Why would you need to flush marijuana out of your system? You’re, after all, doing it for fun in the first place. And the culture towards marijuana use is becoming more permissive, with 23 states legalizing it for medicinal purposes and four of those states and Washington DC legalizing it for recreational purposes.
Unfortunately, about 40% of employers in the United States still require their prospective employees go through a drug test. While it’s true that a drug test doesn’t reveal anything concrete about impairment on the job, you’re still at its mercy if you want to work for a company that requires a drug test.
Because it’s hard to predict how long marijuana stays in your system, it’s best to quit smoking several weeks before you apply to any jobs. This is better than haphazardly trying to guess how long you should stay clean before the drug test.
How Long Does Marijuana Stay in Your System?
The answer: probably longer than you think or hope.
You can’t expect to flush out marijuana from your system right after you stop smoking. It takes time; how long it takes depends on how much and often you smoke, your weight, body fat, and metabolism. Other factors include how your digestive and excretory systems function.
In short, it’s highly individual. If you’re an occasional smoker, your body will likely get rid of traces of marijuana faster after you quit than an extreme smoker.
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the primary ingredient in marijuana responsible for the “high” and pain relief. What the typical drug test detects is actually the chemical called THC-COOH (pronounced carboxy THC), which is a metabolite (substance produced while metabolizing) of THC.
THC-COOH chemical gets stored in fat cells and stays in your body for weeks. THC and THC-COOH are terms that get confused or used interchangeably, but drug tests don’t detect THC, which is the psychoactive component in marijuana.
Drug Tests and Results
For many drug tests, the acceptable cutoff level is 50ng/ml (nanogram per milliliter). There are different types of drug tests, including urine, blood, hair, saliva, and sweat. They’re all used to test for the following:
- Cannabinoids (marijuana, hash)
The most common drug test is urine, because it’s inexpensive to run. It’s also less intrusive than the blood test and is useful for detecting the most recent uses of marijuana. Because you don’t know what your company-to-be’s preferred test is, you should be prepared for all of them.
With a urine drug test, THC-COOH will show positive after you quit smoking for:
- Occasional or first-time user: 1-6 days
- Moderate user: 7-13 days
- Frequent user: 15 or more days
- Extreme user: 30 or more days.
Some heavy smokers who’ve been smoking for over 10 years have reported testing positive for 45 to 90 days, even after they quit.
On a blood drug test, THC-COOH can be detected for up to 12-24 hours after for infrequent users, but may be up to 2-7 days for more regular users.
A hair drug test is highly unlikely to reveal any trace of THC-COOH after a single use, but for regular users, it can be detected months after. Because hair drug tests don’t really measure current drug use, they’re not used as frequently as urine drug tests.
Ways to Detox
There are a lot of so-called ways to flush out marijuana from your system. You have to take it with a grain of salt, because a lot of those methods are just out to get your money. Before you spend a dime on something, try some natural ways first, like drinking water or exercising.
It’s also important to realize what your goals are. Are you wanting to get completely clean, or simply looking to mask your drug test from a potential employer? Getting marijuana out of your system is not the same as masking the traces of it.
If you really want to get marijuana out of your system, your best friend is time. Most heavy users can flush it out within 4-6 weeks. You’ll find reports that extreme users will test positive for up to 90 days, but those results are anomalies. So trust time to be on your side if you’re looking to actually flush marijuana out of your body.
For quick results, many tips circulate the internet. Here are the methods that are recommended most commonly by frequent users of marijuana. When you try any of the methods listed below, keep in mind that people report different results and they’re not sure-fire ways to get rid of marijuana from your system.
- Flush/Detox Kits
Although there is no solid evidence that flush or detox kits work, some people swear by them.
Contrary to the name, flush or detox kits don’t actually flush anything out of your system. Rather, they’re designed to “mask” the traces of THC-COOH. Hence, the results are temporary, starting within 90 minutes and usually lasting up to 5 hours.
Detox kits generally include a combination of compounds such as vinegar, niacin, vitamin C, lecithin, activated charcoal, or goldenseal. Niacin (vitamin B3) is used to promote healthy skin and nervous system, as well as improving your metabolism. But it’s not without side effects; too much niacin can cause your skin to itch, become red or feel warm.
Many drug tests will look for these compounds and rule out the results. There are detox kits that don’t use goldenseal where people have reported good results.
The major disadvantage of these detox kits is that you can only take them on the day of your drug test for them to be truly effective. That might be too much on your nerves!
- Herbal Supplements
Some herbal supplements containing milk thistle, cayenne, or psyllium seeds are passed off as ways to enhance the flushing process. As with detox kits, there is no conclusive evidence that supplements actually speed up the process of getting marijuana out of your system.
But herbal teas like green tea are good for detoxing your general system, making you healthier in the process. It just won’t be helpful in getting rid of marijuana any faster from your body or mask the traces of it for a drug test.
- General Exercise
Exercising or “sweating out” marijuana is a controversial method. Exercise in general is good, which will boost your metabolism. THC-COOH is stored in your fat cells, so it makes sense that to get rid of it from your system, you burn off the fat cells. And the best way to do it is through exercise.
However, contradicting evidence shows that exercising will increase THC concentrations in your blood. Do remember though that drug tests only look for THC-COOH (the non-psychoactive ingredient) rather than THC (the psychoactive ingredient).
In short, exercising is still a good idea and many people use this method to actually flush out marijuana (not just mask the traces of it) from their system. Do some hardcore cardio for 2 hours a day (running, jogging, elliptical, etc.). Drink a lot of water and wear layers so you can sweat more.
- Drinking Lots of Fluids
Drinking fluids is one of the most common advices for flushing marijuana out of your system. “Flushing” is a bit of a misnomer in this case. Because THC-COOH is stored in your fat cells, you can’t actually “flush” marijuana out with water. But it can help mask the traces when you take a drug test.
There are certain precautions to keep in mind when drinking a lot of fluids. Overhydrating yourself can cause water intoxication that can ruin the balance between water and sodium in your blood. It’s potentially deadly.
You might want to use diuretics to help you urinate faster, but be mindful of the risks. Too much use of diuretics induces loss of sodium and also can dehydrate you.
If your urine color is too clear, it might tip off the drug tester that you’re trying to flush out your system. Adding about 50 to 100 milligrams of vitamin B2 or B12 on the day of your test can change your urine color to yellow again.
If water is not your thing, cranberry juice is delicious and also a natural diuretic, although it’s not as effective as actual diuretics. Drinking sports drinks instead of water is another good alternative.
Whatever it is you drink, 8 to 12 eight oz. glasses per day are ideal.
- Other Methods
As mentioned earlier, THC-COOH binds to fat cells. So you can change your diet to include healthier, fat-burning foods. Your body weight and metabolism are big factors in how long marijuana stays in your system. When you exercise and eat healthier foods, your metabolism will also increase.
Of course, the best way to get marijuana out of your system is to actually stop smoking it. There is no way around it. Because even the heaviest users can get rid of traces of marijuana in their system after 4 to 6 weeks, not smoking for that long will almost guarantee you really do “flush” it out.