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Marijuana Detox: What You Should Know

As laws change, talking about marijuana use is slowly becoming more common. Some people are assessing its medicinal value, while others are looking for ways to flush it out of their system because of drug testing or a simple desire to get toxins out of their systems.

But what exactly are they flushing out, and how long would it take to happen naturally?

When you smoke or consume marijuana, you can feel profound and immediate effects. But even once those effects are gone, marijuana metabolites remain. This means that chemical remnants of the plant are still present within your body.

These remnants are called cannabinoids. They can be detected in saliva, hair, fingernails, blood, and urine.

Drug tests look for the presence of the cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and its metabolites. Generally, urine is tested, both because it’s easiest to collect and because THC remains detectable for a longer period of time in urine than elsewhere.

The main metabolite these drug screenings look for is called THC-COOH. This substance is stored in your body fat.

“Compared to other drugs, marijuana has the longest detection time, up to months, because the detectable chemicals stay in the body’s fat cells,” explained Nicolas Rossetti, manager of clinical services of Mobile Health, an occupational health center that conducts about 200,000 drug tests in New York City each year.

The vast majority of marijuana detoxes seek to flush the body of any detectable THC. These kits include capsules, chewable tablets, drinks, shampoos, and even mouthwashes to help you pass a saliva test.

However, if a drug test is your concern, detoxes can have additional effects that can make your urine sample look suspicious.

“Cleanses and teas can lower THC levels through their diuretic properties. They make individuals urinate a lot, which technically washes out the kidneys,” said Rossetti.

“This flushing of the kidneys can lower the specific gravity or density of the urine,” he added, “and a low specific gravity indicates contamination on the test, and the specimen could be discounted.”

Also, cleanses and teas may alter the amount of creatinine in the urine, another measure that drug tests look at. Abnormal creatinine levels can indicate contamination, according to Rossetti. This means the tester could assume that you attempted to cheat on your drug test.

While that doesn’t mean a positive test, it does mean the sample is unacceptable, and you’ll likely have to take the test again.

THC can be detected in your blood, urine, and even in your fat cells. The length of time THC remains detectable in the body depends on several factors, including:

  • metabolism and eating habits
  • exercise routine
  • body fat percentage
  • frequency and quantity of marijuana use

Because of all these factors, there is no single standard detection time. Some estimate it can stick around for anywhere from two days to several months.

Urine

Cannabinoid metabolites can remain detectable in urine even after long periods of abstinence. One study found traces of one metabolite, delta 1-THC, in urine as long as four weeks after use.

Fat cells

THC builds up in fat tissue, and from there slowly spreads to the blood. According to a 2013 study , exercise can cause THC to be released from your fat stores and into your blood.

Blood

THC can remain detectable in your blood for as long as seven days, depending on how frequently you use marijuana. Someone who smokes marijuana daily will likely carry marijuana metabolites for longer than someone who smokes infrequently.

As of 2018, marijuana is legal for recreational use in the U.S. in these states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and Washington, D.C. Medical marijuana is approved in over 20 states.

But regardless of its legality, it’s important to remember that marijuana carries with it certain medical risks. Know the risks before you decide to use it or not.

  • The main remnant cannabis drug tests look for is THC.
  • How long THC stays in your body depends on your weight and how much you exercise, among other things.

Last medically reviewed on January 25, 2018

When you smoke or consume marijuana, you can feel profound and immediate effects. But even once those effects are gone, marijuana metabolites remain in your body.

How To Eliminate THC From Your System: A Complete Guide

Drug tests are never fun, especially when you’re a regular cannabis user. But fear not; if you’ve got a drug test coming up, here are some simple ways to help flush THC from your body.

Use this guide to help eliminate THC from your system!

