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Niacin For Passing Drug Tests: Does It “Flush” Metabolites To Detox?

Niacin, also referred to as nicotinic acid and “vitamin B3” is a colorless, hydrophilic organic compound derived from pyridine that was initially documented by chemist Hugo Weidel in 1873 while investigating the properties of nicotine.  In 1937, biochemist named Conrad Elvehjem successfully extracted niacin from the liver and dubbed the compound “pellagra-preventing factor” on the basis that it appeared to prevent pellagra.  The term niacin emerged as a portmanteau of the terms “nicotinic acid” plus “vitamin” and was frequently called “vitamin PP” (for pellagra prevention).

It is understood that niacin is a precursor of coenzymes NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) and NADP (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate).  NAD plays a role in the breakdown of fats, carbs, proteins, alcohols, and is implicated in DNA repair – whereas NADP is primarily involved in synthesis of fatty acids and cholesterol.  Niacin is a biologically essential vitamin in that a niacin deficiency can cause conditions such as: pellagra (characterized by cognitive dysfunction, dermatitis, diarrhea, and neuropsychiatric symptoms), Hartnup disease, and carcinoid syndrome.

Though sufficient dietary niacin intake is necessary for healthy biological function, many believe that extra niacin in the form of supplements might be useful for other purposes, including to pass an upcoming drug test.  Anecdotal claims circulating around the internet suggest that mega-dosing with niacin supplements prior to a drug test will yield a negative result and any substances will remain undetected even if they were recently ingested.  That said, the scientific literature suggests that mega-dosing with niacin will not alter drug test results and could be dangerous.

Niacin Flush Drug Test Method: The Alleged Detox (How It Works…)

Some suspect that niacin is highly effective for “flushing” any drug out of a person’s system at a fast pace, thereby helping them pass a drug test on short notice.  Anecdotal reports on the internet attribute mega-dosing with niacin supplements as the primary reason for passing a drug test on extremely short notice.  Supplementing with niacin to pass a drug test is a strategy most commonly employed by regular users of marijuana in effort to eliminate THC from their system quickly.  Though there’s no evidence to support the safety nor efficacy of this method, below is a brief overview of how people often use niacin to expedite drug elimination and pass a drug test.

1. User discontinues drug ASAP: The first step in the niacin method involves discontinuation of the illicit drug that might be detected on an upcoming drug test. Even if niacin is supplemented, it’s not necessarily going to cover up an illicit drug if an individual continues his/her usage up until the day of the test. Proponents of the niacin method suggest that without discontinuation of illicit drugs at least 3 days before the test, the niacin supplementation will not prove efficacious to pass.  Most online resources recommending the method suggest that it’s only likely to be effective when implemented at least 5-7+ consecutive days before the drug screening.

2. Niacin supplements: After the illicit substance is discontinued, the second step in the niacin method involves purchasing niacin supplements. There’s debate as to whether the specific format (e.g. slow release vs. immediate release) and dosing of niacin makes a difference in the method’s effectiveness. A majority of those who claim to have success with the method recommend the “slow release” version of niacin.  Additionally, there’s no exact dose of niacin that’s agreed upon to help pass the test, so recommendations online seem to vary.

At the high end of the spectrum, individuals have reported success taking up to 2500 mg niacin per day, whereas others report success with much lower doses of just 250 mg per day.  To put things in perspective, the RDA (recommended daily allowance) of niacin falls between 14 mg and 18 mg.  Those using the “niacin” method to pass a drug test may end up taking nearly 178-fold the recommended daily allowance during supplementation.

When supplementing, most resources recommend administering niacin in 3 to 5 divided doses per day if using an “immediate release” niacin.  Divided dosing is thought to be easier for the body to handle (especially if the niacin is immediate release).  Moreover, divided dosing is hypothesized to minimize likelihood of serious adverse reactions to high doses.

3. Drinking lots of water: While taking mega daily doses of niacin (250 mg to 2500 mg) to increased odds of passing a drug test, adherents recommend drinking up to 2 gallons of water per day. For reference, an adequate intake (AI) of water per day is estimated as being 13 cups, which converts to around 0.81 gallons. With the niacin method, individuals are drinking over double the “adequate intake” of water, which could lead to toxicity in some cases.

The reason copious amounts of water are recommended for consumption is to help excrete as much THC as possible after niacin has metabolized THC-containing lipids.  It is recommended to avoid drinking a full 2 gallons of water in a single sitting as this increases odds of toxicity.  In other words, water intake is supposed to be high, but spaced out to avoid toxicity and augment the detoxification process.

4. Continue for days: There’s debate as to how long the niacin method necessitates continuation to help individuals “pass” their drug test. Some resources recommend that the niacin method should be implemented at least 5+ consecutive days before the drug test for best results. The theory is that niacin expedites catabolism of THC metabolites and high water intake flushes these metabolites out of the system at a quicker rate than usual.  If implemented at least 5+ days before a drug test, most suspect that individuals should have no problem detoxifying enough to “pass” a drug test.

