Dear Old Hippie: I have heard that in many cases you can flush your system with cranberry juice. Is this true?
I am eligible for a medicinal marijuana card in Ontario, but before I had the diagnoses that helped me and made it so I was eligible, I consumed cannabis on occasion to deal with my massive PTSD and other emotional disorders, when I returned from an intense situation out of the country. Before that I had not smoked at all. With the added pressure from being arrested because of my breakdown, I found it was the best fix for my emotions. I was always wary that my newly restarted consumption after ten years of not smoking could get me in trouble. So for others in my situation, and for just my own personal knowledge, does cranberry juice help or do any of the alternatives sold online?
Dear CK: Well, I’m glad someone finally asked me this question, because there’s just so much BS floating around the Internet about this subject, and I’ve been looking for an excuse to put some good information out there. Drug testing is a $6 billion business in the United States alone, and it’s used as an excuse to keep a lot of productive, creative people out of the workforce or in jail.
The simple fact is that the basic urine test does not actually test for THC. What they actually look for are metabolites — substances created by the body after you ingest cannabis — and those metabolites are stored in your body fat for a relatively long time: a week or so for occasional users, up to a month for regular users, and anywhere up to three months for patients like me who take their medicine several times a day, especially in edible form.
So the first rule of understanding the urine test process is that time is your friend…the longer you can delay the test after your last toke, the more chance you’ll have of testing negative. So the obvious, first, and most important thing is to stop smoking or using cannabis in any way as soon as you find out you’ll have to take the test, until your test results come back negative.
Some people recommend “adulterants” such as bleach, eye drops, Mountain Dew (really!) or even commercial products on the theory that these will “clean” or “mask” the results somehow. This is merely wishful thinking. But now labs have begun to test for these things as well, so using them might actually make you look worse for attempting to beat the test willfully.
Now we’ll get into the deepest area of urban legend: the idea that some magic drink or pill will “flush” the metabolites out of your body. This belief has caused untold people to fail tests, but worse, caused them to go through some serious shit on the way, and in the case of the recently-popular colon cleansing products, I mean that literally.
There is absolutely nothing you can eat or drink that will, by itself, insure you pass a urine test while a detectable level of THC metabolites is still in your body. Period.
The good news is that it is possible to beat a urine test. If your marijuana use is rare or occasional, or if you’re near the middle to end of the detectable period for your level of use or you’re not a heavy user, you have an excellent chance with the dilution method, which I will describe in detail below. But first: substitution.
The Substitute Method
The only absolutely sure way to pass a urine test is to go in there with clean human (or synthetic urine, in most cases) at the correct temperature. Even this will not work for high-security or probation urine tests where they actually watch you pee, unless you come equipped with an insanely realistic ninja pee kit, and you better do a lot of practicing beforehand.
While I’ve been assured by an employee at a drug testing lab (who shall obviously remain nameless) that they don’t or can’t check whether the urine came from another individual of the same sex, they will detect prescription drugs used by that other person. If your friend doesn’t smoke weed and gives you her pee, she may be doing you a favor, but if she happens to legally be taking something they also test for (such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety pills), you’ll be expected to show them a similar prescription in your own name as well…and with the same dosage. So be sure to ask your friend about everything!
The thing about urine testing is they now look at the color, the temperature, and some of the basic physical characteristics (such as pH) to make sure it’s really urine they’re dealing with, and not Mountain Dew. So whatever you bring them has to be close. And pee goes bad, so you can’t keep it in the back of a drawer. You can keep it in the refrigerator up to a week, or freeze it for a year or perhaps longer, but you can’t keep it in little plastic baggies.
So here’s what you do. Go down to your local big pharmacy or supermarket and get some 2 ounce travel bottles, which people use to repackage liquids before getting on an airplane. It turns out that they allow 2 ounces of liquid on planes, and 2 ounces of urine happens to be the standard amount for drug tests as well. These containers should ideally have screw-on caps that can’t flip open, and flattish ones are better (you’ll see why soon).
