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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Drug Detox Kits & Home Remedies
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Generally, they can’t help you “detox” in the traditional sense. You can’t skip the withdrawal process with one of these kits.
Types of Home Detox Kits on the Market
There are a few kinds of “detox kits” on the market. These are kits that purport to help people flush a particular drug out of their system. They usually take the form of drinks or pills.
While generally legal, the quality of these products is quite poorly regulated.
Most common by far, and one of the only groups of products that seem to have at least moderately positive user feedback, are products designed to cheat THC drug tests. Some take several days to work, while other more expensive products claim to work faster.
When these products are advertised as “detox kits,” they don’t mean “detox” in the true sense. They won’t help you rapidly go through withdrawal to clear your body of its physical dependence on a drug as some medical procedures try to. More or less, the goal of these kits is to cheat drug tests.
In some cases, there may be no good way to pass a drug test when you have a drug in your system, especially not safely and with products legally available to you online or at the pharmacy.
Trying to Beat a Drug Test
When discussing which products do and don’t work for beating drug tests, it is important to recognize that there has not been a great deal of research on the topic. Claims made by various products are rarely, if ever, tested by reliable sources.
Products that seem to show some successful outcomes are THC detox kits available for sale online. Some journalists at Vice performed a very rudimentary study, testing three THC cheating drinks. All three seemed to work, although it should be noted their test pool was a single subject using the products a single time (with one control test to make sure the risk of an error with the tests themselves was low).
Beyond this basic test, which only really shows that more research should be done on these products, it is difficult to make many positive claims about the products available to pass drug tests.
Drug detox kits often have unclear instructions, even when they do seem to work for users. Whether this is to protect against lawsuits (since they may be used in illegal ways even if not illegal themselves) or simply a result of poor regulations is difficult to say for certain.
The risks of these products parrot those of most unregulated products making medical claims. There is very little research into them and minimal oversight into what is actually in the products. At least one user seems to have experienced a multi-day psychotic break after using a THC detox kit.
Another notable risk of these tests is they might simply fail to work, with a consumer having little legal recourse. If you attempt to use them to subvert a drug test required by an employer or the state, you generally have tried to use the product to break the law. That said, you may still wish to research your local laws and talk to a lawyer if you feel you bought a product making fraudulent claims.
Detox kits and similar products need to be better regulated and better researched, but the medical community, lawmakers, and law enforcement seem to largely ignore them at this time unless they are immediately relevant to a given case.
What About Home Remedies for Detox?
Most people have heard the advice that people who are too intoxicated should drink coffee or take a cold shower. Neither of these will actually help someone to sober someone up.
In fact, putting someone who is very inebriated into a shower could be dangerous, and caffeine can have a negative effect on someone in this state as well.
Eating after drinking too much alcohol could potentially slow the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream. It’s better to eat before and during drinking than after one is too drunk, however.
If a person has taken too much of a drug or drank too much, some people may think they simply need to sleep it off. This is a dangerous approach for someone who has potentially overdosed. If a person is passed out and left in this state, they could suffocate if they roll over, or they could choke on their own vomit. This could lead to death.
If you suspect someone has overdosed on any substance, call 911 immediately. Overdose reversal medications are available for some drugs of abuse, such as naloxone to reverse an opioid overdose. If such a medication isn’t available, first responders will provide supportive care to mitigate the damage.
Once at a hospital, possible treatments for overdose include activated charcoal, stomach pumping, and IV fluids.
The best home remedy is to limit the amount of substances you put in your body. There is no proven home remedy that can help you sober up faster on your own. Time simply has to pass, as your body processes the drugs.
How Long Are Drugs Detectable in Your System?
The exact length of time drugs are detectable in your system tends to depend on how long you’ve been taking the drug and the size of the dose. You need to stop taking the drug before it will clear out of your system. In essence, taking the drug resets the detox clock.
While the following are only estimates, they can serve as a guideline for how long some common drugs will usually remain in your body:
- Urine: 1–10 days for casual to moderate use, 30 days for chronic use
- Hair: about 90 days
- Urine: 1–3 days
- Hair: about 90 days
- Urine: 1–3 days
- Hair: about 90 days
- Benzodiazepines (benzos)
- Urine: 3–7 days for therapeutic use, 30 days for chronic use
- Hair: difficult to determine
- Urine: 12–24 hours
- Hair: about 90 days
Notably, at least one opioid and several benzodiazepines can be hard to detect in a person. Different benzodiazepines require different sensitivities to detect with lab testing, but testing for one can sometimes then require a given test to ignore another.
Certain factors can influence how long drugs are detectable on a drug test. These factors include the following:
- Body mass
- Medical conditions
- Other substances in the system, including prescription drugs
- Hydration levels
Are You Trying to Get Through Withdrawal?