5. Drug test day: To increase odds of passing the drug test, some sources recommend continuing niacin supplementation on the day of the test – whereas others strongly disagree with this recommendation. Those who recommend supplemental niacin on the day of testing typically suggest at least 1000 mg be taken with upwards of 2 full bottles of water. In addition, it is commonly recommended that individuals urinate at least 3 times prior to their test to excrete as many THC metabolites as possible before the actual test.  While taking the actual test, a strategy recommended is to capture only urine “mid stream” for the urinalysis.  Some suspect that “mid stream” urination should contain fewer THC metabolites and will maximize likelihood of passing the drug test.

Will taking Niacin (Vitamin B3) for drug tests really help you pass?

Probably not.  Although the claim that taking niacin helps pass a drug test continues to circulate online, there’s zero legitimate evidence to support it.  It doesn’t make much sense that mega-dosing with niacin 5-7+ days before a drug test would somehow eliminate a detectable substance (e.g. THC) from the body at a faster pace than usual.  In other words, a person’s likelihood of passing a drug test should be similar regardless of whether they mega-dosed with niacin 2 weeks prior to the test OR skipped niacin supplementation altogether.

Anecdotal reports from individuals that have implemented the niacin method in hopes of passing their test reveal mixed efficacy.  A subset of individuals legitimately believes that mega-dosing with niacin was the only reason that they passed a drug test.  Another subset of individuals believes that niacin might help with passing a drug test, but that it is unlikely to be the only reason for passing.

Others are convinced that success rates with the niacin method are subject to individual variation and details of the implementation such as: number of supplementation days prior to the drug test, dosage taken each day, format of niacin (e.g. slow release), amount of water consumed per day, and number of drug-free days before the test.  In other words, if the dose of niacin was too low or the supplementation wasn’t started at least 5-7 days before the drug test – then failure should be expected.  On the other hand, if dose of niacin is optimal and supplementation was initiated 1-2+ weeks before the drug test – then passing should be expected.

That said, nobody can verify that “passing” a drug test was 100% attributable to their strategic pre-test regimen of niacin supplementation.  No controlled (or even proof-of-concept) trials have been conducted to determine whether niacin mega-dosing modifies outcomes on drug screenings.  Based on the biological effects of exogenous niacin, there’s little reason to believe that it would expedite detoxification of drugs and/or metabolites, nor that it would somehow help pass a drug screening on short notice.

For this reason, there are many individuals that disregard reports that mega-dosing with niacin has an effect on drug test results.  Furthermore, others have tried the method as was outlined above (taking mega-doses, slow-release, drinking plenty of water, etc.) yet ended up failing their drug test.  It is also important to note that independent laboratories in the 1990s tested whether niacin would have any effect on THC drug screenings and concluded that it failed to alter urinalysis results.

Another subset of individuals does not think that niacin expedites elimination of THC, rather they believe it could help pass a drug test by altering coloring and/or chemicals within the urine.  On a run-of-the-mill drug test, drinking large amounts of water prior (overhydrating) to the test will dilute the urine enough so that certain substances cannot be detected on the urinalysis, however, overly diluted samples will be flagged for a retake.  The theory is that niacin adds some color and/or constituents to the urine so that individuals won’t get flagged for a retake.

Unfortunately, even the theory that niacin modifies urine color and constituents enough to generate a “false” negative on the drug test is a misnomer.  Niacin is not understood to alter urine color like Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) which is orange-ish and associated with yellower urinary excretions.  In summary, although niacin is hyped as a godsend supplement for passing drug tests on short notice, there’s little reason to think it increases your odds of passing.

Factors that actually influence whether you’ll pass a drug test…

There are some well-known influential factors to consider that will affect your odds of passing or failing a drug test.  Many might wrongfully attribute their passing of a drug test to niacin, when it was simply related to more obvious influential factors.  Factors to consider when attempting to estimate whether you’ll pass or fail a drug test include: the specific drug utilized, recency of its ingestion, dosage administered, acute vs. chronic usage, individual (user) variables, and the test specifics.  Unless you carefully consider these factors, it may be a mistake to automatically conclude that niacin worked some sort of detoxification magic.

  1. Drug (Specifics)

The specific drug that you ingested prior to your drug test will be the greatest influencer of whether you “pass” or “fail” your test.  Certain drugs such as barbiturates won’t be detectable on a standardized drug test (e.g. SAMHSA-5), so it’s always necessary to verify the type of test in respect to the drug you recently ingested.  Additionally, it is known that certain drugs like amphetamine are eliminated from systemic circulation at a much faster rate than substances like THC.

For this reason, if you ingested amphetamine 1 week before your drug test, pass the test, and attribute your passing of the test to your supplementation with niacin, this attribution is erroneous.  The amphetamine would’ve been eliminated from your system in less than a week, making it difficult to detect regardless of your niacin supplementation.  To determine how long a specific drug stays in your system, it is necessary to determine its biological half-life.

