Vitameata-Niacin : Take a Vitamin to Pass a Drug Test?

It’s the first day of spring semester and the last thing anyone wants to see is a sun burnt classmate who spent too much time in the Caribbean. Yet, today we can’t always be so sure that's where the redness came from.  A fair amount of marijuana users have now looked to the “Niacin Flush” to help them avoid a positive drug test. The debate on the efficacy (usefulness) of this practice takes place all over the internet and college campuses. Many swear by it, and others point out that there is no proof. I myself thought it laughable. I would have been more entertained by my lobster colored room-mates if it wasn’t for the worry I had for their livers. It would be nice to say, “Stop! You’re an idiot, plus you’re killing your liver.”  The search for the “smoking gun” against Niacin has been unsuccessful; plus there might actually be something to it after all.

When you smoke the THC goes into your bloodstream and begins to alter cognitive function. That’s a given. What happens after the “high” is really where this Niacin story begins. THC is oxidized by the P450 cytochrome system in the liver, the same family of enzymes that metabolize most of the drugs ingested into the body.  If THC remained only in the blood the liver would eventually turn all of it into metabolites and it would make its way into your toilet, one way or another.  Instead, THC is sucked into adipose (fat) tissue; possibly attached to free fatty acids. Over time the THC slowly and passively leaks its way into the blood, which is one reason THC stays detectable for longer periods then alcohol or cocaine.

Niacin has an intimate relationship with adipose cells and cholesterol, and it is currently used as a cholesterol lowering agent. How niacin lowers cholesterol is not 100% known, but there are pretty solid assumptions. Its thought Niacin keeps adipose cells from releasing fat (triglycerides) into the blood and back to the liver by blocking a receptor on the fat cell. The lack of triglycerides arriving in the liver causes a positive change in the ratio between LDL, HDL, and VLDL cholesterol.

>>> This is where my “hypothesis” starts<<<

If Niacin decreases some excretory actions of adipose cells, then it’s plausible that THC release into the blood is affected.  A PubMed search of “Niacin and THC” produced an Australian study done on mice that demonstrated this possibility. The researchers gave the mice THC and measured the concentrations in fat cells and blood. They then gave the mice Adrenocorticotropic Hormone (ACTH) which signals the release of more fat through a protein called Hormone Sensitive Lipase located on the fat cells. The mice showed higher amounts of THC in their blood when the ACTH was present. The point of the study was to investigate “reintoxication” in malnourished individuals (1). It turns out that Niacin works by blocking Hormone Sensitive Lipase. If more hormone equals more THC isn’t it possible less hormone equals less THC in the blood?  Less THC in the blood means a lower metabolite concentration for urine tests to try and detect.

>>> Hypothesis ends<<<

It is very important to remember I am only saying, “Hey, this kind of makes sense.” There are a few things that are definite. Niacin should not be overdosed on (2). It naturally produces a red flush and itching, which is one reason physicians sometimes don’t prescribe it, but what happens during even a small overdose is not healthy. You don’t know the condition of your liver, just because a buddy survived a few days of itching and scratching doesn’t mean you will. An article in the Journal of Emergency Medicine chronicles the 10day ordeal one Niacin user went through after trying to beat his drug test.                                            

Take over the counter Niacin as instructed on the bottle in addition to a time-out from smoking if you want to go this route. If my assumption is anywhere near the truth then the amount of niacin ingested would be irrelevant. There are only so many Hormone Sensitive Lipases around and more Niacin is not going to work any better.

  If you’ve come looking for a flush suggestion for tomorrows drug test then please take my advice and don’t take 2X,3X + more Niacin then the bottle suggests, it isn’t worth it. Fake an illness and get the test delayed, it’s better for everyone in the long run. Food poisoning is a great place to start.

N Gunasekaran, LE Long, BL Dawson, GH Hansen, DP Richardson, KM Li, JC Arnold, and IS McGregor "Reintoxication: the release of fat-stored Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) into blood is enhanced by food deprivation or ACTH exposure" The British Pharmacological Society . 2009. November; 158(5): 1330–1337.

Daul, A. M. and M. C. Beuhler "Niacin Toxicity Resulting From Urine Drug Test Evasion Scheme." The Journal of Emergency Medicine In Press, Corrected Proof.