Until the federal government declassifies cannabis, THC drug tests may still be an unfortunate part of your life. And failing a drug test can significantly impact your job, athletic pursuits, or legal fate. Worse, urinalysis drug tests are highly accurate, detecting THC metabolites with up to 95% accuracy for 30 days after your last puff. So if you’re a cannabis consumer, you’re probably wondering if it’s possible to partake and still pass a drug test.
The answer is yes. You can typically pass drug tests with a strategic detox plan, enough time, and a dash of luck.
How THC drug tests work
Before exploring successful detox methods, let’s recap how drug tests work.
Delta 9 THC drug tests don’t detect THC itself. Instead, they look for substances leftover from THC use called “THC metabolites.” The most common THC metabolite is called THC-COO, the one most drug tests look for when screening for cannabis use.
THC-COO can reside in your urine, saliva, blood, sweat, hair, and fat stores before your body eventually secretes it over time. Since THC-COO can dissolve into body fat, it can stay in your body longer than water-soluble compounds–as few as three days for a single use or up to 30 days for chronic use.
So, what should cannabis enthusiasts like you do when facing an upcoming drug test?
THC detox methods
Above all else, the only real way to detox from THC is to stop using cannabis with enough time to pass a drug test legitimately. However, forgoing marijuana use is entirely out of the question; you still have options to improve your chances of a negative test result.
Fortunately, a handful of scientific studies offer helpful tips to point you in the right detox direction.
1: Fruit pectin
Fruit pectin is a natural fiber found in fruits and a common ingredient in jams. It’s also one of the most common go-to detox methods in the cannabis community. But is there any truth behind the hype?
In a nutshell, research indicates fruit pectin helps THC metabolites leave your body quicker via feces instead of urine, which could help you fly under a drug test’s radar. Fruit pectin binds to bile in the stomach, which takes fat with it when leaving the body. Since THC molecules are fat soluble, fruit pectin fiber can take THC metabolites out with it, leaving fewer byproducts in your urine.
Online forums indicate that drinking fruit pectin and a 32 oz electrolyte drink hours before a test can help you pass; however, it’s impossible to say that with certainty. So, for best results, start this detox–and any detox–as early as possible. Then consider buying an at-home drug test to confirm the results before visiting the lab.
2: Activated charcoal
Charcoal isn’t just for the grill. Activated charcoal is an altered compound form popular for medical and non-medical purposes. Activated charcoal has detoxifying properties and quickly absorbs toxins, thanks to its porosity.
Research shows that activated charcoal successfully binds to THC metabolites, reducing the detectable quantity in urine and blood. For instance, one clinical study found that 5 mg of activated charcoal could bind up to 1,000ng/ml of THC-COOH. Another study found that consuming 30mg of activated charcoal reduced THC-COOH levels by 45%–and no THC metabolites were detected in urine.
These studies support evidence that activated charcoal may be one of the best THC detox methods to pass a drug test.
3: Intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting is a form of time-restricted eating that limits the daily window when you’re allowed to consume food. For example, in a 16:8 fasting schedule, you eat all your calories within an 8-hour window and fast for 16 hours. Intermittent fasting is a more indirect detox method, but it’s worth a look if you have at least a week before a drug test.
Intermittent fasting flips a “metabolic switch” in your body, triggering it to burn fuel from fat reserves. Fat cells store THC metabolites. So, by burning an estimated 0.55 to 1.65 pounds of fat cells per week through intermittent fasting, you could reduce the number of THC metabolites stored. Clinical studies found that Intermittent fasting also increased activity for enzymes involved in THC metabolization.
A study published in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology showed that zinc reduced cocaine, methamphetamine, and THC detection in urine testing. In fact, researchers showed both zinc sulfate, and zinc supplements effectively interfered with THC detection for a 12 to 18-hour period.
Another study corroborated zinc’s effectiveness but claimed a few oral pills probably isn’t enough to change test results. This study concluded that” zinc added directly to urine in concentrations 5,000 times higher than a typical random urine total zinc concentration is capable of producing false-negative results.” In other words, zinc works, but you need to consume excessive concentrations to have an effect.
Let’s not discount the old faithful detox method–water. By drinking plenty of water, you flush your kidneys out more and potentially reduce the number of THC metabolites in your urine through dilution.
Your body can absorb water in as little as five minutes or as long as 120 minutes before it becomes urine. So, a headstart of at least a few hours is crucial. However, drinking too much water in a short period can be dangerous, so it’s best to start slowly drinking a few liters a day in the days leading up to your test.
The water flushing method, while effective, can also cause inconclusive test results because it depletes the urine of natural minerals and makes your urine unnaturally clear. Some people overcome this issue by taking B vitamins to turn their urine yellow. However, the lab may figure it out and ask you to take a second test.
By abstaining from THC, drinking more water, fasting, and taking detoxifying supplements, you can speed up the detox process from weeks to days or even hours. Regardless of the method you choose, time is your best friend when it comes to THC detoxing.