Thereafter, investigate whether any of its metabolites may be detected on the drug test and if they exhibit longer half-lives than the parent compound.  Multiply the longest half-life (of the drug or its metabolites) by 5.5 for an estimate as to how long the drug will remain detectable in your system.  You may be surprised to learn that the drug will have been eliminated from systemic circulation well before the drug test – irrespective of your decision to supplement with niacin.

  1. Recency of usage

The more recently you ingested an illicit substance before your drug test, the greater the likelihood that it’ll be detectable and that you’ll end up “failing” the test.  If it’s been a longer duration since you last ingested an illicit substance, odds are favorable that the substance will be undetectable by the time of your test and that you’ll end up “passing.”  As was mentioned, certain substances such as amphetamine may be undetectable on a drug test even if used less than 1 week before the test (due to its shorter half-life), whereas other substances such as THC can remain in systemic circulation will likely be detected on a drug test if used less than 1 week before a drug test (due to its longer half-life).

When considering that the niacin method suggests at least 5 to 7 days of drug abstinence prior to testing for best results, it is likely that this is enough time for adequate systemic elimination of many illicit drugs (to pass a drug test) – regardless of the niacin supplementation.  Upon passing a drug test, many refuse to consider that the 5 to 7 days of abstinence prior to the test might have been the real reason they passed – rather than the niacin.  The refusal to consider duration of abstinence leads to more anecdotal reports in forums documenting that niacin “really works” to help pass a drug test.

  1. Dosage administered

The specific drug used, as well as the recency of usage play a major role in determining whether someone will pass or fail their drug test.  That said, another important influential factor to consider is the dosage taken.  Someone that ingested 100 mg of amphetamine will have a much tougher time passing an upcoming drug test than if that same individual ingested just 10 mg.

After 100 mg of amphetamine, it’ll take around 2.75 days (66 hours) for the circulating concentration of dextroamphetamine within a person’s system to have dropped to a low level of 1.56 mg.  By comparison, it’ll take half the time (1.375 days) for the person who ingested just 10 mg to exhibit a circulating concentration of 1.25 mg.  Research shows that the dosage matters in terms of elimination speed.

Anyone who takes an unnecessarily high dose of an illicit drug (such as in an overdose) will find that the drug exhibits a much longer half-life compared to its half-life at standard doses.  A large dose of any substance requires more time to for absorption and metabolism is less efficient, chiefly due to the greater burden placed upon on hepatic enzymes (e.g. CYP450).  It is also known that a larger dose yields a greater number of metabolites, each of which might undergo storage (possibly in lipids if the substance is lipophilic).

The greater the number of metabolites stored in fat cells after ingestion of a large dose, the longer the duration it’ll take for complete systemic elimination.  Not only might some metabolites linger in fat stores for a longer duration than others, but urinary excretion might be less efficient due to the larger quantity of the substance necessitating elimination.  For this reason, you should always reflect upon the dosage of the drug that you took as a possible explanation for why you “passed” or “failed” your test.

In general, if you took an extremely high dose, you’ll need a longer duration of abstinence to pass the drug test.  If you took an extremely low dose (e.g. micro-dose), you may pass a drug test within a few days of your ingestion (depending on the drug).  Attributing your success with passing a drug test to niacin supplementation may be better explained by the size of your most recent dose.

  1. Acute vs. Chronic user

An acute drug user, or someone who uses a drug just once or twice over a short-term, has a much better chance of passing a drug test than a chronic user.  If you consider yourself an acute user, you may have only used an illicit drug on a single occasion or you might just use it on an infrequent basis.  Infrequent usage of a drug means that you will have spaced intervals of administration, making it unlikely that the compound or its metabolites will have accumulated significantly within your system.

The spaced intervals of administration mean that your body will have excreted most (if not all) of the drug from your previous usage.  Furthermore, acute users are unlikely to have developed a psychological and/or physical tolerance as a result of their spaced usage.  Lack of tolerance onset makes it more likely that acute users will have ingested low doses of a drug to attain a desired state of intoxication.

As was already mentioned, lower doses are absorbed and metabolized more efficiently than higher doses.  Additionally, fewer metabolites are formed (compared to high doses) and systemic elimination is more efficient.  Less accumulation and lower doses used (due to lack of tolerance) among acute users make it more likely that a drug test can be passed on short-notice compared to chronic users.

Conversely, anyone who considers themselves to be a chronic substance user, characterized by frequent ingestion of a drug, should expect to have a much tougher time passing his/her drug test.  Among chronic users, substances are administered frequently to attain intoxication, leaving smaller time intervals between doses.  These smaller time intervals between administrations make it unlikely that previous doses were fully eliminated from systemic circulation before the latest dose.

It is also known that chronic users have likely built up a high psychological and/or physical tolerance to the substance that they use.  This high tolerance increases odds that they’ll end up ingesting extremely large doses in attempt to attain intoxication (by overriding their current tolerance threshold).  As was already mentioned, large doses are absorbed, metabolized, and eliminated less efficiently than smaller ones.

The combination of accumulation (associated with frequent dosing) and high dose administration (resulting from tolerance) among chronic users, makes these individuals less likely to pass a drug test on short notice.  Individuals that have “success” with the niacin method and “pass” their drug test after implementation may have been acute (infrequent) users rather than chronic (frequent) ones.

