If you like to indulge in cannabis every now and again, there’s a danger that your habit could cost you your existing job – or a chance at a new role.
Moreover, if your employer subjects you to a drug test and you use cannabis (or have used cannabis in the recent past), the THC in the plant could potentially land in serious trouble. Fortunately, though, there are ways to safely and effectively detox your body and ensure that your test comes back all clear.
Marijuana and its active ingredients are interesting compounds in terms of how they are metabolized in the human body – unlike other herbal supplements which are digested and excreted within days of consumption; it can be relatively difficult to detox for cannabis, given that many of the active compounds are stored long-term lipid (fat) deposits.
Keep reading to learn more about the safest and best way to detox, and also about things to ignore…
- How Long Does Weed Stay in the System?
- I Don’t Have an Impending Drug Test, Why Else Would I Embark on a THC Detox?
- What Happens in a Drug Test for THC?
What is a Detox for Weed?
The term ‘detoxification’, better known as detox, is the process of avoiding a given substance to ensure your body has eliminated it. When it comes to cannabis use, you have to steer clear of it until your body has successfully flushed it out of your system. If you’re a heavy user, it will take a lot longer to detox your body and could result in withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, anxiety, depression, and irritability.
If you’re scheduled to have a drug test at work, you may need a little ‘help’ to remove the THC, and this simple little necessity has spawned a multi-million dollar market. There are hundreds of detox products on the market, and while most don’t explicitly state that the product is for THC detox, that’s what many people use it for.
How Long Does Weed Stay in the System?
According to Ryan Vandrey of Johns Hopkins University, there is no typical detection window when it comes to drug testing and cannabis, as there are numerous variables including rate of use, BMI, the frequency of exercise, and metabolism. Here are some standard periods to help give you a ballpark figure:
- Blood: 1-7 days.
- Saliva: 1-7 days.
- Hair: Up to 90 days.
- Urine: Anywhere from three days for light users to 77 days for heavy users. The ‘average’ is between 10 and 30 days.
As you can see, it is difficult to pinpoint an exact figure, so if you have an impending drug test, a THC detox might be the only way to pass.
There have been a few studies over the last few decades which attempted to determine how long cannabis typically stays in the system. In 2005, for example, a review by Paul Cary of the University of Missouri discovered that it is rare for THC to be found in the system for more than 30 days after it was last consumed.
Moreover, a study by Johansson and Halldin, which was published in 1989, analyzed the detection time in chronic users. The duo discovered that the ‘maximum’ detection window was 25 days, and this was only at a sensitivity of 20 ng/mL. Also, only one of the subjects tested positive after 14 days, and it took just 9.8 days on average for the THC levels to no longer be detectable.
And lastly, a 1984 study by Swatek tested chronic users at the 50 ng/mL cutoff point and found that the longest time it took to get clean was 40 days. However, 80% of the subjects passed the test within 13 days. In other words, reducing your THC levels to a point where you pass a urinalysis is individualized, but probably doesn’t take as long as you think.
I Don’t Have an Impending Drug Test, Why Else Would I Embark on a THC Detox?
For some users, when they smoke cannabis for a long time, its effects begin to dissipate. This means you have entered the dreaded marijuana tolerance zone, and implies that you need more cannabis to achieve the same effects as before. A tolerance break could potentially rejuvenate cannabis’s effects, while also giving users the opportunity to consider the intention of their usage.
Once you begin your tolerance break, continue abstaining from cannabis until the THC has completely left your system. As you’re in no particular hurry, you don’t need any special THC detox products – unless, of course, you’re eager to get back to smoking!
What Happens in a Drug Test for THC?
In the United States, at least 40 million drug tests are carried out annually, with urine testing being the most common method. When you use cannabis, your THC levels temporarily rise. While these THC levels will fall rapidly over the next few days (as long as you don’t smoke again), regular users will probably have enough left in their system to be detected by urinalysis.
One of the downsides of cannabis (compared to other illegal drugs) is that traces of it take much longer to leave the body.
Marijuana compounds such as CBD and THC – as well as their metabolites – are lipid-soluble and accumulate in your body’s fat reserves. Over time, these molecules are released slowly, which means that THC and other cannabinoids will remain in your system for longer.
A urinalysis measures the level of the metabolite THC-COOH in your urine, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) sets the standard for government employee drug tests. Although the figure varies, the typical cutoff point in urinalysis for the presence of THC is 50 ng/mL (nanograms per milliliter). If your sample has a higher level than this, it is sent off for a second test that uses more sensitive equipment. If the second urine sample shows a rate higher than 15 ng/mL, you have officially failed the drug test.