  • 1. How long does cannabis stay in your system?
  • 2. Factors that affect how quickly you metabolise THC
  • 2.a. Dosage and frequency of use
  • 2.b. Body fat and overall metabolic rate
  • 2.c. Sensitivity of the drug test
  • 3. Drug tests and detection times
  • 3.a. Urine testing
  • 3.b. Saliva testing
  • 3.c. Blood testing
  • 3.d. Hair testing
  • 4. How to get THC out of your system
  • 5. How to ingest activated charcoal
  • 5.a. Charcoal bread recipe
  • 6. Wrapping up: How to eliminate THC from your system
  • 1. How long does cannabis stay in your system?
  • 2. Factors that affect how quickly you metabolise THC
  • 2.a. Dosage and frequency of use
  • 2.b. Body fat and overall metabolic rate
  • 2.c. Sensitivity of the drug test
  • 3. Drug tests and detection times
  • 3.a. Urine testing
  • 3.b. Saliva testing
  • 3.c. Blood testing
  • 3.d. Hair testing
  • 4. How to get THC out of your system
  • 5. How to ingest activated charcoal
  • 5.a. Charcoal bread recipe
  • 6. Wrapping up: How to eliminate THC from your system

Good news! You just got your dream job. But, your new career comes with a catch—a zero tolerance drug policy. Do you give up weed? We know that might be intolerable or even impossible. There are many reasons why people choose to use cannabis, and we don’t judge; we just puff, puff, pass.

So, you make your best choice and continue to partake. But, you suddenly find yourself facing a drug test. Eep! What to do!? Read on to find out how to get THC out of your system.

HOW LONG DOES CANNABIS STAY IN YOUR SYSTEM?

The length of time cannabis stays in your system is affected by your unique biology and habits. While everyone is different, cannabis is usually detectable in fluids like urine and saliva from 1–30 days after last use. It may be detectable in hair for months.

THC is metabolised in the liver, where it gets broken down into over 80 metabolites. Eventually, THC and its metabolites are excreted, leaving your system. However, many of these compounds linger in your system longer than THC itself. Most drug tests are designed to detect certain metabolites, like tetrahydrocannabinol carboxylic acid (THC-COOH).

FACTORS THAT AFFECT HOW QUICKLY YOU METABOLISE THC

So, how long does it take for any trace of weed to leave your system? Your own THC timeline relies on numerous factors, including:

• How much/how frequently you consume cannabis
• How much body fat you have/metabolic rate
• How sensitive the drug test is/type of drug test

DOSAGE AND FREQUENCY OF USE

The amount (and frequency) of cannabis you regularly consume is perhaps the biggest factor. This one really is a no-brainer: The more cannabis you consume, the more metabolites there are knocking around in your body. Cannabis taken orally, like edibles, may also linger in your system longer than smoking.

Consumption rules apply to both individual doses and long-term habits. Two grams of weed will take longer to leave your system than one. Weed that’s more potent will take more time to clear out too. If you’re an occasional user, your system will eliminate THC faster. So, take note! If you’re a chronic user of cannabis, you may need extra time to abstain before you can pass a drug test.

BODY FAT AND OVERALL METABOLIC RATE

THC is detectable for longer in chronic users because THC metabolites get stored in fat cells (they are lipid soluble). A person with less body fat will store fewer of these molecules, and a person with more body fat will store more. That’s why sex can sometimes be a factor as well. Females tend to have more body fat than males, so women may metabolise cannabinoids more slowly.

A person’s overall metabolic rate also plays a large role. Some people can burn calories just by sitting around, while others struggle to lose weight even with an active lifestyle. Those with a faster metabolism will process and eliminate cannabinoid metabolites more quickly. Just be aware, if you exercise heavily before a drug test, the fat you burn could release more THC metabolites into your system, causing a temporary spike.

SENSITIVITY OF THE DRUG TEST

Different drug tests—urine, hair, saliva, blood—have different detection windows. Many, like hair and urine screenings, measure the THC metabolite THC-COOH, while blood tests measure levels of THC itself. Of all the standard testing methods, urine testing is by far the most common [1] . If you’re being drug tested at work, it’s almost always going to be a urine test.

