Detoxing from recreational or medical marijuana is a very common topic in the cannabis community, even more so after the increased cannabis legalization in the US. And given that a lot of regular users have mandatory drug tests at work, many are wondering how to get rid of THC and its metabolites in the fastest possible manner.
This topic is fairly common on our site as we’ve already covered topics like what detox drinks work for THC, where THC is stored in the body, and how to get rid of THC in a week, so you have additional materials to read if you’re interested. However, in this article, we’ll strictly focus on methods that’ll help lower THC and THC metabolites levels in the body, so let’s get started.
Cannabis, Cannabinoids, and Their Metabolites
The effects people experience as a result of cannabis use come from the cannabinoids that are present in weed. The most popular ones, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are responsible for the psychoactive and sedative effects that people experience when using weed.
The reason why we feel these effects after we smoke marijuana, consume an edible, or use dabs, is the process where the cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system by binding to the cannabinoid receptors. The cannabinoids are metabolized by the liver enzymes, and we’re left with the metabolites which show up on drug tests.
The metabolites are stored in the body fat and fat cells because they’re lipid-soluble. Since the concentration of THC, THC metabolites, and other cannabinoids present in weed is the highest in the fat tissues in the body, it can take a longer time for them to detox, therefore they can be caught on drug tests. People with a higher body mass index (BMI) might need more time for the metabolites to detox, compared to a person with a lower BMI.
Drug tests mostly screen for the presence of THC-COOH (11-nor-9-carboxy-delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), although 11-OH-THC (11-hydroxy-delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) can also be detected by drug tests like the urine, blood, hair follicle, and saliva tests.
Cannabis Drug Tests and Their Detection Times
The length of time that THC and THC metabolites are detectable in the body mostly depends on your physique, lifestyle, habits, as well as the sensitivity of the test and the cutoff levels. There are a few drug tests that test for the presence of cannabis in the body and each has a different detection window.
Urine Tests (Urinalysis)
When testing for drug use, the most commonly used test is the urinalysis (testing a urine sample for the presence of THC metabolites and comparing it to the standard cutoff level 50ng/ml (nanograms per milliliter)). Heavy marijuana users have bigger chances of getting a positive result since the metabolites found in urine have an unusually long half-life. (Kouri et al, 2000, Moeller et al, 2017, Sharma et al, 2012)
In general, the detection times in urine testing are the following:
- Occasional users have a detection time of 3 days;
- Moderate users have a detection time between 5-7 days;
- Chronic users have a detection time between 10-15 days;
- Heavy chronic users have a detection time of 30 or more days.
This is another non-invasive method of drug testing, though it’s more expensive than a urinalysis. To do this test, users need to submit saliva for testing. Similar to urine testing, saliva testing has a long detection window. Heavy chronic users can expect a positive test for up to 29 days, while occasional users can test positive between 1-3 days after consumption, according to a 2014 study.
Blood tests are the perfect option for detecting recent drug use. Since THC stays in the blood between 4 to 24 hours, according to information from the Addiction Center, blood testing is a good option if you want to look for the presence of THC. Keep in mind that chronic users may test positive for about a week after their last use of cannabis.
Hair Follicle Drug Tests
The hair follicle test is one of the most invasive and the most expensive drug tests since it can detect the presence of weed in the hair follicles for up to 90 days. The test is done by taking about 100 hair strands from the person and testing them for the presence of THC and THC metabolites. A 2015 study showed that the more people consume cannabis, the longer the detection time is when using the hair follicle test.
After consumption, THC gets inside the hair follicles via the small blood vessels, and depending on how often a person consumes weed, the detection time can vary. The metabolites enter the follicles in about 7 days, so if you want to test for current impairment, a blood test would be more suitable.
How Long Do THC and THC Metabolites Stay in Your System?
No one can say for sure how long it takes until THC and THC metabolites detox from your body. The length of time before your last use and the time your drug test comes back negative can depend on several factors:
- How often you use weed (occasional users will detox faster than heavy users and regular cannabis users);
- How much weed you consume (the higher the doses you consume, the longer they remain in the fatty tissues);
- Your physical activity (people who are more physically active and have a lower BMI will flush out the metabolites faster).
How to Lower THC Levels and Do a Proper Marijuana Detox?
Depending on their personal preference, people choose different detox techniques, like detox drinks, THC detox kits, and others. The most commonly used methods are listed below. However, please note that this section is purely for informational purposes only as we are not condoning cheating on drug tests.
- Coffee (as a natural diuretic coffee helps you get rid of THC and THC metabolites over time);
- Tea (another good option for people who are doing a marijuana detox as it contains a lot of antioxidants);
- Cranberry juice (it’s not only good for people going through the detoxification process, but it also keeps the urinary tract, intestines, and kidneys healthy);
- Lemon water (it isn’t only good for detoxing, but it also has a lot of vitamins, helps the metabolism speed up, and is a great and refreshing drink);
- Niacin pills (a lot of people use them to help with their detox process, however, niacin may reduce the levels of creatine in the urine – which is also measured in drug tests, so if you do take them, supplement with creatine as well).
Other Ways You Can Lower THC Levels
Using detox kits and consuming detox drinks aren’t the only methods that can be useful to lower the THC metabolites in the body. Other ways include:
- Quitting weed. Nothing lowers the THC levels in your body like stopping weed consumption. If you’re taking weed for recreational purposes this can be an easy way to get rid of THC and THC metabolites in the body. In just a few weeks, you can detox completely and it will be as if you never consumed weed. Keep in mind that weed can be detected in the hair follicles for up to 3 months.
- Changing your diet. Having a healthy diet isn’t only good for your overall health, but it can also help during the detox process. Consuming fruits, veggies, healthy fats from nuts and seeds, and protein from rich protein sources such as meat, fish, and vegan protein sources, will help your body heal itself from the inside out and detox faster compared to if you were eating high-sugar foods, fried foods, and consuming an unbalanced ratio of carbohydrates, fats, and protein.
- Exercising frequently. Getting a few gym sessions during your week is a great way to not only improve your metabolism, look better, and have stamina, but also process the THC and THC metabolites faster. You can choose to do your favorite sport or an activity which you find fun and exciting, so don’t be afraid to try out new sports to find the one you enjoy doing the most.
Final Thoughts on Lowering THC Levels
The best option for lowering your THC levels is going through the necessary detox period and giving your body adequate time to process the cannabinoids and their metabolites.
If you’re a chronic user going through detox, you’ll likely experience side effects and withdrawal symptoms like headaches, nausea, and other symptoms. During this period, it’s recommended to keep yourself hydrated, eat healthily, and try light exercises, yoga, or meditation. (Wong et al, 2013)
Kouri, E. M., & Pope, H. G., Jr (2000). Abstinence symptoms during withdrawal from chronic marijuana use. Experimental and clinical psychopharmacology, 8(4), 483–492. https://doi.org/10.1037//1064-1218.104.22.1683
Sharma, P., Murthy, P., & Bharath, M. M. (2012). Chemistry, metabolism, and toxicology of cannabis: clinical implications. Iranian journal of psychiatry, 7(4), 149–156.
Wong, A., Montebello, M. E., Norberg, M. M., Rooney, K., Lintzeris, N., Bruno, R., Booth, J., Arnold, J. C., & McGregor, I. S. (2013). Exercise increases plasma THC concentrations in regular cannabis users. Drug and alcohol dependence, 133(2), 763–767. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2013.07.031