The cannabis plant is one of the most useful plants on earth.
As a number of studies have shown, cannabis consumption provides consumers with a number of wellness benefits.
Cannabis consumption can help people treat ailments, be more creative, increase enjoyment of meals, and all around enhance people’s lives.
However, there are times when cannabis consumers need to take a break.
While the reasons can be numerous, the most common are usually for employment purposes or because of a court-related matter.
In a perfect world people would be measured by their abilities and moral character, and not by the amount of THC metabolites they have in their system.
But, sadly, that is not the case for many cannabis consumers.
The fact of the matter is that many consumers will have to refrain from consuming cannabis at some point in their lives.
For some consumers, not only will they need to stop consuming cannabis, they need to be able to pass a drug test within a short time-frame.
Many people refer to this as ‘detoxing.’
What they really should be saying is ‘lowering a person’s THC metabolite levels.’
What are drug tests actually looking for?
Here’s the quick rundown on drug testing as it relates to cannabis:
The most common drug test for employers and others administering drug tests is the urine test.
Unlike saliva and hair follicle tests which can be easily manipulated, urine tests are difficult for people to pass when they regularly consume cannabis (assuming they are submitting their own urine sample and not another’s person’s sample).
Blood tests are also difficult for cannabis consumers to get around but are rarer compared to urine tests because they are so much more invasive.
Urine-based drug tests are not trying to detect all parts of the cannabis plant. What they are USUALLY looking for are THC metabolites.
When THC is consumed, a person’s body stores the THC in body fat after the THC is metabolized. Over time the body releases the metabolized THC through a person’s urine.
Drug tests look for THC metabolite levels above a certain threshold, typically 50 ng/mL.
How long does THC stay in a person’s system?
How long THC metabolites stay in a person’s system depends on a number of factors:
- How much body fat does the consumer have?
- What is the consumer’s metabolism rate?
- How frequently did the person consume cannabis?
A ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer for how long THC metabolites stay in a person’s system does not exist, despite what you may read on the internet.
An overweight person with a slow metabolism who consumes cannabis daily is going to have THC metabolites in their system far longer than a skinny person with a hummingbird-like metabolism that took one hit off of a cannabis joint.
While the latter can pass a drug test within a handful of days, the former can have detectable THC metabolites in their system for up to 100 days according to one study.
For most cannabis consumers, one month of non-use is a reasonable expectation for how long it would take to be able to pass a drug test from a cannabis standpoint, but there are no guarantees.
Do THC ‘cleanser’ products work?
If you have frequented a headshop or shopped for products online that claim to help people pass a drug test, you know that the options are endless, but do they work?
The packaging on the products is often very convincing.
Most of the products offer a double-your-money-back guarantee and encourage consumers to visit their websites for positive testimonials.
Most of the products out there that claim to help cannabis consumers pass a drug test involve ingredients like B vitamins.
Anyone who has taken a complex B vitamin has likely been surprised by the extremely bright color of their urine shortly after taking the vitamin.
B vitamins (and products that contain them) help the body with its natural detox process, but actual hard scientific studies showing that B vitamins significantly reduce THC metabolites specifically remain elusive.
Unless a THC detox product has specific scientific studies backing up its claims, there’s no guarantee that the product will work.
Yes, some of them will give you your money back (or double your money back in some cases), but that comes only after a failed drug test and the life ramifications that go with it.
What does the science say when it comes to reducing THC metabolite levels?
According to Paul Armentano of NORML, who is one of the leading voices on all things cannabis science related, there are only two substances that have been shown to help cannabis users increase their chances of passing a drug test.
Those two substances are zinc and papain.
Of the two, only one (papain) actually lowers a person’s THC metabolite limit according to a peer-reviewed scientific study.
Zinc can help ‘mask’ THC metabolite levels for a window of time and increase the chances of a cannabis consumer passing a drug test according to a study, but it does not actually lower the THC metabolite levels in the human body.
Papain is ‘a proteolytic enzyme extracted from the leaf and raw fruit of the papaya plant.’ Papain can also be found in small doses in kiwis and avocados and is often used as a meat tenderizer.
But even papain has its limitations as far as effectiveness.
If someone has a THC metabolite level that is astronomically high, papain can help lower the level, but not necessarily below a drug test threshold.
The only true, guaranteed way to pass a drug test as a cannabis consumer is to refrain from use for as long as it takes to lower THC metabolite levels to below a test’s threshold.
Try an at-home drug test kit first
Drug test kits are cheaper than they used to be, and more widely available at stores. Green Flower Media suggests that cannabis consumers:
- Obtain an at-home drug test kit to determine if you can currently pass a drug test. If you can, congratulations! But if you can’t, proceed to step 2
- Exercise often to help boost your metabolism
- Adhere to a healthy diet
- Add papain to your diet to help with the THC metabolite reduction process
- Refrain from cannabis use as much as possible until testing requirements are over
It is possible to consume cannabis on a limited basis and pass a drug test. it all depends on the person and their individual biology.
What is at play is if the consumption spikes THC metabolite levels above a certain threshold. 50 ng/mL is the most common threshold, but some tests can be lower.
Keep this in mind if/when you decide to break your streak of non-cannabis consumption, and always be mindful that it could come back to haunt you!