Ask an MD: Do THC Detox Pills Work?

Do THC detox pills work?
By Andrew Ward Published April 9th

Fact-checked by Alexandra Arnett, MS

We live in a period where people increasingly have more access to legal cannabis. Still, many face restrictions for various reasons, including legal and professional. These individuals and potentially others continue to be subject to drug screenings. Some people who are subject to drug screenings choose to use cannabis still, specifically, the cannabinoid THC that most screenings are testing for.

No matter your opinion of a person's situation, many subject to drug screenings will go to certain measures to ensure that they do not fail an upcoming drug test. Many detoxification methods are available to varying degrees of success. One of the more popular choices is THC detox pills, which, as the title suggests, flush the THC out of your system before a drug test. But do they work as advertised? And more specifically, are there any safety concerns around weed detox pills? 

To get to the bottom of this subject, we spoke with Dr. Brian Kessler, NuggMD's Chief Medical Officer, to better understand detox pills and what you need to know before trying them. 

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What are THC detox pills?

Weed detox pills fall into the rather large category of detoxes and cleanses used by an untold number of people around the world each year. Detoxes and cleanses are typically meant to be used for a short period, acting as a specific diet, regimen, and or therapy to promote the removal of toxins from the body. 

Ideally, a cleanse results in improved health and possible weight loss. Or, in a cannabis smoker's case, a THC-free system. While many of these options can prove beneficial, health officials urge the public to proceed with caution as some detox programs can be unsafe and falsely advertised.

A THC detox aims to clear any signs of THC from the body's blood, saliva, urine, and or hair, depending on the product used. The type of drug screening will determine which product a person may want to use for their weed detox. 

Anyone looking to clear the THC out of their system has several options to choose from. There are numerous variations of marijuana detox pills and products on the market. Depending on the brand and product chosen, a detox pill may contain various ingredients and plant-based compounds, including turmeric, green tea leaves, dandelion, and many more. 

Do THC detox pills really work?

Do detox pills really work? How long does it take for them to flush the system?

Most weed detox products come with a range of claims, with some saying they will clear your system in a day while others will take 5 to 10 days or possibly longer. You may also encounter miscellaneous claims, such as some brands reporting their THC detox pills helped hundreds of thousands of people pass their drug screenings. These claims are often difficult, if not impossible, to verify, so proceed with caution.

Despite the many claims made, clinical research doesn't appear to support the efficacy of weed detox pills at this time. Still, that hasn't deterred countless consumers from listening to years of positive anecdotal feedback.

"There are many users who have positive things to say about using them when needed. But that doesn't guarantee they will work for everyone or even every time for the same person," said Dr. Kessler. 

Are there any side effects or potential risks to taking detox pills?

Detox pills of any kind run the risk of several adverse side effects. They may include:

  • Drug Interactions
  • Dehydration
  • Overdose
  • Rapid Heartbeat  
  • Skin Rash 
  • Vomiting  

There is particular concern around possible drug and supplement interactions. Consult with your physician to address any potential issues before trying a detox pill or plan. 

With THC detox pills being almost entirely unregulated, their ingredients and formulations can sometimes contain more than the recommended dose of compounds. Such is the case with niacin, also known as nicotinic acid or vitamin B3. Niacin is an FDA-regulated prescribed option primarily for cholesterol control. It is also sold over-the-counter as a supplement. But most cannabis consumers probably know that niacin is a common component in numerous weed detox programs and products, particularly anyone looking to beat a urine drug test.

While many consumers claim niacin detoxes have helped them beat drug tests, they come with a reasonable degree of warning. Depending on the product, you may consume an excess daily amount of niacin, leading to unwanted outcomes. An adult consuming more than the daily recommended 14–16 mg per day may find themselves experiencing adverse outcomes, including a heartbeat over 100 beats per minute (tachycardia), flushing, skin rash, and vomiting.1

How to use weed detox pills

How do I use THC detox pills? What is the right dosage?

Usage varies by the product, but weed detox pills are consumed orally. As with anything new you are embarking on, follow the instructions when first dosing. Consumers need to pay particular attention to the recommended dosage. 

"In the case of niacin, a daily dose of 14-16mg per day is appropriate for non-therapeutic doses," said Dr. Kessler. 

Can detox pills interact with medication?

Anyone planning on using THC detox pills should examine the ingredients thoroughly before using them. As an unregulated product, producers often create unique formulations to make their detox products stand out. Unique formulations can include varying doses of common ingredients as well as possible introductions of lesser-used herbs, compounds, and other ingredients aimed at flushing the system. 

"Many detox pills are made with herbs that are known to interact with several medications," added Dr. Kessler. 

In addition to looking over the ingredients, it is wise to consult a trusted medical professional who understands your medical history and any medications or supplements you may be on. Consider these factors and possible risks of drug interaction before proceeding.

Weed detox pills vs THC detox drinks

Do detox pills work faster than THC detox drinks?

There's no clear-cut answer to this question, as we still aren't sure about the efficacy of THC detox options in general. Some brands will claim that their formulation is superior to others. This is the case with certain pills, drinks, and other options.

"Be sure to read any instructions," advised Dr. Kessler, adding that clinical research hasn't proven detox pills or drinks to work any faster than natural methods such as exercise, staying hydrated, or - the most proven method - abstaining from cannabis consumption. 

Natural alternatives to THC detox pills

What are some safety precautions I should consider when taking THC detox pills?

It's always wise to proceed with caution when consuming any new product. The recommendation is emphasized that much more when using an unregulated product like most detox products. Before using any detox products, be sure to:

  • Follow the instructions   
  • Consider your medical history
  • Consider the reviews and experiences of past consumers (in-person and online)

"If you have any adverse reactions, seek medical attention immediately," Dr. Kessler advised. 

Are there safer alternatives to THC detox pills? What are they?

It's difficult to say what's a safer option when we know so little about unregulated detox products. What we do know is that THC detox pills and products haven't been clinically proven to be any more effective than natural practices, like staying hydrated, physical exercise, and abstaining from cannabis for an undetermined prolonged period.

"In general, natural methods are much safer than over-the-counter supplements," said Dr. Kessler.

However, many do swear by the efficacy of weed detox products. If you choose to try one, consider the risks and rewards, as well as your unique medical needs and preferences, to decide which product is right for you.

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References

  1. Fayyaz B, Rehman HJ, Upreti S. Beating the urine drug test - a case report on niacin toxicity. J Community Hosp Intern Med Perspect. 2018;8(2):73-75. Published 2018 Apr 17. doi:10.1080/20009666.2018.1438726 ↩︎

The information in this article and any included images or charts are for educational purposes only. This information is neither a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional legal advice or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about laws, regulations, or your health, you should always consult with an attorney, physician or other licensed professional.

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