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 occassion 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 three weeks for regular users, and anywhere up to three months for patients like me who take their medicine several times a day.

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.

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.

The only absolutely sure way to pass a urine test is to go in there with clean human or synthetic urine at the correct temperature. Even this will not work for high-security 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.

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. Start at least 3 days before the test eating a lot of 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 hope is clean urine.

2. 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.

3. 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 (or a liter, if you’re in Canada). 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.

4. 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!

Related post:  Does Drinking Cranberry Juice Cleanse Your System of THC?