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Marijuana Detox & Side Effects

Some people seek ways to remove marijuana from their system because they want to quit using the drug. 

However, stopping marijuana use may trigger withdrawal symptoms, which can complicate the quitting process. These symptoms include: 

  • Irritability, agitation, and mood swings
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Decreased appetite
  • Restlessness
  • Physical and mental discomfort like headaches, sweating, chills, tremors, and stomach pain1

On the other hand, other people choose to stop marijuana use to detoxify and pass an upcoming drug test. 

However, as traces of marijuana remain in the body for some time, the detoxification process may not be immediate. If all traces of marijuana are flushed out, you will get a negative drug test result. 

To perform successful detoxification, it’s essential to understand how various marijuana drug tests work and how long the drug stays in the body.

What Marijuana Drug Tests Look For

Marijuana has many chemicals, including a class of compounds called cannabinoids. Among cannabinoids, the psychoactive ones that provide the “high” feeling are called tetrahydrocannabinol or THC.2 

When a person takes marijuana, THC is quickly absorbed by the lungs. It enters the bloodstream in minutes and is quickly absorbed by fats and other tissues. 

It will be gradually released back into the bloodstream and carried to the liver for metabolization. 

Metabolites of THC will then be excreted through various routes, including:

  • Stool
  • Urine
  • Saliva
  • Hair follicles

Because various samples contain THC metabolites, different tests were designed to accommodate them.

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How Long THC Stays in the Body (& Types of Drug Tests)

THC generally stays in the body for up to 30 to 90 days after the last marijuana use.3 Still, there’s no single standard when it comes to detection time. This is because several factors affect how long THC stays in the body. 

These factors include: 

  • Frequency of marijuana use: Frequent users have a longer chance of retaining THC, usually 30 to 90 days after the last use. But for infrequent users, waiting a few weeks may be enough to clear the body of THC. 
  • The concentration of marijuana: The more concentrated the smoked marijuana is, the higher the THC concentration retained by the body.  
  • Body fats: Fat cells store THC. This means a person with lower body fat has a quicker tendency for THC detox. 
  • Metabolic rate and lifestyle: For example, exercise can influence the release of THC from fats.4 

Urine Test

The urine test is the most common marijuana test. It is done in two steps: 

  1. Immunoassay test: The initial screening test that looks for antibodies. If antibodies are detected, that could mean the presence of drugs in the urine sample. 
  2. Gas chromatography: A more advanced test that uses an equipment called gas chromatograph. This is used to rule out false-positive results from an immunoassay test. 

Depending on the frequency of use, different marijuana users will have different detection times for getting a positive result. 

  • Infrequent users (use marijuana less than 2 times per week): 1 to 3 days after last use. 
  • Moderate users (use marijuana several times per week): 7­ to 21 days after last use. 
  • Heavy users: one month or longer after last use.5

Saliva Test

This oral drug test is the least used marijuana test. It’s easier and quicker than the urine test, making it preferred by the federal government and roadside law enforcement agencies. 

Saliva can retain traces of THC metabolites for 1 to 7 days. The saliva drug test is done as an oral swab test. 

Hair Test

The hair follicle test requires the first 1.5 inches of a hair strand. Like the urine test, the hair drug test is also done in two steps: 

  • Immunoassay test: This is an initial screening test that looks for antibodies. If antibodies are detected, that could mean the presence of drugs in the hair sample. 
  • GC-MS test: This is a more advanced test that uses sophisticated equipment to rule out false-positive results from an immunoassay test. 

A hair drug test takes a long time to perform. It’s becoming more popular, though, because it detects traces of THC for up to 90 to 120 days. It is more reliable for regular marijuana users but ineffective for light users.6 

Blood Test

Blood tests can detect THC metabolites in regular users for up to 45 to 60 days

However, they are usually done only in situations when a urine drug test produces unsatisfactory results. Blood tests also require more testing time and sophisticated equipment.

Different THC Detox Methods

Knowledge of marijuana tests and the amount of time THC stays in the body can be helpful for persons aiming to have a hassle-free drug test. They can detoxify in advance before getting tested. 

Some of the supposedly best THC detox methods you’ll encounter online are listed below: 

Detox Drinks

THC detox drinks are cleansing supplements touted for their ability to flush THC on the very same day of marijuana use. The effects are temporary and are only effective for a few hours. 

Detox Pills 

Detox pills, capsules, and tablets contain different herbs, vitamins, and minerals. Taken like an ordinary supplement, they are promoted to be a less tedious alternative to detox drinks. 

Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is acidic and can help detoxify the body. A drink containing  lemon juice and water is said to be particularly useful for people taking a urine drug test.

