Even with more and more locations in the world opening up for both recreational and medicinal cannabis use, there are still plenty of times when a person might be subjected to a drug test. There are plenty of ‘quick fix’ products that promise to help quickly rid your system of THC, but how well do they work, and what’s the best way to detox cannabis out of your system?
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Before I get into what the rest of the world has to say about it, I’ll start with my own experience. Way back in about 2004 I was slated to start working for an in-patient facility for people with special needs. This was in 2004, before any state had a recreational policy, and in the state of Pennsylvania, 14 years before a medical program was signed into place. Plus, as a job that required working with highly developmentally disabled children and adults, drug testing was taken seriously. Along with criminal history checks, and child abuse clearances.
From about the age of 21, I’ve taken smoking weed pretty seriously. Up until that point I never had a job that required such clearances, and I certainly didn’t have time to clean my system out in any kind of natural way. I remember there being a lot of products out at that time specifically for the purpose of passing drug tests when cannabis was surely present. Some made claims about somehow keeping the body from releasing cannabinoids (though I wasn’t familiar with that term back then), while others claimed they could mask these cannabinoids, and still others claimed they could force them out of your body.
All of them came with the same simple instructions of drinking down some kind of Gatorade-like liquid along with multiple bottles full of water, and they usually stated that the test had to be taken within a certain number of hours after ingestion. I can’t remember which kind I used, but I did pass my drug test, although I wouldn’t necessarily put the credit for that on the detox drink, or stand by it as the best way to detox cannabis.
Some basic THC detox theories
The first thing to know is that there isn’t really any regulation for this market, so there is very little medical verification of claims. There is, however, a lot of interest in such products, leaving the door open for many snake oil salesmen to come in hocking worthless solutions. Most products are also sold as body detox products, or cleanses. As mentioned before, THC detox products claim to work in different ways.
- Detox within a few days to two weeks: these products generally use herbal supplements to do a full body cleanse, taking the THC with other toxins, or so the claims say.
- Quick fix 1: These promise the ability to pass a test within 24 hours by temporarily flushing metabolites from the urinary tract which lasts for just a short period.
- Quick fix 2: Using different supplements to mask the cannabinoids with other compounds, also just leaving a short window for use.
As these products are not regulated, the claims made on the packaging generally give no more information than what I just stated. Explaining how different herbal supplements work, or modes of action, is not information generally given to consumers of these products.
Keeping it natural
Of course, it doesn’t stop there. There are also plenty of natural remedies listed for helping to detox cannabis cannabinoids out of the system. Things like herbal teas, lemons juice, and mint are often cited for their ability to help cleanse a system, as is water in general. In fact, water is generally noted as the main reason some of these products work, meaning the main factor would simply be diluting urine, making for less cannabinoids present.
This issue of dilution can often backfire, though, and cause a test to be invalid because of the lack of other compounds in the correct amounts. When using large amounts of water to flush the system (and let’s remember, THC is not water soluble, so drinking lots of water will never rid the body of it, just dilute how much is currently being expelled), it means all the other things that belong in healthy, undiluted urine won’t be there in the necessary amounts. Therefore, those who want to use this method, or are using a method that requires a lot of water, should consider adding in some vitamin B for that nice urine color, and creatine, so that labs don’t become suspicious.
One of the more interesting methods that I saw for the best way to detox cannabis included the use of bentonite clay. Bentonite clay, as the name implies, is a form of clay. And much like carbon, clays tend to be absorbent, meaning they can absorb all kinds of things – like cannabinoids – and get them out of the system. This doesn’t mean that a clay can get into fat cells and remove THC stored there, but it means if the THC is released back into the system, say through exercise, the clay can absorb it to keep it from reabsorbing in the body, and get it out faster. Many detox kits claim to have a toxin absorber, along with some kind of component to stimulate organs and bowels to get the THC moving. Many of these kits say straight out that it can take up to 14 days, which is getting to the time that it would naturally take THC to be removed from the system anyway.
For the most dire of circumstances, there is even fake urine, but this often comes with very specific instructions that aren’t always easy to follow, like mixing something together, and making sure it stays the right temperature. Fake urine is often spotted in testing, so beware. If you are going to go the fake way, best to use someone else’s real urine, but keep in mind it still has to be the right temperature, and not too old when handed over, or you’re sure to get some uncomfortable questions.
How long to naturally clear THC
As with any drug, this is highly dependent on different factors. The age and weight of the person trying to detox, how much they smoke and how frequently, and what they smoke and the THC content within. It can also be affected by levels of exercise, a person’s diet, and other aspects of general lifestyle. When half-life ranges are given (the amount of time for half of a substance to be eliminated from the system – or broken down into a different metabolite), they’re often rather wide, highlighting this massive variation.
In fact, most sources that give information for the length of time THC can be detected in urine (the standard form of drug test), claim all but chronic, heavy users typically no longer show detectable amounts within 10 days. This implies, of course, that even very heavy users have the capacity to eliminate far faster than the far limit of 30 days. And this means that a lot of those detox methods promising a clean body within 7-14 days, aren’t actually promising anything special at all.
So, what’s the best way to detox cannabis?
When it comes down to it, unless someone is trying to sell you something, not many sources are going to back up the majority of detox methods, even the ones more based on herbal supplements. Though many herbal supplements are known for their detoxification properties, the idea that they could save a person from failing a drug test is a very different thing.
The publication Weedmaps asked its resident expert, Dr. Adie Poe, who is also assistant scientist at the Legacy Research Institute in Portland, Oregon, about the topic. Dr. Poe explained a few concepts to help understand the options for the best way to detox cannabis out of the system. She explained that while exercise sometimes can take a day or two off the total amount of time for detoxification, that it won’t help a person pass a drug test in the short term. She also went on to explain how detox drinks like cranberry juice and green tea do nothing to eliminate THC from the system, but instead work to trick the test by loading up on other nutrients to essentially mask the THC.
According to Dr. Poe, and most sites not trying to make a sale, the best way to detox cannabis is to wait it out, while many publications add in that it helps to have a healthy diet and exercise regimen as well.
Some of the better advice given for how to use cannabis and still pass a drug test, was to smoke low-THC cannabis, or use CBD products, though this obviously is not the best answer for someone looking specifically for high-THC marijuana.
Something to understand about drug testing
The reason I probably passed the drug test back in 2004 wasn’t because of the detox drink or loads of water drank with it. It was probably that it was never tested at all. In some situations of random drug testing, or drug testing for a job, only a percentage of the samples taken are tested. Employers have to pay out for this, and in companies with a lot of applicants and turnover – constant testing can start to add up. It’s quite possible that the practice was even more expensive back in 2004 when I was tested.
Though it’s not mentioned much on the internet these days, it was this thing we all knew back then. That not all the samples would be tested. In the last 16 years the process may have become more streamlined, and cheaper, allowing for more honest testing, but when employers want to cut costs, something like drug testing is likely to be one of the things to go. Again, while not much is mentioned about it these days, it was not only known as a ‘fact’ (with no backing) 16 years ago, but the only explanation for many passed drug tests that should have uniformly failed.
If you know you’ve got a drug test coming up, be smart about it, and if you can, practice some self-control. Take yourself a break and ensure a negative result. If you’re not lucky enough to have time, feel free to try any of the methods out there offering short-term help. But do so knowing that the products are unregulated, and that they might not work. Choose for yourself which one offers the best way to detox cannabis, and decide for yourself if it’s best to go through the whole process if you can’t ensure the result. If all else fails, go for dilution, just understand that it too might not get you the right outcome. Of course, if you’re really lucky, your sample may never be tested at all – but best not to bet on that one.
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