You really want this job. It seems like they really want you, too. There’s just one problem: you have to take a drug test before you can start.
The sense of panic that scenario can produce is probably familiar to many readers.
What do you do when you’re facing a test for weed, and you’re a regular smoker?
If you’re like most people you either ask your stoner friends, or head straight to the Internet and do a search like “ways to fool a drug test.” You’ll get lots of advice, most of it is useless.
The best solution, of course, is to lay off the weed for a month or two before you’re tested. Unfortunately, employers aren’t kind enough to give you that much notice before you have to show up and give them a sample.
You’re obviously not going to do what they do in the movies for comic effect: tape one of those contraptions to your body that holds fake urine (or someone else’s urine). And you certainly know enough not to drink bleach.
But you’ve seen (or heard) that taking niacin pills can help you detox quickly and fool a drug test. Will that work?
Don’t get your hopes up.
What Is Niacin?
Another name for niacin is vitamin B3, which occurs naturally in meat, fish, poultry, brown rice, milk, legumes, and some grains. The body needs small amounts of niacin on a daily basis because it helps maintain the health of the digestive system, nervous system, and skin. The body also produces some B3 on its own, to assist the process of turning food into energy and to assist gland function. It’s also found in many multivitamins.
Most people get enough niacin from their diet and or/their daily vitamins. Those who have poor diets and those with chronic alcoholism, though, maybe advised to take extra niacin supplements (sold in the form of nicotinic acid or nicotinamide). Some people also try niacin to improve their hair or skin health.
Reliable studies have shown that niacin is able to improve levels of good cholesterol while lowering bad cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Doctors do sometimes prescribe it in tandem with a conventional medication to control cholesterol, but it’s not a common treatment. That’s because cholesterol only responds to high levels of vitamin B3, which can cause serious side effects.
Why Would People Suggest Niacin for Weed Detox?
To understand the theory that niacin can provide a quick weed detox, you have to connect the dots between two seemingly-unconnected facts. Let’s take them one at a time.
First, we’ve mentioned that one of niacin’s functions in the body is to help break down carbs, proteins, and fats and turn them into energy. Studies have shown, more specifically, that the vitamin appears to increase the body’s levels of the hormone adiponectin. Why is that important? Adiponectin breaks down fatty acids; it’s even being researched for a potential role in fighting obesity.
Store that fact for a moment, while we talk about THC. When the psychoactive cannabinoid enters the body, it doesn’t just head for the brain. It’s also absorbed by the body’s tissues – particularly fat cells. So even though the liver metabolizes THC and excretes it through urine (and stool) within about five days, that’s not all of the THC in the body. Some are still stored in the body’s fat.
With those two facts in mind, here’s the theory: If you can burn that fat more quickly, the residual THC will disappear more quickly. And since niacin helps the body burn fat, wouldn’t taking lots of niacin spur the body to flush that leftover THC?
There are two problems with that hypothesis.
First, THC and its metabolites aren’t only stored in the fat; they’re stored in organs and cells throughout the body, and released gradually over a period of a month or even longer. “Burning all the fat” isn’t going to be a miracle cure.
Second, “taking lots of niacin” is a very bad idea.
Niacin Weed Detox: Pros and Cons
It’s easy to discuss the pros of trying niacin weed detox in a single phrase: there really aren’t any pros. We’ll elaborate a bit, though. There’s no reliable evidence that taking large amounts of vitamin B3 – 100 milligrams or even more – will detox your body and allow you to pass a drug test.
A few anecdotal reports claim that taking smaller amounts of niacin over a longer period of time does help – but there’s no proof of that either. If you’re going to spend a while “detoxing,” giving up weed for a month is really the only foolproof method. And even those who claim the approach might work do concede that a person’s height, weight, and/or metabolism may interfere with niacin’s effectiveness.
In short, you probably have as much chance of finding a golden ticket in a Wonka Bar, as you do passing a drug test by taking niacin.
You could end up with some big-time health problems if you try a niacin detox, however.
High doses of vitamin B3 have been linked to serious liver damage and stomach ulcers, and have been shown to worsen existing medical issues like kidney and heart disease. These are most likely to be seen in those taking at least 100 milligrams of niacin per day – but people using the vitamin in an attempt to quickly detox before a drug test often takes at least that much, if not more.
Even if you avoid those huge medical problems, there are still lesser side effects to be aware of. Moderate doses of niacin can cause flushing, upset stomach, and diarrhea. Niacin can also cause problematic interactions with common medications taken for diabetes, blood pressure, high cholesterol, and convulsions, as well as blood thinners, antibiotics, and thyroid hormones. There are potential interactions with alcohol and supplements like ginkgo biloba, too.
The bottom line: even if niacin does help a small number of people eliminate some traces of weed from their system, and even if you happen to be one of the lucky few, it’s still a terrible choice. It still won’t erase all traces of pot use. And if it does happen to work for you, it would require either taking dangerously high doses of the vitamin, or taking lower doses over a long period of time – probably much longer than you’d have before your drug test.
Using one of those contraptions that holds fake urine would be a much smarter idea. And that tells you what a bad idea niacin weed detox is.
Niacin Weed Detox FAQ
Q: How many people say they’ve successfully done a niacin weed detox?
A: There are no numbers published anywhere. There are only anecdotal reports that make the rounds in stoner circles or are published on websites (most of which are trying to sell something). As we’ve said, there’s no actual proof of anyone passing a drug test because they dosed themselves with niacin.
Q: What about other quick detox methods like apple cider vinegar, cranberry juice, or pickle juice?
A: They’re basically the same as niacin: passed around by word of mouth, and touted by websites with something to sell, as miracle solutions – but absolutely unproven and extremely unlikely to help in any way. (It is a proven fact that cranberry juice is delicious, but we’d skip the vinegar and pickle juice.)
Q: Does drinking a ton of water right before the test do any good?
A: It’s possible, because water can somewhat dilute your urine. Just one warning, though: many urine tests can now tell if the urine has been diluted, and that may lead the tester to make you take the test again after you’ve passed all of that extra water. Oh, one more warning: diluting your urine definitely won’t help if they test your hair, saliva, or blood.