Sometimes, when you use cannabis — for medical or recreational purposes — you don’t want the THC you consume to linger in your body. Perhaps you are concerned about drug testing, which remains legal and practiced in some places of employment, or perhaps you are experiencing the uncomfortable symptoms of a THC overdose and want to reduce the duration of your high.
So, is it possible to flush THC out of your system? Read on to find out.
How Long THC Lasts in the Body
Though a high might only last a few hours at most, THC remains in your body for days, even weeks. Unfortunately, there isn’t an exact amount of time that THC lingers in your body in particular — largely because everyone’s body is different, and even your body can change how it processes THC from time to time.
The endogenous cannabinoid system, which is what THC interacts with to make users high, functions in slightly different ways in different bodies. Some people have highly efficient endocannabinoid systems, which typically means they need slightly higher doses of the drug to feel beneficial effects. Conversely, some people have slower, less responsive endocannabinoid systems, which make small doses of THC feel like too much. Depending on how your particular endocannabinoid system works, you might hold onto THC for longer than average, or you might naturally flush THC at a faster rate.
Another factor that impacts how long THC remains in the body as body fat. THC is fat-soluble, meaning it can easily pass into fatty tissues and remain there — possibly forever. Researchers continue to investigate this phenomenon to understand whether users can re-intoxicate themselves by activating fat stores, perhaps during exercise or dieting. Suffice it to say that if your body fat percentage is high, it is likely that you will retain THC in your system longer than typical.
Finally, the frequency and dosage of marijuana use matters, too. First-time users typically don’t consume much THC, and their system is able to process and remove excess with relative ease. In contrast, frequent users have much larger stores of THC in their body, and by constantly introducing new THC, they increase the amount of time needed to flush all THC out.
Though estimates aren’t exact and certainly don’t apply to everyone, here are some basic guidelines of THC detection windows:
- First-time marijuana smokers: no longer have detectable THC after three days.
- Smokers who partake three to four times per week: can flush THC in five to seven days.
- Smokers who use every day or more than once per day: can test positive for THC more than 30 days after their last use.
Why Most Flushing Methods Don’t Work
There is only one way to encourage the body to process any remaining THC with haste: speeding up the metabolism. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Though you might be able to increase your metabolic rate over time through exercise and diet, it often takes months or years to make a noticeable change to your metabolism. Worse, exercising too close to a drug test might cause the body to release THC stored in fat back into the bloodstream, resulting in a positive test result.
All other methods of flushing THC rely on excess hydration — drinking water, cranberry juice, Pedialyte, and other liquids. Unfortunately, while this does clean out the kidneys, it doesn’t do much to remove THC from the rest of the body. As a result, it won’t have any effect on the outcome of a drug test.
A Few Ideas for Sobering Up
Removing THC after coming down from a high is one thing; sobering up while high is something else. If you have enjoyed a bit too much product from a local Maryland cannabis dispensary, there are a few methods for reducing the effectiveness of THC and improving sobriety in the moment, such as:
- Chew black peppercorns. One study found that the terpenes in black pepper counteract the effects of THC and other intoxicating compounds in weed.
- Take an extra dose of CBD. There is some evidence to suggest that CBD has a tempering effect on THC, which is the foundation of the entourage effect.
- Dose with ibuprofen. Studies have found that anti-inflammatory medications seem to reduce the cognitive effects of THC, but you shouldn’t take more than the recommended dose of any NSAID.
Flushing THC before a drug test isn’t exactly possible. It is a much smarter strategy to control your THC consumption responsibly and be open and honest about your use with your employer — or anyone else who might test you.