Put the urine into the container. If you can get your friend to pee enough, you can fill up a few of these, so you can freeze them in advance (if the test is this week, don’t freeze it at all, just keep it in the refrigerator). When freezing these containers, you should leave the top open so there’s no pressure buildup, and obviously keep them upright and away from any food. Once they’re frozen solid, close the top and mark with the date and the word “pee” in big letters so you don’t make a terrible culinary mistake down the road.
When you know you’ll need it, simply put the container in the refrigerator at least 24 hours before the test to defrost. Before you leave your house to take the test (give yourself at least 45 minutes if possible), open or loosen the top to allow pressure to escape, and put the container in the microwave for 10 seconds, which gets it up to approximate temperature. Then close the top (rather important!) and carefully put it in your underwear (guys, you can’t wear boxers for this) tightly next to your body where it won’t show but it will pick up your body heat. Preferably in front, eh?
At the lab, they will make you empty your pockets, but they won’t be sticking their hands into your underwear, so when you go into the bathroom, empty the bottle as silently as possible into the cup (while making as much other masking noise as possible, like coughing), and then you must pee into the toilet audibly, because they will expect to hear these kinds of noises. Personally, I would pee a bit into the cup if I was using synthetic urine, because that might help stop them being able to detect the synthetic that way…and even with “dirty” urine, you’d only put maybe 1/4 ounce or so extra in, so it would be automatically diluted by 8 or 10 times. You’d have to be Snoop Lion to fail that one!
The Dilution Method
The dilution method works on the principle that they’re looking for a specific level of metabolites in your urine, which is generally 50 ng./ml. If you can dilute your urine so the level is lower than that, you pass. Simple, but the labs figured that out long ago too, so now they check for too-dilute urine by looking at the color, and they also test for other stuff to attempt to make sure it’s real, undiluted urine. Drinking water will not “flush the THC out”, but it will dilute your urine. So after putting together every bit of up-to-date information I can find, here’s what I would do:
1. If you have at least 3 days before the test, exercise a lot each day (not so much that you invite heart attack or collapse…use your common sense here!), both cardio and muscle-type exercises. This will help your body burn off fat, which may have some stored THC or metabolites. But this will also recirculate those things into your bloodstream, which is why you should stop exercising 48 hours before the test.
2. Three days before the test, start eating red meat or taking creatine (available at places like GNC). This will build up the creatinine levels in your system, because they test for this substance (a metabolite of creatine, found in meat) to make sure your urine isn’t diluted. If you don’t take this step, you’re likely to fail the test right here, so if you don’t have time to prepare, your only safe hope is clean urine.
3. At the same time, you should start drinking a natural diuretic that will help toxins and other foreign substances move out of your body through urine…something like…cranberry juice! See, there’s always a hint of truth in every urban legend! Here’s where cranberry juice fits in, and it can really help, but you have to do the other stuff too. Other mild diuretic drinks will work too, like tea and apple cider vinegar.
4. The latest trick I’ve found is to take zinc sulfate (not any other kind of zinc) pills, which you should be able to find in health food stores or GNC. This not only helps block detection of THC, but also cocaine and methamphetamine, and the drug testing folks are pretty worried about it, so you know that’s a good thing. I would take one or two pills (usually around 200 mg. each) four to six hours before the expected time of the test, or the night before if the test is first thing in the morning.
5. The hardest part here is next. An hour or two before the test, take some B vitamins to color your urine (50 to 100 mg. of B2 or B12 or B-complex is generally recommended) and then start drinking water like crazy, a glass every 15 minutes or so. You should drink a total of about a quart of water. Please do not overdo this part, because you can actually die from water intoxication, though you’d have to drink a lot more than that (yes, that means that cannabis is actually safer than water). You should also urinate at least once during this time (whew!), because you should not give them the first urine sample of the day for testing.
6. When it comes time to give the sample, take it “midstream”, so to speak…first pee into the toilet, then into the jar. This will give you the best chance of the lowest concentration of metabolites.
Sometimes after all this preparation, your urine will still come off as too dilute, and they generally give you a second chance to take the test. Schedule that out as far as possible (tell them you have a prepaid vacation or something) and next time…don’t dilute quite so much and you should be fine. Good luck!
Here is Erowid’s master page on drug testing, if you have enough interest to get through it all.
Revision 1.1 – 20 March 2013