Does the above name ring a bell? Most likely not. This could be because you are neither Canadian nor a fan of snowboarding.
He was the first ever male athlete to win an Olympic gold medal in snowboarding. This was back in the 1988 Olympics held in Nagano, Japan. Shortly after, his gold medal was withdrawn following discovery of THC in his blood stream. He later appealed and the automatic disqualification was reversed.
This is only one in the many horror stories that a ton of athletes have had to go through. Over the years, the amount of THC required to warrant disqualification has been revised upwards. This has been effected so as to only target the athletes who use THC or smoke marijuana during the competitions.
Athletes and other people who might have to take a drug test are left with two options: avoid the THC-containing substances or BEAT the test. Yeah, you heard me right. In this article we are going to dissect the idea of beating the THC test by sweating it out.
First things first
A proper understanding of basics regarding the interaction of THC with the body would be very important so as to understand the rationale behind the methods employed in beating the drug tests.
What is THC?
THC is the acronym for Tetrahydrocannabinnol. It is the psychoactive chemical found in cannabis and is responsible for a wide range of effects on the brain. This chemical is found aplenty in marijuana. It’s the one responsible for the ‘high’ experienced when one smokes marijuana.
What happens when I smoke marijuana?
Once you smoke marijuana/pot/weed or introduce THC into the body by whatever means, there is absorption into the blood stream. Much higher concentrations will be achieved with ingestion than with inhalation.(1) From the blood, THC then rapidly penetrates the adipose tissue, brain, muscle, liver, spleen and even lung tissue. In the long run, there will be slow redistribution from these tissues into the blood stream again.(2)
For how long will THC remain in my system?
The length of time that THC remains in the body will be dependent on the amount of THC ingested and the frequency of use. The half-life of THC in the body is usually 1.3 days in an infrequent user and 5-13 days for frequent user(3). This implies that if a frequent user introduces 40 mg of THC into their system it will take 5-13 days for the THC levels in the body to drop to 20 mg and another 5-13 days to drop to 10mg. it should be noted that following ingestion, residual THC will remain in the body for a long time.
How does THC exit the body?
Breakdown of THC takes place in the liver. The products of this breakdown are then excreted into feces and urine. It is these products of excretion that are detected during drug testing.
How is THC detected in the body?
Once introduced into the body, THC can be detectable in the sweat, saliva, hair, urine, nails and blood. This can be achieved via immunoassays and chromatographic techniques. (4) The preferred sample in most settings is urine due to higher concentration of metabolites and ease of handling. Moreover, it is easier to collect.
What is that we mentioned about sweating out THC?
Over time, various methods have been proposed on how to beat the drug test. Key among them; use of synthetic urine, dilution of urine, use of aspirin, use of detox products and the relatively new one, SWEATING THC OUT!(6)
As for now, now studies have been conducted to determine the effectiveness of sweating out THC as a method of beating the drug tests. Luckily, science is out best friend. It’s time we added flesh to the basics we discussed above so as to credit or discredit this method. We shall strive to make our argument as simple as possible.
The rationale behind this method is that since metabolites (products of breakdown) of THC are present in sweat, then the amount excreted wound increase with increasing perspiration.
Up to this stage we have avoided biochemistry jargon successfully, but we can’t afford that any longer. In order to understand if this method is likely to work, it will be imperative that we link up the breakdown of THC in the body and the metabolites that find their way into urine and sweat.
Events that culminate to the elimination of THC begin in the liver. A group of enzymes from the cytochrome p450 catalyze carboxylation and hydroxylation of the THC to produce a wide range of metabolites (7). Most of these metabolites are then passed out through urine and feces. The predominant metabolite in urine is THCCOOH while the predominant one in the urine is 11-OH-THC is predominant in the feces (5). It should be noted that NONE OF THESE METABOLITES ARE FOUND IN SWEAT.
How about some numbers
65% of the THC that enters the body is excreted in feces while 20% is excreted in the urine. (6) The rest is then detectable in the adipose tissues, liver, hair, nails and even sweat.
From the above we can deduce that it would be next to impossible to sweat out significant amounts of THC from the system. This is for three reasons. Firstly, no caboxylated or hydroxylated metabolites are excreted through the skin. (8) This implies that a large percentage of THC will definitely have to go through the urine.
Secondly, when one loses water through sweating there is reduction in the body water and a subsequent concentration of the urine as a mechanism by the body to conserve water. This would be in direct conflict with the rationale employed by other methods of beating the drug test. One of the method used is the dilution of urine prior to taking the drug test so as to reduce the levels of THC. By trying to sweat out the THC, urine becomes more concentrated making it easier to detect high levels of THC in the system.
Thirdly, the half-life of THC in the body is not so much dependent on physical activity. Other factors such as body fat content (because THC is highly fat soluble), dose of THC and frequency of use would take a front seat.
Based on the scientific evidence we have fronted; we feel that this is unlikely to be a reliable method of trying to beat a drug test especially on a short notice. It would be prudent to try it only as a last resort.
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