THC and screening
May 5, 2008 10:36 AM   Subscribe

My friend is taking a drug test in 23 hrs and has no clue as to what testing method they will be using. The last time he smoked marijuana was 48 hrs ago. Does anyone have advice on passing said screening?
posted by konono to Health & Fitness (31 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Drink a lot of water. I mean, a LOT of water. Try some goldenseal tea. Try going to the health food store and getting a diuretic. But quite honestly, AFAIK, it takes 30 days for THC to leave your system completely and your friend is likely fucked.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:38 AM on May 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Wow...pretty much everything said above and also he should go for a run....this way he can "sweat" out some of the toxins in his body.
posted by The1andonly at 10:40 AM on May 5, 2008

If it's a hair test, he's screwed as well, unless that 48 hours was his first time smoking weed.

Goldenseal capsules may work for urine, but it changes the color pretty drastically and is often flagged as a "tampered with".
posted by Gucky at 10:41 AM on May 5, 2008

lots o water and milk thistle healps clean you out but nothing to bank on
posted by femmme at 10:45 AM on May 5, 2008

With regard to the urine test, it's my understanding that it takes time to build up so it can be detected for 30 days. Isolated use will be detectable for a much shorter period.

A potsmoking friend (really) was able to, after a month clean, smoke up on one night and then pass a drug test two or three days later.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:45 AM on May 5, 2008

Here and here.
posted by Neiltupper at 10:48 AM on May 5, 2008

According to wikipedia, the only effect of taking goldenseal is that your urine will test positive for goldenseal, which just makes you look a little more like you're trying to hide something.
posted by ManInSuit at 10:54 AM on May 5, 2008

Best answer: I just wanted to point out that you can die from too much water. It's rare but I thought I should mention it so your friend doesn't kill himself trying to beat a test he most likely will fail anyway.
posted by sharkfu at 10:58 AM on May 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Go to GNC and ask for a system cleanser. Its usually behind lock and key and runs about $60. My friend says this works like a charm for urine tests.
posted by curlyelk at 11:05 AM on May 5, 2008

If you do not have enough creatine in your urine, it will get flagged as diluted, even though all you did was drink water. If you do drink a lot of water, make sure to take some creatine supplements and or drink/eat something with electrolytes. I also would recommend taking dandelion leaf extract, or eating some dandelion leafs, these will boost your livers ability to metabolize things. FWIW, i passed a test using the above methods, and i smoked until about 48 hours before the test. YMMV.
posted by schyler523 at 11:50 AM on May 5, 2008

just to back up what others have already said:

yeah, im pretty sure a hair test means hes pretty fucked (MAYBE) unless that was the only time he smoked in months and months - metabolized thc and all that.

and i forget the exact details, but from what i have read, many urine tests these days will disqualify urine with goldenseal and if you drink too much water it is disqualified as diluted.

if its not a hair test, it very much depends on his smoking history in the last several months, especially the last month.

good luck. to your friend, of course.
posted by gcat at 11:58 AM on May 5, 2008

For hair tests, there are shampoos out there that claim to strip away the, uh, "toxins" that your friend may be concerned about.

Visit your local head shop. Listen to their advice.

As for the water thing, take the water warnings to heart. No need to kill yourself over a drug test. It's true that drinking lots of water can help flush your system, but THC is fat soluble, not water soluble - so drinking lots of water in the time coming up to your test will help - but it won't clean out all the THC in your system.

Skinny people with fast metabolisms need to worry much less than people with a bit of a spare tire.

Drinking a quart of water or so within 20-30 minutes of a urine test will quite likely return a result of "dilute" - which means that at the time you peed into the cup, there was too much water in your system for them to test for anything. If the firm is on the lazy side they'll pass you - but if they're diligent they'll simply ask that you come back another time. Between taking the test, waiting for results and getting a request to come back in for another test you can often buy yourself at least a week in which to sample many of the fine cleansing products sold by your local head shop.

Of course, it's been a long time since I had to worry about tests like this and testing technology may have evolved to be able to test with very diluted urine.

Do not act sketchy. Don't fidget when at the urinal or stall if someone is there behind you. They will assume that you are adultering the sample or trying to use someone else's clean pee from a ziploc bag that you've tucked into your waistband.

If you for some reason stuck on the horrible idea of bringing in someone else's urine, do yourself a favor and make sure that it's a person of the same gender, and that you've tested your smuggling setup very well. It would be awful to sit down on the waiting room sofa only to have a bag of someone's urine leak all over you - and then fail the test.