  1. Individual variables

In addition to the specific drug you administered, recency of ingestion, the dosage, and whether you are an acute or chronic user – it is necessary to consider individual variables that may influence your likelihood of passing a drug test.  Individual variables that can influence how long a drug stays in your system (and respective odds of passing the test) include: your age, body composition, co-administered substances, genetics, and health conditions.

  • Age: A person’s age can have a significant impact on determining how long a substance will remain in systemic circulation. Generally, the younger a person is, the less time should be necessary for substance elimination.  Elderly individuals often exhibit declining organ function, health issues, and might be taking medications (for health conditions) – each of which might prolong elimination of a drug.  Some drugs are absorbed differently among the elderly (as a result of decreased small-bowel surface area, slower gastric emptying, and increased gastric pH).  Body fat is also understood to increase with age, whereas body water tends to decrease.  This means that elderly individuals are more likely to exhibit increased distribution volume of lipophilic substances (e.g. THC).  Hepatic metabolism is understood to decrease at a rate of around 1% per year after age 40 and renal clearance begins decreasing after age 30.  The older an individual, the longer an illicit substance (e.g. THC) should remain detectable.
  • Body composition: A person’s body composition also necessitates consideration when determining likelihood of passing or failing a drug test. The effect of body composition on drug elimination speed will largely be contingent upon the particular drug ingested and its dosage.  Many drugs are lipophilic (soluble in fat) or hydrophilic (soluble in water).  A drug like THC is lipophilic, meaning individuals with more body fat should retain it for a longer duration than those with a low body fat percentage.  On the other hand, a drug like amphetamine is hydrophilic and will be retained longer among those with lower body fat percentages.  Additionally, the dosage ingested relative to a person’s size (height and weight) can affect how long a drug remains in systemic circulation.
  • Co-administered substances: If you ingested an illicit drug, you may want to reflect whether you had been taking any other substances (e.g. supplements, medications, etc.) simultaneously. In the event that you ingested a substance that “induced” certain enzymes in your liver, the illicit drug you administered may have undergone quicker metabolism – leading to faster elimination than expected.  On the other hand, if you ingested a substance that “inhibited” certain enzymes in your liver, the illicit drug you administered may have undergone slower metabolism – leading to prolonged elimination.  Other substances that affect your gastrointestinal pH (acidifying vs. alkalinizing agents) may also influence the half-life of an illicit drug and its corresponding window of detection on a drug test.  Any co-administered substance that enhances or impairs organ function (liver and/or kidneys) could alter elimination time of an illicit drug.
  • Genetics: It is also very important to consider that genetics may dictate the duration a drug and/or its metabolites remain detectable on a drug test. Polymorphisms of genes that influence hepatic enzymes (e.g. CYP450) function could determine whether a drug will be rapidly or poorly metabolized.  A rapid metabolizer of an illicit substance will form a greater number of metabolites at a fast pace, whereas a poor metabolizer may form no metabolites and the drug may accumulate (due to lack of metabolism).  Other genes encoding for renal function could affect speed and/or efficiency of drug excretion.  Moreover, various genes implicated in detoxification pathways may also influence how long an illicit drug remains in systemic circulation.
  • Health conditions: If you’ve been diagnosed with a medical condition that affects your body’s ability to absorb, metabolize, excrete, and/or the distribution volume of an illicit drug – you may retain the substance for a longer duration than expected. For example, someone with hepatic impairment and/or renal insufficiency will have a much tougher time eliminating any substance from his/her system than persons with normative hepatic and renal function.  Should you experience any degree hepatic or renal dysfunction, the elimination half-life of most drugs will have increased, meaning you’ll require a longer duration of abstinence to pass the test.  Moreover, the medications that you take to treat certain health conditions may also interfere with drug elimination.
  • Other detox efforts: It is important to reflect upon whether you made any other efforts to detoxify your body besides taking niacin and drinking water. Did you exercise vigorously and/or spend hours in the sauna?  Did you consume other detoxification products and/or concoctions that you thought would help you pass a drug test?  Assuming you engaged in many detoxification efforts simultaneously, you may want to evaluate whether these other efforts may have been more influential in your passing of the drug test without niacin.  Do you think you might have passed without using supplemental niacin?
  1. Drug test details

The specific drug test that you will undergo (or have undergone) will affect your likelihood of “passing” or “failing.”  Assuming you are subject to a standard SAMHSA-5 panel drug test conducted by a laboratory without high quality control, you may be capable of passing even with fairly recent drug usage.  The SAMHSA-5 panel drug test evaluates for the presence of:  Cannabinoids, Cocaine, Amphetamines, Opiates, and Phencyclidine (PCP).

If you haven’t used any of the aforestated substances on the SAMHSA-5 panel, you should expect to pass the test without concern.  Furthermore, on standardized tests the threshold “cutoff” levels for drugs are generally lower than on more advanced or comprehensive tests.  In addition, lower quality control practices in standard labs may result in more individuals passing tests with “diluted” urine (from over-hydration) without being asked for a retake.