Test sensitivity refers to the cutoff concentration of THC or its metabolites, above which a test is considered positive. The cutoff for most cannabis urine tests is 50ng/ml of THC-COOH. However, it is possible for the cutoff to be set as low as 15ng/ml. The more sensitive the test, the longer the detection window is.

DRUG TESTS AND DETECTION TIMES

According to available research, these are the most common detection windows for different drug tests. Keep in mind, the timeline varies according to your unique physiology and personal habits.

URINE TESTING

Cannabis and its metabolites are detectable in urine [2] for varying amounts of time after last use, depending on how frequent of a user you are:

Occasional user (one to three times per week): 3 days
Moderate user (four times per week): 5–7 days
Chronic user (daily): 10–15 days
Heavy chronic user (multiple times per day): 30+ days

This is, of course, assuming the test sensitivity cutoff is a standard 50ng/ml.

SALIVA TESTING

Roadside saliva tests may be used to detect impaired driving in some jurisdictions where cannabis is legal. According to a scientific review [3] , cannabis can typically be detected in saliva for:

Occasional users: 1–3 days
Chronic users: up to 29 days

BLOOD TESTING

Blood testing is relatively costly and invasive, making it less common than other testing methods. However, blood tests may be used in some clinical or emergency settings. Unlike urine tests, which detect metabolites, blood tests typically look for the presence of THC itself. THC is almost instantly detectable in the blood upon inhaling cannabis, making blood tests ideal for determining recent drug use.

Research shows [4] that cannabis remains detectable in blood for 1–2 days. However, in certain cases it has been detected up to 25 days later. Heavy, chronic use of cannabis can increase the length of the detection window.

HAIR TESTING

Following consumption of cannabis, THC reaches the hair follicles through small blood vessels. Trace amounts can be detected in hair for up to 90 days, as confirmed by a 2015 study [5] . Typically, a 4cm section of hair taken from near the scalp indicates cannabis use over a three month period (hair grows at an approximate rate of 1.2–1.5cm per month).

If you’re required to take a hair follicle drug test, around 100 hairs will be taken from near the crown of your head. Washing, dyeing, or styling your hair with products will have no effect on the accuracy of the test.

HOW TO GET THC OUT OF YOUR SYSTEM

So, you’ve got a drug test coming up and you’re feeling uneasy. Don’t get defeated! Here’s how you can try and beat it.

STOP CONSUMING CANNABIS

This may seem obvious, but the first thing you should do if you have a drug test coming up is stop using weed. The aim here is to purge any trace of THC or its metabolites as thoroughly as possible. The longer you cease smoking beforehand, the more likely you are to pass the test. Depending on the type of test and your smoking habits, you may need to take a longer break to fully flush your system.

DRINK LOTS OF WATER

Speaking of flushing your system, there’s nothing better than good ol’ H₂O. Of course, drinking water is most effective for passing urine tests. Luckily, that’s the most common type of test.

To help cleanse your system, pee as much as you can 24–48 hours before your test. Keep hydrating on the day of your drug test. The goal is to dilute your urine, making it harder to detect any residual metabolites.

Just don’t overdo it. Drinking too much water will result in an obviously diluted sample, potentially leading to a retest or increased suspicion. You need to drink plenty of water, but not so much that it becomes obvious. This is indeed a balancing act.

TAKE ZINC

A 2011 study [6] found that zinc is an effective urinary adulterant, with the potential to produce a false negative test result. Research suggests that oral consumption of zinc supplements after light cannabis use could interfere with detection of THC metabolites in urine for between 12 and 18 hours.

Zinc supplements are widely available over the counter in pharmacies and health food stores. So, if a drug test gets sprung on you or you need some extra assurance, you might want to swing by the vitamin aisle. Just make sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist first if you take any regular medications.

