It's a familiar scenario. You've just been hired for a new job and need to pass a drug test. You're not sure how marijuana can affect the results and you need to find out — fast.
If you've recently smoked a cannabis strain high in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), there is a possibility a drug test will reveal the psychoactive cannabinoid in your system. It may be detectable in urine, blood, or even hair, though employers are unlikely to sample the latter in drug screenings.
If you're looking for effective ways to remove THC from the body before taking a drug test, you're likely going to be disappointed. There is no quick and easy way to rid your system of marijuana, but it's helpful to know why that is. In this guide to detoxing from THC, we'll examine the facts and myths about cannabis, drug testing, and what you should be aware of if you're concerned about taking a drug test in the future.
What is detoxification?
Detoxification is the removal of a toxic substance from the body, either by some outside means or waiting for a drug to clear the bloodstream on its own. In general, it is healthier and safer to allow the THC from marijuana to leave the body unassisted, as opposed to toxic drugs such as cocaine or heroin for which there are medications to facilitate detoxification.
How long does it take to detox from THC?
The psychoactive effects of THC may last fewer than two hours, but the compound or its byproducts, called THC metabolites, can remain in the body for a significant amount of time — 30 days or longer by most accounts. This lengthy residence makes detoxing from THC a challenge, but let's consider the most common methods used to manipulate THC levels and eliminate cannabis products from the body.
Does exercise help to detox from THC?
If you have ever practiced hot yoga, you have probably heard your instructors talking about sweating out toxins. While this notion is debatable, you may wonder if vigorous exercise and breaking a sweat can cause THC to leave the body through the pores.
Dr. Adie Rae, a neuroscientist at the Legacy Research Institute in Portland, Oregon, and a scientific adviser to Weedmaps, weighed in, "Exercise can release stored THC from adipose (fat) tissue. Theoretically, exercise might help to speed up the detox process, but perhaps only marginally (28 days instead of 30). There is no scientific evidence showing that exercising can speed up the detox process and help you pass a drug test sooner than you would have without exercise."
In terms of body fat, individuals with less are not as likely to store THC metabolites due to a faster metabolism. However, a person of any bodyweight may still show traces of the cannabinoid in blood and/or urine, especially if they are daily marijuana users.
Do detox drinks remove THC from the body?
Detox drinks such as cranberry juice or green tea may seem like good solutions to flush THC out of your system, but can they literally remove the cannabinoid? Not exactly.
Rather, Dr. Rae explained, "When it comes to passing a drug screen, 'detox drinks' don't actually remove THC from the body or urine. Instead, they trick the laboratory test by artificially loading up the urine sample with vitamins and proteins like creatinine… it's like adding sugar to coffee. Adding sugar doesn't change the amount of bitter compounds in your cup, it just masks them, tricking your brain into thinking it's less bitter."
In other words, the THC may still be present in the body, but it is possible for the compound not to register on a toxicology report. Therefore, hydrating with beverages such as herbal tea and purified water will probably not rid your system of marijuana. Still, increasing your fluid intake can be beneficial to your general health, which is often not the case for unregulated products such as detox pills and kits.
Do THC detox kits really work?
A detox kit may also seem like a quick fix to cleanse your system of THC, but these methods may be even less reliable than detoxing with fluids. First, THC detox kits are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which means that they could be more harmful than helpful. While it could be possible to fool a drug test with a kit, it may not be worth risking your well-being for a product of questionable origin and safety.
How can I use marijuana and still pass a drug test?
If you want to enjoy cannabis but don't want any evidence of the plant to appear in a blood or urine sample, you have other options to consider. Hemp-derived CBD products such as oils and tinctures contain only trace levels of THC and may be ingested on their own or prepared in recipes for tasty edibles.
Another option is to smoke marijuana strains that have low levels of THC. Popular cannabis strains purported to have less than 15% THC content include Charlotte's Web, Harlequin, and ACDC. For even lower levels, try Ringo's Gift, which is said to contain only around 7% THC, making it a good choice for beginners as well. However, consuming large amounts of any low-THC cannabis flower will defeat the purpose of it being low-potency.
What is the best way to detox from THC?
According to Dr. Rae, "the only way to truly 'detox' (remove the drug from the body) is to wait it out. The liver metabolizes THC, and its metabolites are further broken down, over time, until there are no more traces left. This process can take 30 days or more for a daily cannabis user."
So, the best way to detox from THC may be simply to play the waiting game and allow enough time to pass for the cannabinoid to naturally exit your system. Sipping water, trying detox drinks such as cranberry juice, and practicing yoga may not speed up the process, but they can make you feel good and assist with any withdrawal symptoms you may be experiencing.
Likewise, home remedies like lemon juice and apple cider vinegar carry potential health benefits, but it's a myth that they can strip your system of THC. These fluids may be able to mask marijuana in your bloodstream and urine, but this outcome is not predictable and depends on numerous factors including your body composition, frequency of cannabis consumption, and even the potency of the weed.
The bottom line on weed detoxing
As much as we all love a quick fix, abstaining from cannabis for 30 days or more may be the only way to guarantee that THC won't show up on a drug test.