An extensive panel drug test will include all items on the SAMHSA-5 (Cannabinoids, Cocaine, Amphetamines, Opiates, and PCP) plus Barbiturates, Hydrocodone, Methaqualone, Benzodiazepines, Methadone, Propoxyphene, Alcohol, and MDMA.  In addition to testing for a greater number of substances, extensive panel drug tests may be conducted with lower cutoff values for detection.  Finally, quality control standards may be higher among those giving advanced panel testing, ensuring that anyone with diluted urine is flagged for a retake.

Finally, the type of test administered may be subject to variation.  It is most common for urine testing to be used, however, hair testing is also another reliable way to determine whether an individual has used illicit drugs.  A long-term substance user will have a much tougher time passing a hair assay than a urinalysis.

Niacin “Flush” for Drug Tests: Claims (List)

Individuals who have implemented the niacin method to successfully pass a drug test on short notice have come up with numerous reasons as to why supplementing with niacin was efficacious.  The specific explanations regarding how niacin helps for passing a drug test seem to differ based on the person asked.  It should be noted that many of the mechanistic hypotheses formed by adherents of the niacin protocol are not substantiated by relevant scientific literature.

Burns fat: Many people believe that taking mega-doses of niacin accelerates the burning of body fat.  Since substances like THC are lipophilic and remain distributed in fat stores after ingestion, it is hypothesized that niacin burns these fat stores, resulting in the release of THC into the bloodstream for elimination.  It is understood that niacin can suppress PCG-1beta in the liver and its downstream target apoC3, a protein that controls speed by which triglycerides are used by tissues and enter the blood stream.

High levels of apoC3 yields a high lipid level since apoC3 prevents triglyceride hydrolysis, but reductions in apoC3 facilitates quicker removal of lipids from within the body.  It is possible that this might have an effect on the elimination of THC.  That said, some may argue that the burning of lipid stores harboring THC would result in re-intoxication, as well as greater circulating concentrations in the bloodstream during a urine test – which may decrease odds of passing.

Correcting niacin deficits: Should anyone have a niacin deficiency (which is uncommon in developed countries), correcting niacin deficiencies should improve overall health and physiologic function.  It is reasonable to suspect that deficits in niacin might lead to altered metabolism of lipids harboring THC metabolites, possibly prolonging elimination.  Restoration of niacin concentrations within a healthy range should improve metabolic processes and compromised elimination speed of drugs resulting from a niacin deficit.

That said, there’s no research investigating changes in the half-life of various drugs (e.g. THC) in accordance with specific niacin levels (e.g. deficient, normative, elevated). Moreover, most individuals in developed countries are likely to be deficient in niacin.  In fact, excessive niacin over an extended duration is associated with insulin resistance and increased adipose tissue.

Detoxification: Some believe that administration of niacin as part of a multicomponent protocol can be highly effective for detoxification.  A specific program developed by L. Ron Hubbard (and the Church of Scientology) involves upward titrations of niacin, sauna therapy, exercise, supplementation with other nutrients, and consumption of electrolytes.  Small, uncontrolled research shows that niacin as part of a multicomponent protocol can decrease both serum and adipose concentrations of lipophilic compounds.

In detoxification research, it was shown that a protocol involving niacin supplementation reduced levels of hexachlorobenzene and polychlorinated biphenyls (each are lipophilic). Schnare and Robinson (1986) reported that in the study, participants were subject to heat stress plus received niacin supplements with polyunsaturated oil for a 3-week duration.  The burdens from the lipophilic chemicals had decreased 30% after treatment indicating statistical significance (compared to pre-treatment levels).

More research by Kilburn, Warsaw, and Shields (1991) documented that PCB exposure among firemen provoked neurological deficits, however, these deficits could be improved as a result of detoxification (using a protocol implementing niacin).  One might extrapolate findings of these studies and conclude that niacin could eliminate THC from fat stores quicker than usual – especially since PCBs exhibit half-lives of years (rather than hours/days like THC).  That said, most who implement the niacin method for detox generally do so just 5-7 days before a drug test (rather than 3-weeks, which was the duration included in the aforestated trial).

It should also be noted that in research of niacin as a detoxifier, it was not used as a standalone agent.  In the research, niacin was part of a multicomponent detoxification protocol involving sauna therapy, other supplements/nutrients, and exercise.  With this information, it is impossible to know distinguish whether other components of the therapy yielded more detoxifying benefit than the niacin and if the niacin supplementation was even necessary.

  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3110064/
  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2514627/

Flushing out THC metabolites:  Certain individuals remain convinced that niacin is somehow “flushing” out THC metabolites that may be detectable on a drug test.  These individuals assume that the flushing experienced as a common side effect of niacin is somehow related to a detoxification effect.  In reality, the side effect of flushing is a biological reaction to the high dose of niacin consumed.