DETOX DRINKS

If you want to kick it up a notch from water, try a detox drink. Detox drinks work on the premise of expelling or masking the presence of THC and its metabolites. Many of them use diuretic substances to make sure you are passing urine frequently.

Consumer detox products can be quite expensive. If you don’t have the cash, focus on simple detox drinks you can make at home, like coffee or cranberry juice.

ACTIVATED CHARCOAL

Another method to prepare your body for a drug test is activated charcoal. Charcoal is often used to medically manage overdoses; it binds to different substances and helps the body eliminate them. That’s because charcoal molecules have a negative electrical charge; they bind with positively charged molecules in different drugs, trapping them.

The binding process works with THC metabolites. THC metabolites circulate many times through your system via a process known as “enterohepatic recirculation”. They move from blood to liver to bile and into the intestines, before being reabsorbed back into the bloodstream. The cycle then repeats, with a portion of the metabolites excreted as waste each time. Eventually, after many cycles, all metabolites are flushed from your system.

Research [7] shows that activated charcoal binds to metabolites like THC-COOH and THC-COO-glucuronide, preventing their reabsorption into the bloodstream and speeding up their elimination. That means charcoal could help you pass a drug test faster.

HOW TO INGEST ACTIVATED CHARCOAL

So, what’s the best way to take activated charcoal? Thanks to its purifying properties, charcoal has gained popularity as an addition to cosmetics, health products, and even food. The simplest way to take it is via capsules. But, let’s be honest, it’s more fun to do a little baking! The recipe below for charcoal bread results in a unique, black loaf that looks badass and still tastes great.

Please note that you should be careful when ingesting activated charcoal—it could interfere with absorption of medications and vitamins. If you have concerns or take regular meds, check with your doctor or pharmacist before trying it.

CHARCOAL BREAD RECIPE

This gothic dough will turn any sandwich into a conversation piece.

INGREDIENTS

• 240g plain flour
• 7g dried yeast
• 50g caster sugar
• ½ tsp. salt
• 2 tsp. activated charcoal powder
• 140ml warm water
• 30g butter

HARDWARE

• Large bowl
• Cutting board/breadboard
• Bread tin
• Kitchen towel
• Roasting tray
• Wooden spoon

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Add flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and charcoal powder into a large bowl and mix thoroughly.

2. Add water to the bowl and continue to mix until the mixture becomes dough.

3. Sprinkle flour over a breadboard and knead the dough whilst adding the butter one small piece at a time. Knead until all of the butter has merged with the dough and it becomes soft and stretchy.

4. Add the dough to a greased bread tin and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Place a roasting tray underneath the bread tin and pour boiling water into it. Place tin and tray into the oven. Return 30 minutes later to add more boiling water.

5. Once another 30 minutes have elapsed (1 hour total), carefully separate the roasting tray from the bread tin and bake alone in the oven for a final 15 minutes.

6. Remove the bread from the oven and allow it to cool.

WRAPPING UP: HOW TO ELIMINATE THC FROM YOUR SYSTEM

Here’s a quick recap of the main points:

THC gets broken down into metabolites like THC-COOH by the liver, and this is what many drug tests look for.
Different drug tests have different detection times, which are also influenced by body fat, metabolism, and how much/how often you use cannabis.
Urine tests are by far the most popular method, especially among employers.
If you have a drug test coming up, you should stop using weed immediately.
To speed up excretion of THC or to help mask its presence, drink lots of water (but not too much!).
You can also try: zinc, detox drinks, and activated charcoal.

Ultimately, there’s no fool-proof formula to flush THC out of your system quickly. There are just too many variables. But, that doesn’t mean you’re powerless. Research shows that the methods we discussed could help speed up the process. With knowledge on your side, and a little bit of luck, you’ll be flying high in your free time and nobody will be the wiser. Because, let’s be honest, it’s nobody’s business.

Drug tests are a stoner's worst nightmare, and can mess with even casual users' lives. Here are some tips and tricks to help you beat the THC heat.