Please note, though, that there are a few factors that could influence the results of your drug test and ultimately cause a false positive. For example, if you are dehydrated, it will concentrate your urine, and after exercise, fat cells are broken down, and THC is released. Therefore, it is entirely possible to fluctuate between negative and positive in a relatively short span of time.
How to Cleanse Your Body
If you have a company drug test on the horizon and believe there isn’t enough time to get clean, you’ll need the aid of the best marijuana detox you can find. While Paul Cary says that most chronic users can pass a test with just 10 days of abstention, you probably won’t want to take that chance – nor will you have enough time. Ryan Vandrey believes that general recommendations should be ignored, especially if you’re a chronic user. Therefore, you’ll probably be interested in one of the following products to determine if they offer the best detox for THC.
While 65% of THC leaves the body through fecal matter, another 20% is expelled via urine, and the rest is either removed through biological materials like sweat or else stays in your body’s cells. Detox pills tend to work by providing the body with a supplemental energy supply, which prevents your body from burning fat cells for up to 6 hours (as a result, no toxins are released into your urine or bloodstream). These kinds of THC detox pills are best used around two hours before the scheduled test.
There are also detox pills that are designed to gradually clear your system over the course of a week or so. Typically, these products contain an array of herbal extracts that work to detoxify your body and help you pass the test. Examples of herbs used in detox pills include:
- Dandelion Leaf: Helps clear THC from your system by forcing it to leave naturally when you urinate.
- Rhubarb Root: This allegedly targets and clears cannabis toxins while preventing inflammation in the bladder.
- Burdock Root: Acts as a blood purifier and cleanses your system.
- Goldenseal Root: Goldenseal detox products are super hard to come by (as is the natural root itself), due to botanical sustainability, but there are people out there who swear by it in terms of its ability to skew the results of a THC drug test in your favor.
And finally, it’s worth noting that detox pills designed to help you get free and clear at the last minute are little more than masking agents – all they do is ensure your urine provides an artificial reading. Meanwhile, seven-day cleanses tend to have higher success rates because they actually remove THC from your system. Reviews for THC detox pills are mixed, to say the least.
Detox Drinks for Drug Test
Detox drinks typically involve drinking even more water than their pill counterparts. Although some dubious firms on the market don’t have reliable products, there is actually some science behind the claims of the more reputable companies. These drinks should be filled with vitamins and minerals, which can help restore your urine’s composition.
Most people believe that detox drinks work in the same way as drinking gallons of water, but this isn’t true.
The best drinks flush the THC out of your system and keep your urine the same color. Even so, most sellers recommend drinking liters of water before and after using their product. This instruction has led cynics to suggest that it’s the water that actually helps you pass the test, and not the drink.
Ultimately, the low success rate of ‘quick fix’ detox drinks means we can only recommend considering products that are designed to remove toxins over the course of 3 – 7 days. As the lab test isn’t looking for traces of detox drinks, there is little chance that your usage of the product will be detected.
THC Detox Kit
A marijuana detox kit is similar to detox pills and drinks, and may actually contain one or both of them. Once again, THC detox kits claim to remove all toxins from your system, including metabolites, in a short period of time. The duration of these programs ranges anywhere from 24 hours to a week, so choose the one that meets your needs accordingly.
A significant proportion of the best THC detox kits contain fruit pectin, which is a type of fiber that’s normally used to add gelatinous qualities to jam and jelly. Fruit pectin is supposed to stop THC metabolites from passing into your urine, as it actually forces the cannabinoids out via your feces instead. Other common ingredients include red clover and yellow dock root, which act as diuretics and speed up your metabolism.
Verdant Herbal sells a well-known marijuana detox kit that contains 18 tablets that must be consumed in the 48 hours leading up to the test. Despite the rapid timeframe, Verdant promises that its kit will remove all detectable THC metabolites via the rigorous metabolic action of its ingredients, which include Fennel, Coltsfoot, Licorice Root, Chickweed, and Mullein. If you decide to use a marijuana detox kit, though, make sure you choose a product that is safe for your kidneys and liver; other ‘kits’ are little more than detox drinks washed down with water, while the best marijuana detox kits are actually backed by scientific research.
Now that you have a little more information, the next step is to learn how to actually detox from cannabis. (A little later on, we’re going to check out natural cleanse options, but first, let’s take a look at a few of the most legitimate cleansing products because some of them are certainly better than others).