One more bit of hope: If this is an employment screening test, sometimes the testing companies are given a "threshold" to work with. This is something you'll rarely ever hear about, but it basically amounts to a company telling the test lab "We don't care if the person took a hit off of a joint at a party three weeks ago, we're mainly concerned about people too high to operate machinery or remember to get to work on time".
posted by terpia at 12:00 PM on May 5, 2008

Just as a datapoint, because marijuana is a natural substance it is difficult to test in the same way as refined chemicals such as cocaine and opiates, and is therefore expensive to test for. Depending on the job and the intensity of the testing regime, it may be that they're just looking for the standard problem drugs and not marijuana.
posted by rhizome at 1:45 PM on May 5, 2008

Also, remember, for a hair test, even if he shaves his head, they will look everywhere for hair.
posted by thisjax at 2:15 PM on May 5, 2008

Don't exercise before the test. THC is fat soluble, and is stored in body fat - aerobic exercise is the perfect thing to release lots of stored THC and getting into your bloodstream where it can be easily detected. I had a friend who ran random testing for a large engineering firm - he had lots of stories about it, and this was one of the things I recall him telling me.

While I don't condone the "urine-swap" thing, at least if you do try it, don't hand the guy cold urine from the refrigerator. They'll know instantly. Another of my friend's stories.

Someone else mentioned the "system cleanser" that you can buy from GNC or your local "smoke shop". A friend of my wife recommends the stuff, and as far as I know, it works great.

And lastly, be honest with yourself. Do you really want to work for a company that drug tests? Then take the steps you need to take.
posted by Xoebe at 2:23 PM on May 5, 2008

Best answer: Disclaimers:
Although I am a former manager at one of the nation's formerly largest toxicology (specifically drug-testing) laboratories, I am not your former manager of a toxicology laboratory, and this is not drug-testing advice. Heh.

First, ignore anything a headshop tells you. They are like astrologers, gleaning information from barely perceived or anecdotal evidence. Ignore everything almost everyone tells you, unless they work in the industry.

First, urine testing:
As was mentioned before, THC, specifically delta-9 THC carboxylic acid, is fat soluble. The important thing to remember about this is that unlike most other tested drugs, the concentration of THC is cumulative. A single instance of use two days previous is quite unlikely to produce a positive result (and virtually impossible to produce a positive hair test). If your friend is a regular user over the previous several months, he will likely test positive.

Hair testing:
In most standard tests, approximately the previous three months of one's life, or one and a half inches are tested. It is very difficult for THC to bind to hair, so the cutoff levels are much lower, because the levels will always be low no matter how much is ingested. However, a regular user will in all likelihood test positive with a urine test while only possibly testing positive with a hair test. Other substances, particularly the various amphetamine derivatives and cocaine are much more likely to be detected.

Urine is usually tested for substance(s) found in all urine in order to determine dilution, typically creatinine. The ideal strategy would be to have the most dilute sample possible that still has a high enough creatinine level. Drinking lots of water will immediately before giving a sample will dilute your sample to the point that you will test negative. If your sample is flagged as being dilute, a couple scenarios are possible. If this particular test is reviewed by an MRE (medical review officer), they will contact your friend to get an explanation. Typical "valid" explanations are that they were working out or jogging immediately before and drank a lot of fluid. The MRE will most likely then schedule another test. If this particular test isn't reviewed by an MRE (it's expensive), the employer will receive a test result that says, in essence, negative and dilute. They then have the option to do whatever they want. Retest, accept, reject. In high turnover industries, like construction, they often reject. In white collar industries they usually retest.

If the hair is too short, i.e., less than one and a half inches, the sample-taker may do one of many things depending on how well they are trained and how tightly controlled the industry.
1. Take nothing and note that the hair is too short.
2. Take small samples from around the head.
3. Take hair from other parts of the body, usually armpits.

Think of hair like a tree trunk. Specific times of usage can, theoretically, be traced to specific points along the hairs. In practice, about one and a half inches is tested all at once. Moderately low usage will most likely not be detected. High usage might. Drug testing laboratories always err on the side of caution. There are literally almost no false positives in the drug testing industry. (I said almost.)

There is some evidence to indicate that highly damaging chemicals on hair might lower THC detection rates. Bleach and perms, basically. Nothing has been empirically established, though.

