When people go to rehab, whether for drugs or alcohol, they first have to detox.
There’s a good reason for that.
No one can successfully go through all of the counseling and therapy associated with rehabilitation until they’ve eliminated all addictive substances from their bodies. A detox may be a relatively-short and relatively-easy process for some, but it’s painful and arduous for most.
However, a single slip-up means that the drugs or alcohol will be right back in their system. If they want to continue rehab, they’ll have to detox all over again.
In short, detox isn’t permanent. It depends on a person’s ability and willingness to stay clean — one day at a time, as they say in recovery.
Then what’s with all of these “permanent” THC detox products you see advertised? Wouldn’t “permanent” depend on the user, not the product?
Let’s find out.
What’s Left in Your Body after You Smoke?
You can’t factually discuss THC detox until you know what weed smoke (or vape or edibles) leaves behind in the body.
There’s THC, of course. (Unless you’ve consumed an edible or another form of cannabis that has to be digested, in which case the liver converts THC into a similar metabolite known as 11-hydroxy-THC.)
THC takes effect quickly and disappears almost as quickly. The exact amount of time varies with factors like the user’s body weight and BMI (body mass index), how much they’ve smoked, the potency of the weed, and their genetics. But THC (and 11-hydroxy-THC) is usually undetectable within a day or two and is eliminated soon after that, mostly through stool.
So you’re “lucky” if you have to take a blood or saliva test for weed. You’ll test clean pretty quickly because those tests look for the presence of THC.
That’s not the end of the story, though.
THC is also processed by the liver and turned into metabolites. One, in particular, THC-COOH, is particularly problematic.
THC-COOH is stored in the body’s fat tissues, and it’s only cleared from the body when the fat-containing it is burned. That process may take only a few days in one-time users, but the metabolite will likely remain in the body for days, weeks, or even longer than a month in heavy smokers.
And since THC-COOH is purged in urine, urine tests are a problem for most weed users. Traces of the metabolite can show up in their pee tests weeks after the last time they smoked. (And it can remain in the hair for months because hair grows so slowly.)
Most employers and government agencies use urine tests to check for cannabis use, meaning that regular smokers are constantly at risk for coming up dirty. After all, a full detox — meaning there’s no THC or THC-COOH in your system — would take weeks. It’s unlikely you’d get enough warning before a drug test to complete a full detox.
That’s why there’s a huge commercial market for “THC detox kits.” A product that would help the body purge THC and THC-COOH quickly could be the difference between testing clean and losing a job.
What Are THC Detox Kits? Do They Work?
There are two types of “THC detox” products, and the industry that produces them has come up with its own labels to describe them.
Permanent THC Detox Kits
The industry doesn’t use the word permanent literally; they’re not promising that you’ll never have THC or its metabolites in your body again. They’re simply talking about the elimination of all traces of recent use.
So what are these “permanent” THC detox kits supposed to do?
The key to passing a weed drug test is to get rid of the THC-COOH stored in body fat as quickly as possible. But anyone who’s tried to lose body fat knows no miracle drink or pill will drastically speed up the fat-burning process.
Permanent THC detox kits usually contain a mix of vitamins, minerals, and herbs supposedly designed to boost fat burning, speed up the metabolization of THC and encourage faster waste elimination (so more of the THC and metabolites in the body are excreted). The kits usually include a series of pills, liquids, or both, all to be taken on a regular schedule for three, five, seven, ten, or even 25 days.
Some of the ingredients commonly found in detox kits are green tea extract, which allegedly speeds up metabolism; dietary fiber to increase elimination through stool; and supplements like cayenne pepper and turmeric, which the companies say will speed the removal of metabolites from the system.
Guess what? They don’t do much good if you’re trying to rid your body of anything left over from your last smoke sesh.
THC will be gone on its own pretty quickly. THC-COOH will be detectable in urine until the fat that contains it is burned, and you can’t do much to hasten that process.
Bottom Line: Permanent THC detox kits can’t guarantee that you’ll never have THC or its metabolites in your system again. And whether they’re labeled “5-day kit, “10-day kit,” or “25-day kit,” they can’t do much to get rid of the substances that are already in your body.
Only abstaining from weed for a number of weeks — and letting your body do its job on its own — will do that.
This category most commonly includes fluids that you’re supposed to drink the day before and/or the day of your urine test (although some of these detox products are in pill form).
They’d be better described as “cheat products” because they’re not designed to detox your body of all THC and THC-COOH. They’re simply intended to briefly hide the presence of those substances just long enough to let you pass a drug test.
Most detox drinks contain diuretics, which increase your frequency of urination. Here’s the idea: the more you pee before your drug test, the more likely you’ll be to eliminate any traces of THC-COOH that might be in the “pipeline.” You’re also told to drink lots of water to dilute your urine.
Diuretics may actually work during the short window that you’re using the detox product. There’s no research to prove it, but anecdotal reports claim that some people can fool THC drug tests with increased water consumption and urination.
There’s a catch, though. When you dilute your urine before a test, you’re also lowering the levels of other compounds in your urine — and drug tests are designed to look for those signs of “cheating.”
For that reason, detox products often contain B vitamins (to make the urine look more yellow) and electrolytes and creatine (to restore normal levels of those substances). They may also contain zinc, which has been shown to be an effective drug masking agent.
That makes the industry’s definition of “permanent” THC detoxes even clearer. A “permanent” detox is theoretically designed to clear all of the THC and THC-COOH from your system — at least, until the next time, you smoke. By contrast, “detox drinks” are only temporary measures that might help right before a THC urine test.
There’s only one foolproof way to detox from weed and pass a drug test without any worries, though: giving up weed for a month or so.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.
Permanent THC Detox: FAQ
Q: Does this mean the Toxin Rid pills I see praised everywhere really don’t work?
A: There’s no scientific evidence that they do. In fact, in addition to the ten days’ worth of pills you’re supposed to take to help you “detox,” they tell you to drink a lot of water and take B vitamins, creatine and electrolytes right before your test — just like the “cheating products.”
Q: Is there anything that’s been shown to work?
A: To get all traces of weed out of your system? Nope, although hydration and exercise may speed up fat burning a little, fiber-rich foods may help increase the production of stool (which carries THC out of the body). Some people swear by home remedies like cranberry juice and apple cider vinegar, but there’s no proof those do any good. And stay away from the niacin that some “experts” suggest; too much of it can be hazardous to your health.
Westin, A. A., Mjønes, G., Burchardt, O., FuskevAag, O. M., & Slørdal, L. (2014). Can Physical Exercise or Food Deprivation Cause Release of Fat‐Stored Cannabinoids?. Basic & clinical pharmacology & toxicology, 115(5), 467-471 .
Sharma, P., Murthy, P., & Bharath, M. S. (2012). Chemistry, metabolism, and toxicology of cannabis: clinical implications. Iranian Journal of Psychiatry, 7(4), 149 .
Venkatratnam, A., & Lents, N. H. (2011). Zinc reduces the detection of cocaine, methamphetamine, and THC by ELISA urine testing. Journal of analytical toxicology, 35(6), 333-340 .