed of degradation. When smoking and vaporizing, THC enters the bloodstream faster, but is also broken down more quickly. When eaten, the effect occurs more slowly but lasts longer.
  • Hydration and nutrition: Good hydration can promote the breakdown and excretion of THC. Certain foods and drinks can also influence the metabolism.

These factors show that the breakdown of THC in the body is a complex matter that is influenced by many individual and behavioral aspects. Understanding these factors can help to better assess the duration of THC's effects and make informed decisions about consumption.

Why is all this important?

Legal aspects and health

Understanding how THC is broken down in the body has both legal and health implications. Here are the main reasons why this knowledge is important:

Legal aspects

  • Drug testing: THC and its metabolites can be detected by drug tests, which are often carried out as part of workplace checks, traffic checks or during sporting competitions. The detectability of THC can vary depending on consumption behavior and individual factors, which can influence the consequences in legal situations.
  • Driving license and road traffic: In many countries, driving under the influence of THC is illegal. As THC can be detectable in the body for a long time, even after the psychoactive effects have worn off, this can cause legal problems. A better understanding of the breakdown of THC can help to avoid risks and comply with legal regulations.
  • Employment law: In professions with high safety requirements or strict drug testing policies, detection of THC can lead to disciplinary action or termination. Knowing the reduction times can help avoid such situations.


  • Medical use: THC is used medicinally in some countries, for example to treat pain or to stimulate appetite in certain diseases. Knowledge of the breakdown of THC helps patients and doctors to better control the dosage and timing of consumption in order to achieve optimal therapeutic effects.
  • Interactions with medications: THC can interact with other medications that are also metabolized in the liver. Understanding how THC is metabolized can help avoid potential interactions and ensure patient safety.
  • Health risks: The use of THC can pose health risks, especially with regular use or the presence of certain health conditions. Knowing how THC is broken down and stored in the body can help to make informed decisions and minimize the risks.

Overall, understanding the breakdown of THC in the body helps to make informed decisions about use, avoid legal consequences and maximize health benefits. It helps both users and healthcare professionals to manage THC more safely and effectively.


Understanding the breakdown of hashish and its main active ingredient THC in the body is of great importance. THC is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream after consumption via various methods such as smoking or eating and is mainly broken down in the liver by specialized enzymes. The metabolites of THC, particularly 11-hydroxy-THC and THC-COOH, are eventually excreted from the body via urine and feces.

Several factors influence how quickly THC is broken down, including personal characteristics such as metabolic rate, body fat percentage, gender and age, as well as consumption habits such as frequency and amount of use. This knowledge is important not only for legal reasons to avoid problems with drug testing, but also for health reasons to minimize drug interactions and health risks.

For consumers, this means that they can make better informed decisions about consumption. For medical professionals and regulatory authorities, understanding THC degradation provides valuable insights to develop safe and effective policies.

Overall, in-depth knowledge of how THC breaks down in the body helps to make use safer, avoid legal issues and better understand the health benefits and risks. It is an important aspect that is highly relevant for occasional users as well as regular consumers and medical users.

Niklas Bergmann, Fachautor

Freut euch auf die Insights von unserem Biochemiker Niklas Bergmann! Mit seinem tiefen Verständnis für alles, was mit Hanf zu tun hat, liefert er euch die neuesten und coolsten Infos direkt in euer Feed. Schnörkellos und klar verpackt er das komplexe Thema Cannabinoide und macht es für euch easy zugänglich. Mit Niklas an der Spitze unseres Wissens-Teams seid ihr immer top informiert.