If you want to stop taking drugs, whether to beat addiction or simply because they are otherwise impacting your life, one of the first steps is to get through withdrawal.
Whether marijuana is truly addictive is often debated, and its withdrawal symptoms tend not to be severe. The other drugs mentioned above can be difficult to suddenly stop taking. As a result, it’s recommended that you first consult with a medical professional before you stop taking any drug you have been regularly using.
- Opioids: The severity of opioid withdrawal can vary depending on the drug you are quitting, but it usually is not life-threatening. At the same time, it can be very uncomfortable and painful, causing aches, agitation, insomnia, sweating, tearing, anxiety, and unusual yawning. Later, it may cause diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, cramping, goosebumps, and dilated pupils. This discomfort can last from a few days to a few weeks.Quitting opioids after sustained use is very difficult without seeking help at an addiction rehabilitation facility. It is usually in a person’s best interest to get help stopping use.Withdrawal may not be life-threatening, but it is difficult enough that most people struggle to go through it on their own. As a result, most people who attempt to detox from opioids on their own end up relapsing. A relapse after any period of sobriety could lead to overdose, as tolerance can drop relatively quickly. Opioid overdose can lead to death.
- Cocaine:Cocaine withdrawal can cause agitation, restlessness, fatigue, strange and unpleasant dreams, an increase in appetite, and (often most troublingly) depression.In severe cases, users may feel drawn to use the drug, and they may continue to experience depression caused by withdrawal for months after cessation. This can even result in suicidal thoughts, which warrant contacting a doctor immediately.
- Benzodiazepines:Benzodiazepine withdrawal can be unpredictable. Sometimes, it can happen quickly after cessation of use, and other times, it comes after weeks of minimal symptoms. Symptoms can include muscle pain, nausea and dry retching, weight loss, stiffness, anxiety, perceptual changes, and more. In severe cases, it has been known to cause seizures and/or a psychotic break, and these severe cases can be life-threatening.When looking to quit benzodiazepines, you should absolutely talk to a medical professional. The best approach to quitting is usually to gradually reduce your dose in a way best determined by a doctor. In some cases, it can be life-threatening to quit benzodiazepines suddenly, so never stop use without consulting a medical professional.
- Alcohol:Alcohol withdrawal is a notoriously difficult process that can even be life-threatening if you were a heavy user of alcohol or suffer from certain health conditions. You may experience anxiety, nausea and vomiting, insomnia, sweating and more. In serious cases, you may even hallucinate.In some cases, it can take multiple days to fully go through withdrawal. In rare cases, alcohol withdrawal can lead to delirium tremens, which can be life-threatening.As a result, heavy and chronic drinkers should not stop drinking suddenly without professional assistance. Certain medications, such as long-acting benzodiazepines, are often given to stabilize individuals during alcohol withdrawal and to prevent certain withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures.
It is always a good idea to seek help at a qualified addiction treatment facility when you intend to go through withdrawal or otherwise quit a drug. Addiction treatment facilities and detox centers specialize in helping people quit drugs. They can offer appropriate medical assistance and psychological support during the detox process.
If you attempt to detox on your own at home with the use of a drug detox kit, you are at risk of potential medical complications. Again, there is a higher risk of relapse during detox if you don’t have professional support available.
The Next Phase of Recovery
In treatment, the exact methodology that’s right for you will depend on the severity of your addiction. Some people require intensive, long-term addiction treatment programs, whereas others may only require a lower level of treatment.
Regardless of the chosen form of treatment, the program should be tailored to each patient’s personal needs. Be wary of any program that offers a one-size-fits-all approach to recovery. This type of cookie-cutter approach is not likely to lead to sustained recovery.
Detox is only the first phase of addiction recovery. Just because drugs process out of your system, and your physical dependence on substances may be broken, it doesn’t mean you have recovered. Treatment must address the underlying issues that led you to abuse drugs in the first place. If these issues aren’t addressed, it’s highly likely that you will return to drug use.
Look for a treatment program that can facilitate the entire recovery process, transitioning you from detox to treatment to aftercare. This ensures you have support and guidance throughout the entire journey as you find your footing in newfound sobriety.
The Bottom Line
While drug detox kits make a lot of promises regarding their ability to help you pass a drug test, their claims aren’t verified. Since there is little regulation in this field, you may end up with a detox kit that doesn’t do what it claims to do. This means you have wasted your money. In the worst-case scenario, you may have an adverse reaction to ingredients in the kit.
Drug detox kits and home remedies make a lot of promises about their abilities to help you pass drug tests, but their claims don’t hold up.