So you’re going to have to take a pee test.
As a regular weed smoker, you probably understand a few implications of that unwelcome news.
- Urine can detect cannabis for quite a while after you’ve used it.
- You haven’t got enough time to put down the pipe and let your system purge itself naturally.
- You’ve got to do something in a hurry, or you could lose your job (or not get hired).
Those who’ve found this article by searching for “THC metabolites” obviously know that urine tests can be problematic because they don’t really search for the presence of THC in the body.
But for those who aren’t sure what “THC metabolites” have to do with a drug test for weed, a short explanation would be the first step before discussing whether you can test clean.
Let’s take care of that explanation first.
How a Urine Test for Weed Works
No, we don’t mean “you pee in a cup, someone watches to make sure you don’t cheat, and then they test for THC.” We’re talking about exactly what the test looks for — and why.
Blood and saliva drug tests are relatively expensive for companies to administer, and they’re also relatively invasive. Those are two reasons why employers usually opt for urine tests when they want to check for drug use.
Here’s the third reason: a urine test may be able to detect weed use over the past 30 days, or sometimes even longer. Blood or saliva tests, by comparison, only come up positive for prior use over a period of hours or days (occasionally weeks, for very heavy smokers).
That has nothing to do with the mechanics of collecting urine, blood, or saliva. It’s because the tests are designed to look for two different things.
Blood and saliva tests detect traces of THC. And when you smoke pot or eat an edible, most of the THC disappears pretty quickly. Most of it is metabolized by the liver — and turned into other substances known as (drum roll, please) THC metabolites. The most important of them is called THC-COOH._
THC-COOH isn’t used for anything after it’s produced. However, it’s fat-soluble. That means it’s absorbed by, and stored in, body fat.
Anyone who’s tried to lose weight knows that body fat doesn’t just melt away. It has an annoying habit of sticking around for days, weeks, or months. Needless to say, the THC-COOH that it has absorbed sticks around as well. When the body’s metabolism causes the fat to be burned, the metabolite is finally excreted in the urine.
And that’s why traces of weed, in the form of THC-COOH, can show up in urine a month or longer after you’ve smoked up.
Exactly how long? It’s difficult to be exact, but let’s try our best.
How Long Does Evidence of Weed Use Last in Urine?
The length of time it takes for the body to completely purge all traces of THC-COOH isn’t what we’re concerned with; it can take months for all of the metabolites to be eliminated.
But all drug tests, including urine tests, set thresholds to avoid false positives. You only come up dirty if the amount of THC-COOH in your system is higher than the threshold level.
How long does that take?
In general terms:
- 1-3 days for one-time or very occasional users
- 1-2 weeks for moderate users
- 3-4 weeks for frequent users
- 30 days or more for heavy users
Those are only estimates, though. If you’re overweight, have a naturally-slow metabolism (or believe it or not, if you’re male) it could take longer. If you’re in shape, have an active metabolism, or you’re female, it could happen faster. Your genetics, THC tolerance, and the THC content of the strain you’ve smoked also make a difference.
In any event, if you’ve had more than a couple of tokes in the last few weeks, you could be in trouble.
What can you do about it?
Methods to Lower THC Metabolite Levels in Urine
We have to be honest upfront. Nothing we’re about to discuss is a guaranteed way to purge enough THC-COOH from your body to let you pass a urine test.
Many weed users claim these methods can help, though.
The general idea here is to dilute urine enough so the detectable level of THC-COOH falls below the test’s threshold. It’s not necessary to down gallons of water. Just drink a good amount on the day before and the day of your drug test. If you overdo it, the lab won’t be fooled and you’ll just have to redo the test.
There are a couple of other precautions to take as well. Take vitamins B and B2 a few hours before your test, because they will help restore the yellow color to your diluted urine. Also, take a dose of creatine supplement; water will dilute your urine’s natural creatine content, and the supplement will restore it so the test doesn’t go “tilt” when it gets to the lab.
THC-COOH is stored in body fat. Body fat has to be burned before the metabolite is purged. And what speeds up fat burning? A higher metabolism.
Exercise boosts the metabolism and accelerates the fat-burning process. Any aerobic exercise that gets the heart beating faster may help eliminate some of the fat that’s retained THC-COOH in your body.
If you have more than a day’s notice before your test, you may be able to help the detox by eating a healthy diet and skipping greasy food, fast food, junk food, and red meat. Fat, sodium, and sugar can all slow digestion and increase water retention; that means the body will be processing what you’ve eaten and getting rid of excess water, instead of burning body fat. Leafy greens may also help with a metabolite detox.
Coffee is a diuretic, meaning it makes you pee more often. Since you’re trying to purge THC-COOH via your urine, the more you urinate, the more of the metabolite you may pass.
Speaking of which, make sure that you go to the bathroom before taking the test. If they collect your first urine of the day, it’s more likely to contain THC-COOH that’s built up overnight.
Some Bad Ideas
Taking niacin before a weed test is a common suggestion in stoner circles. There’s no proof that it helps very much, but it can be dangerous to diabetics, people who are pregnant, or those who take too much of it.
The other suggestion you’ll hear is to use synthetic urine. Many of those products you can buy online don’t work, they’re illegal, and it’s actually a crime to use them in many states. You could end up in even worse trouble than if you’d flunked the drug test.
Two Words about Commercial Detox Products
OK, we’ll elaborate. Many of the weed detox products on the market are scams, and some may be dangerous. The government doesn’t approve them for sale, so there’s no guarantee of the safety of their ingredients.
With that in mind, detox pills and kits theoretically help only if you have 3-7 days to use them before you’ll be tested. They mostly contain herbs and vitamins that supposedly help the body purge toxins from the system, but they won’t do much good if you’re going to be dropped the following day.
Detox drinks are more likely to be scams or hazardous, but some users claim the drinks made all the difference for them. These drinks are designed to be consumed a few hours before your test, and will supposedly mask any THC-COOH that’s in your urine. Quite simply, they’re a crapshoot. But if you can find a way to verify their quality, they may be the best shot for heavy smokers who would otherwise have no shot at rolling a seven.
How to Get Rid of THC Metabolites in Urine? FAQ
Q: Do those same methods help if you’re going to have to take a blood or saliva test?
A: Pretty much, although the suggestions for diluting and “normalizing” your urine won’t do much good. Bear in mind, though, that you have a little more leeway for blood and saliva tests. They test for THC, so they won’t detect weed use as far back as urine tests will.
Q: Do supplements like bentonite clay or activated charcoal help?
A: They don’t do much for urine tests; they’re supposedly better for THC tests or general drug detoxing.
Q: If I test positive on a home test before going in for the real one, am I safe?
A: Not always. Cheap at-home weed tests may not be as accurate, and the testing environment may not be as “clean.” In most cases, however, a home test from a reputable company will come close to the results that will be sent to your employer from the lab — and it’s a good idea to test yourself beforehand, to see where you might stand.