Even more confusing is the fact that other individuals attribute the “flushing” as somehow being related to a histaminergic reaction.  Evidence suggests that the principal cause of flushing is related to the GPR109A activation of Langerhans cells and keratinocytes in the epidermis.  The Langerhans cells utilize COX-1 (cyclooxygenase type 1) to produce PGE2 (prostaglandin) and cause acute flushing, whereas the keratinocytes utilize COX-2 (cyclooxygenase type 2) to prolong vasodilation (perpetuating the flushing effect).

This mechanism of niacin-induced “flushing” of THC is debunked and doesn’t make logical sense.  The niacin does not somehow “burn” THC out of your body while you’re feeling flushed as a side effect.  Don’t be fooled by those who claim that feeling flushed is a sign that all the THC is surfacing for detox.

  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19691622

Modifies the urine: One means by which some suspect niacin helps with passing of a drug test involves modifying urinary constituents.  It has been said in forums that niacin adds color to the urine when taken in high doses.  As of current, there’s no reason to believe that niacin will color the urine yellow and those who claim that it does might be mistaking niacin with riboflavin (vitamin B2) which appears orange in color.

It is possible that ingesting niacin adds some sort of filler to the urine so that a substance appears within the urinary excretion rather than just water.  The excessive hydration (water intake) might be the principal reason that an individual passes his/her test, but the niacin is thought to cover up for the excessive hydration by adding a constituent to the urine, thereby reducing likelihood that the samples get flagged for a retake.  Those taking extremely high doses of niacin (e.g. 2500 mg) would certainly be expected to excrete some within the urine, and since this hasn’t been formally tested – the theory remains plausible.

Opens capillaries: A reason niacin causes flushing is related to its ability to induce GPR109A activation of Langerhans cells and keratinocytes in the epidermis.  This “flushing” effect is partially associated with the opening of epidermal capillaries which perpetuates vasodilation resulting from usage of COX-2 by keratinocytes.  Many believe that a reason niacin effectively detoxifies the body of drugs is related to opening of these capillaries.

Explanations on forums note that niacin opens up capillaries and pushes toxins that are somehow “stuck” back in the blood stream.  Others believe that the opening of epidermal capillaries makes it easier to excrete toxins through sweat.  It makes some sense that opening of epidermal capillaries may slightly enhance excretion of toxins and/or drug metabolites, however, the degree to which it does so remains unknown.

Prevents THC release: An entirely different mechanism by which niacin has been proposed to help with passing of a drug test has nothing to do with modifying urinary constituents nor with accelerating the catabolism of THC-containing fat stores.  Some have stated that niacin might inhibit lipolysis, whereby THC-containing fat stores aren’t metabolized.  The lack of THC-containing fat store metabolism may lead to a reduction in THC within the bloodstream.

Lower levels of circulating THC in the bloodstream may lead to minimal or nonexistent THC within the urine for a urinalysis.  Though not much research has been conducted to understand whether niacin supplementation may inhibit lipolysis, some suggests that it does.  A study by Ali, Mundi, Koutsari, et al. (2015) documents that niacin is capable of suppressing lipolysis (the breakdown of fat stores).

Though niacin-induced inhibition of lipolysis may minimize the appearance of THC within urinary excretion, it is also possible that wouldn’t and/or that this theory is incorrect.  Mega-doses of niacin may slow lipolysis enough so that negligible amounts of THC are released from fat stores, making it more difficult to detect on a drug test – especially when coupled with high water intake.  That said, unless this theory is tested, it will remain unclear as to whether it may be accurate.

  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25883112

Speeds up metabolism: Many proponents of niacin for detoxification and/or to help pass a drug test suggest that it somehow speeds up the body’s metabolism.  To set the facts straight, niacin is understood to play a role in metabolic processes such as the conversion of carbohydrates to glucose.  In other words, adequate niacin supports your body’s ability to convert the food you consume (carbs, proteins, fats) into energy.

When individuals hear that niacin supports metabolism, many assume that it helps them burn calories (or body fat) and promotes weight loss.  There’s no evidence to suggest that niacin supplementation affects a person’s basal metabolic rate, nor that it promotes weight loss.  If you were to supplement with niacin, all that it’s doing is supporting your body’s ability to convert the food that you consume into energy.

Niacin will NOT prevent you from getting fat and/or gaining weight from consumption of excessive calories – your body still stores excessive glucose as fat.  In fact, there’s some reason to believe that excessive niacin intake over an extended duration may add body fat (adipose tissue) and promote insulin resistance.  A study by Heemskerk, van den Berg, and Pronk (2014) documented that niacin supplementation over a long-term downregulated PDE3B (phosphodiesterase 3B) which induced insulin resistance and decreased lipolysis of adipose tissue.

High-dose niacin supplementation does not “speed up” a person’s basal metabolic rate (BMR) to explain expedited catabolism of fat cells.  All it does is support the metabolic breakdown of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins so that the body can use them for energy.  Unless an individual was deficient in niacin (most aren’t), supplemental niacin won’t have any effect on metabolism.  In fact, the insulin resistance and/or decreased lipolysis after long-term supplementation suggests that it may induce biological responses that impair metabolic rate.