It's just chemistry, after all. Oh, and labor law... and government regulations... and testing methodology...
posted by nedpwolf at 3:39 PM on May 5, 2008 [107 favorites]

Awesome, awesome post by nedpwolf.

But please... your friend isn't going to die from drinking a gallon or two of water in one day. Seriously.

If it's a piss test, have him drink two gallons of water from now until tomorrow morning, drink water again tomorrow morning with a multivitamin and creatine (both avail from GNC), and drink the same thing again an hour before the piss test. Any questions, and the answer is, "Oh, I work out every day and drink a lot of water" etc.

In essence, he should be pissing clear for like, a day straight (aside from when he eats) and pissing clear again tomorrow morning. The object of the game is to literally be pissing water, except with creatine and certain vitamins/minerals that will color the urine.

As nedpwolf said, the 3 results for a urinalysis are drug positive, negative, and/or diluted. What actions are taken (hire, not hire, inquire) are the employer's decision to make.
posted by crunch buttsteak at 4:03 PM on May 5, 2008

A lot of sound, knowledgable advice has been offered, so I thought I'd ask this question:

It seems to me (a Canadian) that the American propensity for employment-related drug testing must be awfully wasteful of resources -- not to mention talent-pool shrinking or just plain superfluous -- from the employer's perspective. I can see doing this for a very small subset of positions, but why do so many plain-vanilla employers bother? Is it more an exercise in domination than a meaningful and relevant way of narrowing the field of applicants? Or is the concept of 'moral turpitude' really that solidly entrenched? Are there really any valid liability/insurance implications for the average employer? It just doesn't seem rational.
posted by onshi at 4:12 PM on May 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Do you really want to work for a company that drug tests?

In the Twin Cities area, I can confirm that many (most?) major corporate employers routinely require them, including (in my recent experience) Target, 3M and General Mills. This is for mid-level, professional desk jobs.

My understanding is that it's a statutory requirement for a few positions here, an obvious one being working in a pharmacy.
posted by gimonca at 4:47 PM on May 5, 2008

My understanding is also that Minnesota is one of the few states that bans random testing in most situations--a special bill had to go through the legislature to allow the Twins/MLB to do random testing for steroids.
posted by gimonca at 4:51 PM on May 5, 2008

I note the original asker didn't say if this was for court or for an employer. If it is for court, I would strongly encourage your friend not to engage in shenanigans.

Just to note another data point: in the Washington DC court system drinking a lot of water before a pee test and getting a dilute sample as a result is counted as a failure / just as bad as a positive test.
posted by falconred at 5:19 PM on May 5, 2008

Assuming a urine test, drink as much pickle juice as you can. It will be unpleasant, but it will clean out your system and will generally not give the test inconclusive results. Also, you could mix cranberry juice with apple cider vinegar (as much apple cider vinegar as you can stomach) and drink it regularly- every time you are thirsty before the test, don't drink water or anything else, just drink the cran/vinegar mixture. This will also be horribly unpleasant, but effective. While doing either of these, exercise as much as possible to release the THC from your fat cells and free it up to be cleared from your system. Good luck.
posted by cheerwine at 7:28 PM on May 5, 2008

Drinking a ton of vinegar is a terrible idea. Please don't do it. I sincerely doubt it will do a damn thing to help pass a drug test, but I know for a fact that it will make you feel awful for a significant period of time.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 9:05 PM on May 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Summer 2007 and I have a big job interview on thursday, the night before I smoke a fat one with a friend to let off some steam after my last final. Interview goes super well and I head off to Toronto for the weekend. On friday afternoon the company calls me, they tell me that they need me to pass a drug test before the next interview, the drug test is scheduled for monday morning. I start to freak out (internally, so as to not infect my significant other). At that point in my life I was smoking about 1 joint a week at a friend's house, and the last one was a doozy. Having heard all sorts of stories about TCH and drug tests I spend friday night researching the issue; the concensus seemed to be lots of water and lots of cafeine (cafeine being a diaretic). So, I spend the weekend drinking lots: water, coke, beer, wine, coffee, more water, etc. On monday morning I guzzle two large glasses of juice, 2 large glasses of water, and 1 extra large coffee; and I go to the drug test. While in the bathroom I resisted the urge to dip the jar in the toilet bowl to dilute my piss (apparently they can do temperature checks), and hand my sample to the lab pleeb. Two stressful weeks went by and my result was negative, I went on to the second interview and got the job (yay me!).

