Urine drug tests are the most common type used by employers and legal authorities nationwide, largely because they’re some of the hardest tests to fake. Lipid-soluble compounds (like THC and its main metabolite, THC-COOH) stick around in urine for a very long time, making it difficult to flush the body of undesirable chemicals prior to testing.
Difficult, however, doesn’t necessarily mean impossible; while it’s true that you cannot successfully cleanse your body of THC without abstaining and detoxing for an extended period of time, it is possible to introduce water, electrolytes, and other substances to the body in such a way as to produce a temporary passing result.
This is the aim of detox drinks, a popular-but-risky way to pass a drug test on very short notice. We tend to prefer to use the substitution method to pass a urine drug screen, but this may not be an option for supervised testing. If this is your situation, a detox drink might be just what you need — but there are some important things you need to know before starting your cleanse.
Here, we’ll break down how to use your cleansing drink of choice to maximize its cleansing power, helping rid your system of THC for the prescribed window and allowing you to produce a clean sample. We’ll also talk about what to look for in a detox drink before wrapping up with a couple of our favorite cleansing beverages for different usage levels.
Before We Begin: A Few Possible Caveats
Before we get into the science of detox drinks and how to use them, we need to make an important clarification: detox drinks will only work to help you pass a urine drug test. They will not be effective at cleansing your system in advance of hair, blood, or saliva tests. Bear this in mind when choosing a detox product that’s right for you and the test you’ll be taking.
Second, detox drinks are similar to other cleansing products in that they won’t be effective if you don’t abstain from cannabis during your cleansing period. Your results will be better the longer you are able to abstain before your test. We recommend at least 48 hours of abstention for moderate to heavy consumers, though more time is always better.
Finally, you’ll need to drink a lot of water with any detox drink you choose, and we mean a lot of water. Most detoxes ask that you drink a minimum of 32 fluid ounces of water after consuming the drink, but some request amounts as high as 48 ounces. As a general rule of thumb, more water is better (just don’t overdo it and send yourself into hyponatremia, a potentially lethal overhydrated state. It’s pretty difficult to get there, but not totally impossible), and be sure to urinate as many times as you can before you plan to test.
How Detox Drinks Work
We need to open with an important distinction: it is not possible to truly eliminate all THC and its metabolites from your body in a protracted period of time. The only way to cleanse your body of THC (in the strictest and truest sense of the word) is to detox naturally, which can take anywhere from a few short days to a period of months, depending on how frequently you use cannabis.
So, if these drinks aren’t zapping the THC from your cells, how do they help you pass a drug test using your own urine? We’ll cover the science momentarily, but the short answer is that detox drinks use a combination of chemical actions in your body to help you produce urine that will test clean during a certain window of time. After this period, you’ll test positive again — the cleansing effect isn’t lasting, but it will get you through your drug test unscathed.
Detox products work by a combination of a couple different mechanisms: first, they dilute your urine, and therefore any THC or its metabolites that might be present. Second, they adulterate your urine with compounds to help mask the presence of THC and give some of your dilute urine its color and chemical properties back.
Finally, many detox drinks contain compounds that are believed to encourage the flushing of THC from your cells, removing the molecules from the superficial layer of your internal tissues. Note that this only takes place at the surface — your deeper tissues will still harbor THC and THC-COOH for as long as you continue to consume cannabis. That said, it can help improve your chances of testing clean. The effectiveness of these substances is improved by frequent urination.
First & Foremost: Use Exactly As Directed
Even the best detox drink won’t be effective if you don’t follow the instructions. This is because you need to drink not only the beverage itself, but also plenty of water — expect to refill and drink the container 2-3 times before testing per most instructions.
You’ll also need to give your body the best chance possible to flush THC and THC-COOH from your renal system, which means that you’ll need to pee as much as possible before your testing. We recommend going at least three times between drinking the beverage and testing, but more is always better.
Finally, be sure to replenish your electrolytes after testing. While detox drinks do contain necessary salts and ions to keep you from suffering the effects of dehydration, you may need to reup your body’s supply, especially if you’re an active person. Avoid caffeine and other diuretics, focusing instead on rehydrating and resupplying your body with necessary nutrients.
Ingredients to Look For
There are many different ingredients that are commonly used in detox drinks. Here, we’ve broken down the most effective and safest by category according to their purpose. The following ingredients are generally considered safe and effective for cleansing purposes when used as directed:
- Diuretics, or ingredients designed to cause you to urinate more frequently, serve to help dilute your urine while promoting the flushing of THC from surface tissues. These ingredients include compounds like:
- Caffeine, a well-known stimulant
- Ginseng, a naturally-derived supplement commonly used in energy drinks to boost focus — with the side effect of increased urination
- Guarana, another plant-derived stimulant
- Taurine, a compound extracted from the livers of cattle that’s been found to increase energy (and urination, lots of stimulants have that effect)
- Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, is often used to dilate blood vessels, invigorate the body, and speed up the body’s metabolism. This is the molecule responsible for the “niacin flush,” or reddening of the skin, that accompanies energy drink consumption in some consumers, and may induce a type of short-lived “head rush” when taken very quickly in large doses.