  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24473440

Rapid elimination: Many are convinced that niacin somehow promotes rapid elimination of THC (and other lipophilic metabolites) from the body.  While there’s some research to suggest that multicomponent detoxification protocols (of which niacin is a component) could accelerate the body’s ability to excrete lipophilic substances such as PCBs, it is unknown as to whether niacin was the most important component.  Furthermore, most studies reporting efficacy were conducted over extended durations (e.g. 3+ weeks) rather than just 3 to 7 days.

That said, in the studies investigating the detoxification methods, 30% reductions in PCBs were discovered after 3 weeks of adherence to the protocol.  PCBs have a significantly longer half-life than THC (and other drugs), and based on this comparison, we might surmise that similar detoxification protocols (with niacin) may eliminate THC much quicker than PCBs.  Therefore, it is plausible that lipophilic compounds with a much shorter half-life could (theoretically) be eliminated from the body much quicker (e.g. in 3 to 5 days time), resulting in the passing of a drug test on short notice.

Still, there is zero proof that niacin alone (or with high intake of water) facilitates rapid elimination of lipophilic compounds from the body.  For this reason, many are skeptical of niacin’s ability to eliminate lipophilic metabolites of illicit drugs from the body in a short duration (e.g. 3 to 7 days).  Others are open to the idea that niacin might accelerate THC elimination, but suspect it would need to be administered for at least 10+ days (or several weeks) for expedited detoxification.

Commonalities of those who passed a drug test using the niacin method…

If investigating reports of individuals that claim to have had success with the niacin method to pass a drug test, it may be helpful to outline some commonalities of the successes.  It should be noted that niacin itself may not be the critical reason as to why someone may have passed his/her drug test.  Various commonalities among those experiencing success may better explain why a person passed his/her drug test.  Moreover, it is possible that only when niacin is used as part of a multicomponent strategy will it increase a person’s odds of passing his/her drug test.

  • Drug discontinuation ASAP: Those that have had success with niacin to pass a drug test often discontinued their illicit drug usage as soon as possible. Some recommend that the niacin method can be effective if a substance is discontinued 3+ days prior to the test, whereas others note that a drug-free period of 5-7+ days is necessary for the niacin method to work.  While it is possible that early drug discontinuation plus niacin lead to passing, it is also possible that early drug discontinuation alone was the reason for passing.
  • Drinking a lot of water: It is well-documented that drinking excessive amounts of water can sufficiently dilute a urine sample to pass a drug test. For this reason, passing the drug test may have been more attributed to high water intake (e.g. 2+ gallons per day) rather than niacin supplementation.  Some may have convinced themselves that the niacin somehow released THC into the bloodstream and that the THC was getting rapidly eliminated by water consumption.  It is more likely that drinking a lot of water may have diluted a urine sample enough to pass the drug test without getting flagged.  When this is coupled with early discontinuation of a substance (e.g. 7+ days in advance), odds of passing a drug test may further increase.
  • Exercise: Most who pass a drug test using the niacin method claim to exercise vigorously in the 3 to 7 days before their test. It is possible that exercise plus niacin has some sort of synergistic effect for expelling metabolites through a person’s sweat.  Another possibility is that exercise allows an individual to consume even more water and facilitates the burning of body fat to eliminate a bit of extra THC.  That said, based on most research of exercise to detox for a drug test, it is unlikely to be highly effective.  Still, it is important to mention that most who are successful with the niacin method tend to exercise.
  • Mega-dosing: Though a small number of individuals claim to have success passing a drug test with low doses of niacin, a majority who pass are taking between 1000 mg and 2500 mg per day. It is possible that any critical mechanism by which niacin may increase likelihood of passing a drug test is amplified at extremely high doses.  In other words, taking just 250 mg per day may be 10-fold less effective than 2500 mg per day for the detox.
  • Other diluters/detoxifiers: Many individuals reporting success with niacin supplementation to pass a drug test utilized other forms of urinary diluters and/or detoxifiers. This means that individuals may shovel down substances in effort to dilute their urine (to manipulate urinalysis results) and/or supplement to detoxify from drug metabolites.  For example, drinking large amounts of water, sugar, creatine, and vitamin B2 (riboflavin) is sometimes sufficient to manipulate urinary excretion enough to pass a drug test.  Since those who are successful with the niacin method often administer a variety of other substances, they cannot be 100% sure their success was specifically due to the niacin.
  • Sauna usage: Not all those who were successful with the niacin method reported using a sauna, but some did. It is possible that in cases of success, saunas facilitated sweat production to complement the opening of epidermal capillaries by niacin, ultimately accelerating detoxification.  On the other hand, it is reasonable to assume that regular sauna usage may have been more useful for getting a small amount (just enough) of the THC out of a person’s system to pass a drug test – especially when coupled with early drug discontinuation and heavy water consumption.
  • Slow-release niacin: Another finding among those reporting success with niacin protocols to pass a drug test is the usage of slow-release niacin. Slow-release niacin is engineered to gradually release niacin into the body over an extended duration rather than all-at-once.  Those who are less successful with the niacin protocol often use immediate release niacin (non-slow release) and fail to divide doses evenly throughout the day.  It should be noted that while most cases of success involve slow-release niacin, some successes have reported using standard (non-slow release) versions.
  • Standard drug test: Those implementing the niacin method to “pass” a drug test often are subject to standard, run-of-the-mill drug tests. These standard drug tests may not have the best quality control and “passing” of one of these tests may be related to an avoidance of flagging urine samples as a result of dilution.  It is known that sometimes simply drinking a lot of water can help a person pass his/her drug test (without any supplementation) as a result of dilution.  Most standard drug tests have the highest cutoff levels for detection (e.g. 50 ng/mL) compared to more comprehensive panels, making it easier to pass.  In the event that you were tested for drugs by a government laboratory, urine is immediately flagged if dilution or abnormalities are suspected, making it more challenging to pass.