Cranberry Juice

Of all juices with THC-detoxifying properties, cranberry juice is said to be the best. It’s a natural diuretic, which means it induces frequent urination to flush out traces of THC. Like lemon juice, cranberry juice is said to help those taking a urine drug test. 

Coffee

Like cranberry juice, coffee is also a diuretic and may be used to pass a urine test. It induces urination, which could help in detoxification. 

However, coffee can quickly lead to dehydration. It’s essential to increase water intake when drinking coffee for detoxification. 

Apple Cider Vinegar

Best consumed before a meal, apple cider vinegar is also said to help with THC detox. It can be mixed with a non-alcoholic drink and used several times per day.

Detox Mouthwash

People getting a saliva test may resort to a detox mouthwash. However, it has to be applied 15 minutes before the test for it to be effective. 

Detox Shampoo

Some shampoos can help people who are going to take a hair follicle test. They are simple to use. Just focus on working the scalp to wash off any chemicals.

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Do THC Detox Remedies Really Work?

Many people are convinced that the above remedies are the best THC detox methods for rapidly removing THC from their bodies. 

At a glance, there appears to be no harm in trying a THC detox kit, a detox drink, detox pill, or home remedies.

If a person’s goal is just to pass a drug test, know that these THC detox methods may make the urine sample or other test specimen unacceptable. 

Take diuretics (like coffee and cranberry juice) as examples. They increase a person’s tendency to urinate, which can lower the specific gravity of urine samples. Low specific gravity means the urine sample is too diluted. 

Detox methods also affect color, pH, uric acid, and creatinine levels. 

Labs may interpret any discrepancies as contamination or a sign of another medical condition. Labs may disregard the sample and request another one.

What is the Most Effective THC Detox Method?

Time is the best THC detox method. It may take around 30 to 90 days to detoxify the body naturally from traces of marijuana. 

Adding the factors affecting THC retention into the mix, here are a few tips you can do to detoxify naturally:

  • Stop marijuana use. You’ll reduce the amount of THC retained inside your body over time.
  • Drink plenty of water. THC is excreted through the urine. Drinking lots of water increases excretion.
  • Eat a balanced diet. Fat cells store THC. By cutting off fats from your diet, you’ll reduce your body’s capacity to store THC.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise increases the release of THC from fats.   

It may be true that detox drinks, pills, and home remedies can help you pass a drug test. But remember that you need more than these methods to achieve permanent THC detox. 

Speak with an addiction specialist today if you need help in overcoming marijuana addiction.

Summary

  • People look for ways to flush marijuana out of their system because they want to quit marijuana use or they just want to pass an upcoming drug test.
  • The most psychoactive compounds found in marijuana are called tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. THC is stored in fat cells and metabolized by the liver. The drug metabolites are excreted through urine, saliva, hair, and stool.  
  • THC generally stays in the body for up to 30 to 90 days after the last use. However, several factors affect how long THC stays in the body. These factors include frequency of marijuana use, body fats, and exercise.
  • Urine, saliva, hair follicle, and blood tests are examples of THC drug tests.
  • Some people aiming to pass a marijuana drug test resort to THC detox methods like THC detox drinks, detox pills, cranberry juice, lemon juice, and apple cider vinegar. However, these methods may affect the properties of test samples and make them unacceptable. 
  • Time is the best THC detox method. Some natural ways to detoxify include stopping marijuana use, drinking plenty of water, eating a balanced diet, and exercising regularly.

Resources

MORE
LESS
  1. Greenspoon, Peter. “If cannabis becomes a problem: How to manage withdrawal.” Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, May 26, 2020. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/if-cannabis-becomes-a-problem-how-to-manage-withdrawal-2020052619922.
  2. Sharma, Priyamvada, et al. “Chemistry, metabolism, and toxicology of cannabis: clinical implications.” Iranian journal of psychiatry vol. 7,4 : 149-56. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3570572/
  3. Verstraete, Alain. “Detection times of drugs of abuse in blood, urine, and oral fluid.” Ther Drug Monit 2004 Apr;vol 26,2 (2004 ): 200-5. doi: 10.1097/00007691-200404000-00020.
  4. Wong, Alexander, et al. “Exercise increases plasma THC concentrations in regular cannabis users.” Drug Alcohol Depend vol. 133,2 : 763-7. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2013.07.031.
  5. Johansson, Eva, and Magnus Halldin MM. “Urinary excretion half-life of delta 1-tetrahydrocannabinol-7-oic acid in heavy marijuana users after smoking.” J Anal Toxicol vol. 13,4 : 218-23. doi: 10.1093/jat/13.4.218.
  6. Taylor, Michelle et al. “Comparison of cannabinoids in hair with self-reported cannabis consumption in heavy, light and non-cannabis users.” Drug and alcohol review vol. 36,2 : 220-226. doi:10.1111/dar.12412.

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