Supposedly, papaya extract can interfere with the detection of THC in urine for a short duration after imbibing. But smoking out of a papaya is still probably not the wisest thing to do before a drug test. (Luis Benavides, Associated Press file)

How to get weed out of your system: Exploring the options

Ask the Cannabist: Quick-detox drinks, supplements and home remedies all have a reputation for clearing your body of weed, or at least masking its presence. What really works?

It’s a cat and mouse game for cannabis consumers everywhere. As long as there have been drug screenings, there have been people needing to know: How do I get weed out of my system so I can pass a drug test? That question, and the related nervous query, “Am I going to pass my urine test?” are the most frequent questions submitted to Ask The Cannabist.

Anecdotal remedies for thwarting THC drug screens, found in online forums, include swallowing Bentonite clay tablets or drinking cranberry or aloe vera juice, which are items that can be found in health food stores. Another touted strategy to get weed out of your system is chugging quick-detox formulas procured from head shops or nutritional supplement stores. But are any of these legit solutions?

For a well-researched perspective on the topic, I asked Paul Armentano, deputy director at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and the NORML Foundation.

In terms of measuring THC, standard drug screens test for a fat-soluble metabolite, not THC itself. Armentano states via email: “Standard employer drug screens/urinalysis test for the presence of carboxy-THC, an inert lipid soluble metabolite (breakdown product) of THC.”

Another burning question

How long does weed stay in your system? Everyone has a theory about how long it takes, but the answer is, there’s no easy answer

Some people swear by the effectiveness of their detox or dilution remedy in preparing for a drug test. But be careful, not all remedies you hear about actually work. As one example, Armentano mentions “anecdotal reports allege that the use of lecithin, an emulsifier, may help to break down carboxy-THC, but clinical documentation is lacking.”

Armentano elaborates: “Because this byproduct is fat-soluble, it possesses a prolonged presence in urine compared to many other water-soluble drug metabolites, and peer-reviewed case reports document its presence in the urine of more habitual consumers for periods of up to 100 days post-abstinence.”

Wow, evidence of THC consumption can be detected in the body more than three months after completely stopping use!  So, time is the best way to remove all metabolic evidence of cannabis use from the body.

Worrying they don’t have time to wait for the metabolites to naturally leave the body, some people attempt to change the carboxy-THC levels in their body by diluting with fluids.

Armentano says: “Because the metabolite is NOT liquid-soluble, consuming fluids will not increase the body’s excretion of carboxy-THC, though less concentrated urine samples may influence proper test detection.”  In other words, drinking fluids doesn’t increase the shedding of metabolites, it dilutes the test sample so metabolites are not concentrated enough to be detected.

Guzzling lots of fluids to dilute a sample is not always advantageous. A sample may be flagged for being diluted. Depending on the circumstances, the sample can be treated as a positive result.

Other people wonder whether undertaking a heavy fitness regimen before a drug test or trying to “sweat out” the THC might work. Colorado physician Dr. Alan Shackelford of Amerimed says there are no direct studies to know for sure.

For proven options, Armentano mentions two studies, one that used zinc sulfate and zinc supplements, and one with papain, a supplement derived from the papaya tree. “Clinical data indicates that the “consumption of zinc supplements taken orally after light marijuana use can interfere with the detection of THC [metabolites] in urine samples for a 12- to 18-hour period.”  Additionally, “papain has also been shown in clinical trials to adulterate samples for carboxy-THC sensitivity.”

So there you go, zinc or papain supplements have been clinically shown to interfere with THC detection. Whether you trust Armentano’s supplement advice, a quick-detox formula or another home remedy to assist you in passing a drug test is completely your decision. XO