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Cannabis is legal, but a positive drug screen can still be harmful.

On July 1, 2021 Virginia residents over the age of 21 years of age will be able to light a doobie up without the fear of legal repercussions. However, just because one can legally consume cannabis, does not mean that a positive cannabis drug screen is a thing of the past. In addition to it still being illegal to consume cannabis in public or while operating a motor vehicle, there are also personal, legal, or employment matters that complicate recreational cannabis use. A positive drug screen of a recreationally legal substance can still cause problems with employers, the courts, custody agreements, and medical treatment, just to name a few. With more people using cannabis than ever before in the Commonwealth, many new users have a few burning questions:


How long does it take for the body to eliminate cannabis?

Can supplements or drinks help ensure a negative drug screen?

Is a detox from cannabis helpful or harmful?


The amount of use, duration of use, body weight, and body fat are the most significant factors in determining how long cannabis will stay in the body. It is extremely important to note that how long cannabis stays in the body is different than the amount of time it will show up in a drug screen.


To fail a drug screen by testing positive for cannabis depends primarily on the test itself and the individual's cannabis usage. For instance, someone who only uses cannabis once might only show a positive urine screen for 36 hours or less. Whereas a heavy user might have a positive urine screen for more than 30 days. Interestingly enough, a saliva test is most accurate 1-12 hours after last use. Cannabis is unlikely to show up in a saliva test if the last use was 24+ hours or more. On the other hand, a hair test could show up positive even if the cannabis has not been used in over 3 months. The part of the body tested in the drug screen influences detection times of cannabis.


Tests for cannabis are constantly advancing, and as such the times mentioned above are subject to change as technology advances. Currently, many tests are only looking for metabolites made by THC (the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis). This can be problematic because even hemp plants where the main cannabinoid is CBD will still have very low percentages of THC that could be detectable in testing. That's why it is important that people who use CBD products make sure that it is made from a CBD isolate if they do not want to risk testing positive for THC.


Depending on the test method used, a person could test negative for cannabis but still have cannabis in their body. So, how does one eliminate cannabis from their body?


Most of cannabis is removed from the body through feces (60-70% roughly), urine (30-40%), and the remaining is bodily fluids, like sweat (10% or less). The percentage of body fat and the metabolism also play a role. Cannabis is a fat-loving compound and is stored longest in a person's fat. To get marijuana out of the body faster, people need to be drinking a lot of water, eating foods that get processed quickly through the body, and exercise. The amount of time it takes a person to process cannabis depends on their metabolism speed and the amount of fat they have on their body. Additionally, a fatty meal before use can increase cannabis' effects. Someone who has a high-fat diet could see a positive drug screen longer than someone who has a low-fat diet. However, the only sure way to have cannabis leave the body is over the course of time.


Detox drinks and supplements do not eliminate cannabis from the body, but rather dilutes the urine so the the levels are undetectable. Certain drug screens can detect when urine is too diluted to get an accurate screening. Additionally, these methods of detoxing can negatively alter the enzymes, electrolytes, and other chemicals in the body which can have devastating implications. Trying to detox using drinks, supplements, and consuming excess amounts of water can be dangerous and should be avoided.


Cannabis Withdrawal Syndrome (CWS) is dependent on the person and history of use. Common symptoms of CWS include, but are not limited to: anxiety, irritability, anger, sleep issues, depressed mood, decreased appetite, weight loss, headaches, tremors, chills, sweating, stomach pains, etc. CWS may be present when a long term user suddenly stops using cannabis. CWS symptoms are not life threatening and often resolve on their own within a few days to a couple of weeks.


A weed detox, even with the risks of side effects, could be beneficial if done correctly. Eating healthy, having a healthy lifestyle, and refraining from use are the only safe and effective ways for detoxing from cannabis. Detox from cannabis can improve short-term cognitive functioning, and improve medicinal benefits. For example, a detox can lower tolerance levels. Even 72 hours refraining from use can help reduce tolerance levels and lead to less cannabis needed to achieve optimal results.


Detoxing from cannabis could also be an necessity due other reasons, like medical or legal. A detox from marijuana is unavoidable for those that develop cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS). Long-term and heavy users of cannabis are the most at risk for developing CHS. Often unexpectedly, people with CHS will start experiencing repeat vomiting and intense nausea after consuming cannabis. CHS is a rare, but serious allergic reaction to cannabis in which currently the only cure is complete absence. If someone has developed an addiction problem, are experiencing an unstable mental health condition, have a heart arrhythmia, are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, or are facing legal, family, or financial problems that are caused or exasperated by cannabis, then a detox from cannabis is advised.


Whatever you or a loved one is looking to achieve with cannabis or through the elimination of cannabis, it is important to remember that a detox impacts the human body, both mentally and physically. Be kind yourself, and don't take short cuts when detoxing. Just say no to detox supplements and drinks.

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