Weed Control 

Can I really take a massive dose of niacin to beat a drug test?

—Brandon

Only if you'd like an honorable Darwin Award, the literary chronicle of those who improve the gene pool by removing themselves from it. Unlike boning-up for the SATs, this is a bit of test prep that is not recommended. Yes, swallowing a handful of vitamins is significantly easier than duct-taping a Ziploc bag of your buddy's "clean" urine against your thigh or, heaven forbid, ceasing to smoke pot altogether. But risking an overdose in an attempt to keep—or get—a job, or retain your starting linebacker position, could only be considered reefer madness. And, one important thing you'll discover when the doctors finally rouse you back to consciousness: It doesn't even work.

Allow me to give you an abridged profile of your fair-weather friend: Niacin is one of the B vitamins—B3, to be specific—and is an essential nutrient in the prevention of pellagra, a disease characterized by roughened skin, diarrhea, dementia and eventual death. At one time, pellagra was common in parts of Africa, South America, even in the Southern United States due to a reliance on corn as the major source of protein. Naturally low in niacin, corn contains tryptophan (an amino acid) from which our bodies can actually create the vitamin. But, complicating matters, release of tryptophan from corn requires the addition of some sort of alkaline substance. For this purpose or by accident, some indigenous people added powdered limestone to their corn flour, or soaked their corn kernels in lye (making hominy). How they recognized this is a tale lost to history, but it's a good bet they didn't discover it while they were wasted.

In an equally puzzling way, niacin has gained a reputation as the Toker's Cloaker. One explanation may be confusion over the word "flush." Those who attempt to beat drug tests are eternally looking for ways to "flush out" the tattletale metabolites from their urine and blood. Niacin supplements, coincidentally, have a well-known side effect of facial flushing—a red, itchy and hot sensation on the skin of the face. Facial flushing feels exactly like embarrassment, akin to when your friends remind you of your stoned, convulsive laughter at the napkin dispenser last night at the Taco Bell. Is it really possible that people could mistake these two very different definitions of flushing? Directing your attention back to that moment at Taco Bell, my answer, sadly, is yes.

The buzz about niacin, among the buzzed, may also have its origin in the physician-directed use of the vitamin to lower cholesterol levels. Niacin is known to block the breakdown of certain fats. This is particularly helpful to patients at risk of heart attacks because it may slow the production of "bad cholesterol" circulating in the blood. High amounts of this type of cholesterol can thicken layers of arterial plaques that clog blood vessels. The connection? Unlike many other drugs whose breakdown products are water-soluble (and therefore excreted within days), marijuana residues are generally stored in the body's fat. This makes cannabis detectable by urine testing for weeks (up to a couple of months for chronic users) since the scandalous evidence is slowly released as fat breaks down. High doses of niacin are believed to block that breakdown, thereby bogarting, if you will, the evidence of marijuana use. This is a reasonable expectation, perhaps—especially when you're high—but completely false. Not only will the pot show up in your urine anyway, you'll likely end up in the emergency room. Bummer, dude.

Excessive doses of niacin can cause dizziness, vomiting, heart palpitations and liver toxicity. In rare cases, liver transplantation has been required. Also noteworthy, very high levels of this vitamin have been linked to birth defects. In a recent review of cases published in the journal, Annals of Emergency Medicine, doctors described four unfortunate souls who tried to beat their workplace drug tests with this method. Their fates were exactly as expected, and none, apparently, fooled the urine inspector.

In my brief perusal of the subject as a whole, there doesn't appear to be any infallible method of outfoxing a marijuana drug test. A better idea would be to abstain altogether, at least for a month or two. You may choose to dismiss this suggestion, but don't overlook the benefits: You get to keep your job, repair your relationship with the Taco Bell night manager, and—without a leaking bag of urine in your pants—you'll no longer smell like an under-funded nursing home.

Dr. Ed Rabin is a chiropractor practicing at Life Chiropractic Center in Boise. Send hemp clothing and health-related questions to theantidote@edrabin.com (on the Web at www.edrabin.com).

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