Drug Testing and Niacin
August 23, 2007 1:36 PM   Subscribe

drug testing filter: does niacin really clean out all the THC in your body? What is the effect of taking large doses of niacin?

I have a friend who has to take a drug test every month. He still regularly smokes pot, and beats his drug test every time.

His method is to take 5000mg of niacin for four nights in a row before taking the test. Niacin is a natural health supplement, which can be purchased at any vitamin store. The niacin bottle has a warning not to take more than 1000mg per day. When he takes the 5000mg of niacin, he gets the shakes, heavy sweating, and breaks out in hives. But, he beats the drug test everytime, so it seems to clean out his system.

Apparently, since niacin is a legal natural supplement, the drug test does not register it as a masking agent to beat the drug test.

Does anyone have any thoughts about this? It appears to work, but it seems strange to me. Also, what are the long term effects of taking 20,000mg of niacin in a four day period, every month?
posted by Flood to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Wikipedia says "scientific studies have shown it does not affect drug screenings."
posted by exogenous at 1:47 PM on August 23, 2007

paging ikkyu2, docpops, et al...

IANAD, but as I understand, this happens.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 1:50 PM on August 23, 2007

Yes, niacin does 'flush' your system. But whether it flushes it of THC is incredibly doubtful.

Yes, it's natural. But unlike friendly things like Vitamin C, taking niacin in high doses, especially when you have no history of taking it daily, is INCREDIBLY, INSANELY BAD. Here's the Wikipedia data on that.

And no, it's naturalness or legality does not make it okay as a masking agent. The reason that it doesn't register as one is because it isn't - a masking agent will give a negative result when there is THC present, so the test for masking agents is to add some of the tested substance (the drug) and see if it still registers as false. Niacin is a 'clensing' agent, and it can be identified by either a pH or specific gravity test.

The amount of THC stored in someone's system is much like the amount of fat that they store: it varies person by person. Anecdotal evidence that niacin or even bleach 'cleans you out' is just that - anecdotal.

Also a monthly drug test suggests that this isn't just a pre-employment type of thing, that suggests there's a lot more riding on it (probation?) The kid should learn some self-control instead of destroying his liver and potentially his future.
posted by tmcw at 1:56 PM on August 23, 2007

if i recall correctly, what you have to do is drink a TON of water to flush yourself out, and take the vitamin b. so you're basically pissing water, but the vitamin b changes the specific gravity of your urine to make it seem more natural.
posted by thinkingwoman at 1:58 PM on August 23, 2007

Niacin is sometimes prescribed to lower cholesterol. It's cheap, so it's popular with institutions like VA hospitals that are trying to control cost.

The short term side effects are just what your friend describes. And, it's associated with liver damage at high doses. The extended release formula is actually worse for the liver, which is kind of counterintuitive. This is because the liver cells spend more time bathed in the niacin.

The long term side effect of what your friend is doing is probably liver damage. The American College of Emergency Physicians says don't do this. I wouldn't do this.
posted by selfmedicating at 2:04 PM on August 23, 2007

There's also a chance that the test isn't looking for marijuana, or its a non-issue (as it is in many cases up here in Canada). I have friends who have to do drug testing for work, but marijuana use is not a consideration.
posted by smitt at 2:50 PM on August 23, 2007

or even that the company is faking the tests (or processing just a subsample) and replying on the fear factor.
posted by andrew cooke at 3:06 PM on August 23, 2007

Let's see if I can be clear about this: 20 g of niacin is too much. You'll hurt yourself with that amount. It won't affect your drug screening test either. Don't do it.
posted by ikkyu2 at 3:09 PM on August 23, 2007

I once asked a paramedic about passing drug tests, though I never asked about niacin, I did ask him if other stuff worked (i.e. cranberry juice, that drink you can buy at headshops).

He said most drug tests for job applications are highly inaccurate, and most people have haven't done it for a two or more weeks should pass the test.

If they really wanted to get your friend, they'd pluck out a hair and test that, since THC can remain there for a much longer time.