With regard to the length of time that THC can stay in the body, here are a few things to consider before beginning a marijuana cleanse:
Consumption Rate & Frequency
Casual smokers will pass most tests if they abstain for several days beforehand. Frequent smokers, though, will need a faster detox to get by. Do you smoke daily? If so, how much do you smoke during a session? And how much THC is in the cannabis you smoke? These are all vital questions because the THC metabolites’ half-life is seven days. (Or in other words, the amount of THC in your body will be cut in half every seven days).
Now obviously, if you smoke like Howard Marks, it will take some additional time for THC to leave the body naturally. Technically, it also means that it will take a week longer for you to get clean than it does for someone who smokes only 50% of what you smoke.
Since THC and THC-COOH are stored in fat cells, the more body fat you have, ultimately the more THC can (and will) be stored in your body.
Metabolism & Health
Individuals with healthy BMI have lower body fat percentages than average, so they benefit from low THC storage. They also tend to have faster metabolisms, meaning they can break down THC at a faster rate than those individuals with high BMI.
There are several ways to embark on a cannabis detox:
- Medium-Term Detox Products
These products involve the use of herbal supplements to give you the best body cleanse and eliminate THC within 3-7 days. Make sure you purchase a reliable home drug testing kit to ensure your urine is clean before taking the test.
- Short-Term Detox Products
These items are often filled with possibly harmful ingredients and mainly rely on you drinking a lot of water. They mask your urine and do little for your overall health, and are certainly not a substitute for a good THC cleanse.
- Synthetic Urine
Synthetic Urine is an illegal method, and states are beginning to impose strict penalties on individuals caught using fake urine. You can purchase fake urine online, and these kits are designed to look, smell, and chemically behave as clean human urine. However, this is obviously NOT a detox method, and we do not recommend it.
- Soap & Bleach
In terms of how to detox THC, this is arguably the most unsubstantiated regularly attempted method of passing a drug test. It is absolutely untrue that soaps such as dishwasher detergent will help you return a negative sample, but in reality, detergent can actually change your sample’s color, and there’s a pretty good chance that your urine will be bubbly! Bleach also doesn’t work very well at all, and to be honest, it could prove to be a health risk, so you’re much better off just avoiding it altogether!
Natural Detox Cleanse
There is nothing quite like passing a drug test naturally, so if you don’t like the idea of spending $40+ on a drink or pill that may or may not help, your best bet is to begin a natural detox cleanse as soon as possible. Doing it naturally takes longer, but in the end, it is the most reliable method. Here are a few ways to remove THC from your system naturally:
You have no hope of cleansing your system if you use marijuana at any time during the process! Of course, it is up to you to decide if you want to quit cold turkey or gradually wean yourself off. Do bear in mind, though, that the latter option means the cleansing process will take even longer.
Although abstention is effective, individuals may test positive if exposed to secondhand smoke. In a 2015 study by Herrmann et al., a group of non-users was exposed to secondhand smoke from six cannabis smokers, and ultimately ended up testing positive for THC. For the study, all of the non-smokers were placed together in a specially constructed (albeit non-ventilated) chamber for 60 minutes, while their friends smoked cannabis with 11.3% THC content. One non-smoker ended up testing positive for cannabis with a THC-COOH concentration exceeding 57 ng/mL, while several other non-users had concentrations over 20 ng/mL.
This method works best if you have a full week before a drug test. Exercise is effective because it helps you burn through fat cells that are hanging on to THC. However, make sure you don’t exercise within 24 hours of the test because THC actually gets re-released into the bloodstream when you burn fat. A 2013 study by Wong et al., for example, discovered that exercise could increase your blood plasma THC concentrations by approximately 15%.
Sweat it Out
It is entirely possible that this method is more ‘myth’ than fact, as it’s widely known that only a small amount of THC leaves the body via sweat. However, there is also a possibility that using a sauna could help detoxify the body and aid in your quest to pass a drug test. A 2012 study by Ross and Sternquist found that police officers were able to detox by using a sauna after exposure to methamphetamines.
It is ultimately hard to know if the same principle applies to sauna and marijuana, but it may be worth noting that the officers also received nutrition therapy, including B vitamins. They also exercised extensively so perhaps a combination of a detox drink, exercise, and sauna could work? Either way, bear in mind that you must drink a lot of water if you intend to use a sauna and exercise.
Water – Lots & Lots of It!
There are a host of detox drinks and homemade remedies on the market, and a lot of them contain acidic ingredients that can be harsh on the stomach. If you would rather keep things simple and avoid indigestion problems, stick to water. Even the manufacturers of detox drinks and pills recommend consuming large amounts of water with their products.