Hopefully, your friend did something similar and will pass the test.
posted by Vindaloo at 9:58 AM on May 6, 2008

semi off-topic response to onshi's question about drug testing and the waste of resources (lab resources, time and money are the wastes in question, I presume)

I've had to take many drug tests for assorted jobs over the years, and more recently I've been an interviewer for a tech company that required it's new hires to be tested.

Some places are actually concerned about drugs. Some of this concern is reasonable, most of it is not.

However, there are other reasons for testing. Here, where most new hires are tested, it's not considered a "drug test" as much as it's thought of as a "practical intelligence test", which basically boils down to: "If you aren't smart enough to figure out how to pass a piss test, or can't abstain long enough during your job hunt to pass legitimately - you're far too much of a bozo to work here."

Note: While I do see job-related drug testing at my current employer exactly as the above statement implies, I still personally abhor the premise of drug testing.
posted by terpia at 10:37 AM on May 6, 2008

Job interview? Don't worry about it.

1. Go down to your headshop and get synthetic urine.
2. Follow the direction for the synthetic urine, it is going to be in powder form. You need to get it into liquid form. Find a travel shampoo bottle that is between 3.5-4oz. Empty it and clean it. 30 minutes before you will be tested, add hot water at 100-110F. Add powder urine to shampoo bottle.
3. Put on tight underpants, go for a couple of layers. Make sure the water bottle stays as close to the body as possible and doesn't fall out. The idea is to use your body's natural temperature to keep this warm. If it is not within normal range (90-100F) you will fail the test.
4. Walk into bathroom, pour out contents, put remaining contents (i.e., the bottle) back into your pants, duh.
5. Congrats, you passed your drug test.

Synthetic urine is used to provide a baseline for calibration in urinalysis. There is no reason it should fail, it is the standard the company uses. The only difference between synthetic urine and real urine is DNA, which isn't tested, and I doubt ever will be tested form.

Anyway said friend, whom I'm doing my best to keep anonymous, was subject to drug tests every 6 months after someone at his office was snorting his bonus check during bathroom breaks. He has since left the company, for reasons not relating to that, but passed 3-4 drug tests.

He had it down to a science and even created an Excel worksheet to track the changes in water temperature over time. He's a nerd, you don't need to do this. Kept against your body and in several layers of clothing, the water shouldn't drop below 90F in under 30 minutes.

I can't imagine going through the stress of getting caught, but he sort of resented the idea that someone with his job and his qualifications had to be drug tested. He never once had a problem.
posted by geoff. at 1:35 PM on May 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

So, nedpwolf, the key would be to not only drink lots of water beforehand, but also keeping an eye on your creatinine levels, right? That would probably involve also taking in some creatinine? I know nothing about it, so I don't know if that's dangerous or whatever.
posted by papafrita at 2:37 PM on May 7, 2008


I have never heard of creatinine available for purchase. I would be very surprised if it's available to consumers. Additionally, though it's the most common thing that is checked, some laboratories also check BUN (blood urea nitrogen). You can't really do anything about that.

Just to be clear to those that have emailed me, I do not condone cheating or deception when getting a drug test, and I won't give any hints on how to do so. Drinking fluids, abstaining from ingestion, even bleaching your hair is perfectly acceptable.

Additionally, there is nothing wrong with knowing how the process works. As somebody mentioned above, if you can't pass an employment drug test, you're either not too bright, you don't care very much, or your drug use is out of control. (or all three)

I don't consider smuggling urine in the same vein. That is deception. Virtually every laboratory / drawing center requires you to sign a statement to the effect that the sample you provided is yours.

My personal opinion is that if you aren't willing to play by your employer's rules, you should get another employer. If your skills are so great that they can't afford to lose you, work as an independent contractor.
posted by nedpwolf at 7:06 PM on May 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

going the synthetic urine route? go with one of the companies online instead of buying a shampoo bottle and charting temps - no reason to reinvent the wheel. if you want to just buy the powder, hot hands (the thing that heats up and you keep in your pockets during sports games and the like) and a forehead thermometer will help a lot.
posted by nadawi at 5:05 PM on May 11, 2008

Be aware that some testing facilities have a witness verify that the urine is indeed yours. Said witness accompanies you into the single-seat restroom. Embarassing for all, but it effectively destroys the bring-a-clean-sample plan - so don't rely on this as your only plan. Have a fallback position, at least: hydration, and possibly other techniques like a short haircut & creatine, as mentioned above.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:36 AM on June 2, 2008

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