- Cranberry extract. While it’s been shown to be ineffective at treating a UTI, cranberry may help cleanse the urinary tract of non-bacterial chemical elements and assist in flushing “surface” THC from the body
- Adulterants, or ingredients included to help replace vital compounds in your urine to compensate for dilution while masking the presence of any residual THC. Many of these compounds are contained within your urine naturally; these ingredients are intended to put back together the chemical profile that’s distorted through the dilution process.These may include:
- Creatine, a precursor to creatinine, a compound found in urine naturally and one of the most important markers for a testing lab that a sample is genuine and untampered with
- Vitamins B6 and B12 are often used to return color to diluted urine, as are folate, or vitamin B9, and thiamin, or vitamin B1
- Biotin, a compound necessary for healthy hair, skin, and nails
- Zinc, chromium, selenium, and manganese are trace minerals typically found in urine
A Cautionary Note About Herbal Extracts
While most herbal supplements are safe for consumption when used as directed, it is wise to be aware of the herbs included in your detox of choice and any interactions they could have with medications you take. For example, burdock root extract can be very helpful for flushing the kidneys, but could cause a reaction in people allergic to daisies or chrysanthemums. Milk thistle extract works well to protect the liver and soothe potential digestive discomfort resulting from using a detox drink rich in minerals, but could reduce the effectiveness of estrogen-based birth control pills.
As with anything else, it’s important to consider the potential risks an ingredient might carry for you before making an informed decision. There are entirely too many potential ingredients and corresponding interactions for us to list here, but we’d like to present a few general precautions to minimize any risk of a negative interaction.
Firstly, please exercise caution with detox drinks if you are currently taking any diuretics or blood pressure medications. This is because detox drinks are quite diuretic on their own and could cause dehydration when combined with a similar medication. Secondly, be cautious if you are pregnant or breastfeeding and considering a detox drink. Most ingredients are fine, especially for one-off use, but may cause problems for high-risk moms or those with sensitive systems.
We don’t mean to incite panic or scare you off of buying that detox, we just want to encourage you to be mindful of what you put into your body. The risk of adverse side effects is vanishingly small, but still non-zero; consequently, we feel we owe it to you to mention it as you consider the right detox drink for you.
The Day Before Testing
On the day before you are scheduled to take your test, make sure to eat sensibly and keep yourself amply hydrated. We recommend skipping out on fatty or fried foods during this time, opting instead for plenty of fiber and protein. Leafy greens, grilled chicken or fish, fresh vegetables, and fiber-packed root veggies like sweet potatoes or beets are good choices.
You’ll also want to take any pre-cleanse pills that were included with your detox on this day. Taking the pre-cleanse pills will help prime your system for tomorrow’s detox and remove residual THC from your system. Take them as directed with plenty of water — if you need something with flavor, try to opt for tea, coffee, or juice over sugar-packed sodas.
Immediately leading up to your test, we advise avoiding strenuous exercise. If you already have an established exercise habit, keep it up! However, if you’re a habitual couch potato, now is not the time to take up jogging. This is because too much fat-burning during this time can cause THC trapped in your body’s fatty tissues to return to the bloodstream, becoming detectable in your urine. To avoid this, keep novel exercise to a minimum in the few days before testing.
The Morning of Testing
On the morning of the big day, make sure to have a big glass of water or two with your morning coffee — though perhaps limit yourself to one cup today. Keep breakfast low in fat and high in fiber (egg white veggie omelet, perhaps?) and wear comfortable clothes. Don’t fast until your test; not only will depriving yourself of food not help your chances of passing, but you’ll be cranky and more prone to unnecessary anxiety.
Be sure to take your detox drink with you! You may remove the label if you’d like, or place it in a large water bottle or thermos for discretion. Make sure that you know the time and place you are supposed to take your test, as the next steps will depend on the timing.
Hours Before Testing
Since detox drinks give you a window of time during which you will test clean, time is of the essence. Your detox will be most effective three hours from the time of consumption (unless otherwise specified), with the window of effectiveness extending for up to 5 hours. For this reason, we advise taking the drink as close to 3 hours from your test as possible.
When it comes time to take the detox, down the whole thing as quickly as you can. We don’t mean you have to chug it (unless, of course you want to), but try to finish the bottle within 15 minutes or so. Then, immediately fill the bottle with water and drink that — again, doing your best to finish it within about 15 minutes.
After that bottle is gone, go ahead and fill it up again — and don’t worry, you can take your time drinking this one. You’ll probably need to urinate pretty quickly after finishing the first bottle of water, so don’t fight the urge. The more you are able to go before your test, the better off you’ll be. Stay hydrated leading up to your test by refilling that water bottle frequently.
The Test Itself
When collecting your sample for testing, use urine from the middle of your stream, as opposed to the beginning or the end. This minimizes the risk of trace THC ending up in your sample and gives you the best chance of providing a fully clean sample and passing your drug test.
To do this, allow yourself to urinate for about 4-6 seconds before beginning to collect the sample. Once you’ve obtained an adequate specimen, clean up the cup (it’s just polite) and head out, being sure to wash your hands thoroughly.
A detox drink like Mega Clean or XXtra Clean from TestClear can help you pass your drug test with flying colors, but these beverages aren’t bulletproof. Make sure that you follow the directions on the product that you choose, abstain with plenty of time to spare, and keep yourself well-hydrated throughout the process.