The downside of this method is that you have to drink more water than you ever believed was possible. Some people recommend drinking a gallon a day for up to a week before the test. However, scientific research into the issue suggests that hyper-hydration is unlikely to have a significant impact on the removal of THC or its metabolites.
Hyper-hydration can be life-threatening, so this is not necessarily a safe method for THC detox.
A smarter way is to use a combination of vitamin B2 and an electrolyte powder. Drink the electrolyte solution at a rate of 4 milliliters per pound of your lean body mass (your bodyweight when fat is subtracted) per hour for three hours. Then test your urine using a home drug test, and if your reading is below 50 ng/mL, repeat the test the following day and check again. If your reading is at a ‘fail’ level, you’ll need to gradually increase your consumption of the electrolyte solution until the test comes back clean.
These are not always effective, but they may be an option if time is running out, and you are desperate! In simple terms, combine as many ingredients with known detoxification properties and chug it down! One example is to mix:
- 500 ml of water
- Two tablespoons of lemon juice
- Two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
- One teaspoon of ground ginger
- 0.25 teaspoons of cinnamon
- A pinch of cayenne pepper
- One teaspoon of honey to make the concoction palatable.
For best results, drink the mixture three times on the day of your drug test.
Best Detox Foods
When you eat healthier foods, you’re actually helping to remove THC from your system rather than merely masking it.
One tactic you could use is to eat a large amount of high-fiber leafy greens, beginning at least three days before your drug test. Natural fiber helps to kick start your digestive tract, which ultimately means more excretion of fecal matter and with it, THC. Remember, up to 65% of THC is removed from your system via bowel movements!
Fruits and vegetables are also filled with micronutrients that can assist in the detox process; in the days before your drug test, increase your consumption of Magnesium, Activated Charcoal, Psyllium Husk, and B Vitamins with special emphasis on niacin.
Here is a quick list of a few detox foods to consider:
- Lemon: The acidic properties of this citrus fruit make it an excellent option for detox. All you need is about one tablespoon of lemon juice added to half a liter of water. For best results, drink up to eight glasses of this mixture in the 24 hours before your drug test.
- Garlic: This is one of the best detox foods in the world, as it stimulates the production of detoxing enzymes in the liver and works to filter toxins from the digestive system.
- Broccoli Sprouts: This food is exceptionally high in antioxidants and also does an excellent job of stimulating detoxification enzymes at the cellular level. In this instance, the sprouts actually do a better job than the fully-grown broccoli vegetable.
- Grapefruit: Grapefruit contains phytochemicals that help burn fat cells, and they also reduce your appetite, which makes it an ideal food when dieting — and detoxing.
- Mung Beans: This is another seldom-eaten healthy food that can help flush THC from your system, as the beans digest easily and absorb toxic residue from your body’s intestinal walls.
THC Detox: Final Thoughts
With employers finding it more difficult than ever to hire qualified and talented staff, an increasing number of firms are jettisoning the dreaded pre-employment drug screen. For instance, Las Vegas-based company Excellence Health Inc. has stopped performing drug tests altogether on candidates seeking to work for its pharmaceutical arm. Also, in February 2018, AutoNation Inc. announced that they would no longer be refusing applicants who test positive for THC.
Sadly, many companies will reject your application if you test positive for THC, even though four times as many Americans are dependent on alcohol than on cannabis.
Therefore, if you’re applying for a job or else your company is engaging in employee drug testing, you need to abstain from the herb until the test has concluded. If the test comes at short notice, you have to find a way to begin a THC detox quickly and safely, and this is where detox drinks, pills, and kits come into play.
Most THC detox products are little more than herbal supplements with extra B-vitamins. According to certain detox product sellers, their products will speed up the rate of THC elimination from the body, but beware of such claims, because they are usually false. The scientific community at large believes the notions of cleansing and detoxing are ridiculous, as they have no clinical basis.
If you do decide to begin a THC detox, do so as far away from the drug test as possible.
There are short-term drinks that can mask the presence of cannabinoids, so you pass the test, but they are usually unreliable, and passing the test becomes a matter of good fortune more than anything the drink does. The best way to detox is to increase your fiber intake with extra fruit and vegetables. Also, drink a reasonable amount of water without making yourself ill.
Finally, chronic marijuana users must realize that there is no magic method of passing a drug test! THC will remain in your system for weeks unless you abstain immediately and begin the detox process. Your frequency of use and the amount consumed, coupled with your metabolism, body fat percentage, and general health, all will play a role in determining how long it takes to get clean.
Want to know how long THC can stay in your system? Try out our THC Drug Test Calculator.