Btw, cranberry juice doesn't work.
posted by deinemutti at 3:15 PM on August 23, 2007

Go here if you want to learn how to beat urine test. See the stickied threads at the top of the forum.
posted by Roach at 3:16 PM on August 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

He's storing THC in his body, that's for sure but:

1. Depending on his melabolism and usage it might not be detectable.

2. Niacin takers also take a great deal of water which dilutes the sample. Toss in some b-vitamins for color and they may not suspect the sample is so diluted.

3. He's probably damaging his liver on a monthly basis.

Apparently, since niacin is a legal natural supplement, the drug test does not register it as a masking agent to beat the drug test.

Well, the way to think about "natural supplements" is that there's a fine line between a drug and a food. These herbal companies pretend not to claim any medical uses so the niacin is sold pretty much as food. Its a nutritional supplement. That doesnt mean its actually natural (pure cyanide is natural, btw) or healthy.
posted by damn dirty ape at 3:17 PM on August 23, 2007

if i recall correctly, what you have to do is drink a TON of water to flush yourself out, and take the vitamin b. so you're basically pissing water, but the vitamin b changes the specific gravity of your urine to make it seem more natural.

that makes no sense. why take something that fucks up your liver just to change the density of your urine? any salts would do the same.

reading through some of the pages on this, it seems that people drink a lot of water to dilute the urine (as thinkingwoman said). this makes the urine clear. vitamin b supplements are then recommended (apparently) because they dye the urine yellow. the worry about specific gravity comes from the high dilution, for which salts (not vitamin b) are suggested. so the idea is to "fake" normal urine colour (with the vitamin supplement) and density (with the salts). if that's the case then you can replace the vitamin with any food dye that's not metabolised - buy a bunch of different ones and experiment... (or even try eating bright yellow foods - perhaps carrots would work (although then it's vitamin a (carotene) you're going to have to worry about...))
posted by andrew cooke at 3:22 PM on August 23, 2007

Well, niacin's primary use is as a lipid lowering agent - specifically in the treatment of elevated triglycerides. It also can raise HDL levels, so it's a fairly useful tool. Typically, though, patients begin complaining of side effects at doses of 250-500 mg, and it's quite challenging to get anyone to the ultimate goal of 2000 mg per day. So a dose of anything near or past that sounds at best like a horrendous way to spend the evening and as others have pointed out possibly lethal.

I've always assumed that anyone who needs to feed a regular drug habit could come up with a source for clean urine. This seems like a pretty piss-poor (sorry) way to go through life.
posted by docpops at 3:26 PM on August 23, 2007

andrew cooke: it's entirely possible that i didn't recall correctly. it's been many, many moons since this subject has crossed my mind. :)

it might have been for the yellow. i had a friend, ages ago, who worked in a drug-test lab and basically they tested for specific gravity, to make sure it wasn't just water. i might have conflated the two thoughts.

at any rate, having to regularly beat a drug dest is lame. either get a new job or get a new life.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:20 PM on August 23, 2007

What is the effect of taking large doses of niacin?

You turn bright red for an hour and your skin hurts like you have a sunburn all over. At least, that's what happens to me.

(My dosage was 500mg.)
posted by roger ackroyd at 4:37 PM on August 23, 2007

The "niacin flush" is a result of the way niacin opens up your capillaries. It can last from 30 minutes to several hours, and feels like you have sunburn all over (even on your head, which is a weird feeling). Some people hate it; I thought it was kind of interesting.

What you should note is that "flush" does not mean "flush your system." It means flush as in flushing red in the face. So no, niacin does not flush your system of drugs.

Also, even moderately high doses of niacin (>=500mg) can play havoc with your stomach. I tried niacin under a doctor's supervision for cholesterol treatment, and the stomach problems were pretty intense. It's pretty hard to get people to stick with a niacin regimen because of the combination of flush and GI irritation.
posted by media_itoku at 6:16 PM on August 23, 2007

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