Bottom line: Niacin was probably not the reason you passed your drug test

Even if you genuinely believe that niacin supplementation was the primary reason you passed a drug test, critical evaluation would likely reveal that it wasn’t.  Testing conducted by Byrd Laboratories in the 1990s concluded that niacin was completely ineffective for eliminating illicit drugs (and their metabolites) from a person’s system to pass a drug test.  What’s interesting is that workers at Byrd Laboratories were hoping to come up with a way to manipulate drug test results because they perceived the testing as unethical.

Even with the hopes that niacin supplementation might help individuals pass a drug screening, Byrd Laboratories documented zero benefit.  In other words, they were looking for a positive result, yet actual testing revealed no effect.  Some may be critical of the investigation conducted by Byrd Labs on the basis that the details of the research such as: dosing of niacin, format of niacin, number of days administered, recency drug usage/dosage (before the test), etc. – were not made public.

Nonetheless, Byrd Labs’ formal investigation of niacin supplementation as a potential shortcut to pass a drug test seems to be the only investigation that’s ever taken place.  Those who report that niacin really works for passing a THC test cannot support their claims with any valid investigations.  Instead, they cite personal anecdotes and/or attempt to explain why niacin supplements help with passing a drug test, often documenting inaccurate and/or hypothetical mechanisms of its “detox” action.

The most likely reason that you passed a drug screening following the niacin method has to do with recency of drug usage, the dosage you took, and whether you were a regular user.  Casual and/or infrequent marijuana users are capable of eliminating all cannabinoid metabolites from systemic circulation in as soon as 4 days.  When considering that those using the niacin method end up drinking exorbitant quantities of water, the elimination of most metabolites (following early discontinuation) plus water dilution likely explains why many so many people pass with the niacin method – even though the niacin probably had nothing to do with it.

Niacin To Pass Drug Tests: Case Reports of Adverse Reactions

Since the exact number of individuals per year that implement the niacin method in attempt to pass a drug test remains unknown, it is impossible to determine the percentage of implementers that experience adverse events.  That said, several case reports describe serious adverse reactions among persons implementing the niacin method to pass urine-based drug screenings.  Medical professionals and researchers emphasize a need to educate populations [most likely to utilize mega-doses of niacin to modify drug test results] of the possible adverse effects and/or life-threatening outcomes.

2014: Acute liver failure secondary to niacin toxicity.

Ellsworth, Anderson, Hall, et al. (2014) documented a case report in which a 17-year-old male experienced acute hepatic failure as a result of niacin toxicity.  The case report mentioned that the 17-year-old was recently released from an alcohol treatment center and was admitted to the hospital with severe unexpected chest pain.  Though his initial cardiac evaluation revealed no significant abnormalities, it was discovered that his coagulation, prothrombin time, plus activated partial thromboplastin time were irregular.

In addition, his liver transaminase concentrations appeared high.  No other problems were found after X-rays, a toxicology screening (for illicit drugs), an ultrasound, and acetaminophen assays.  Moreover, his blood count, electrolytes, and renal function were all considered normative and no signs of serious medical illness were apparent.  When questioned about possible illicit drug ingestion, the patient denied having used any illicit substances.

The individual underwent treatment for his acute liver failure with fresh plasma and vitamin K, exhibiting quick and substantial improvement in liver function.  Additional questioning of the patient resulted in a confession to ingesting an unknown quantity of over-the-counter niacin (vitamin B3) in attempt to pass an upcoming drug test.  The 17-year-old cited websites on the Internet as suggesting that niacin could conceal recent ingestion of marijuana (THC metabolites) on a drug test.

Medical professionals concluded that his usage of niacin was the underlying cause for his acute liver failure (ALF).  With continued hospital care, the individual continued to recover and eventually, his liver function reverted to normal within 2 weeks, however, it was implied that some permanent damage was sustained.  Reporters mentioned that 20% of all acute liver failure occurrences are associated with ingestion of toxins/drugs (most commonly acetaminophen).

They also discussed the fact that excessive intake of niacin supplements can lead to toxicity and corresponding effects such as organ failure and/or damage – especially if the format of niacin is “slow-release.”  Authors of this case report highlighted the fact that niacin is recommended as a strategy for cheating drug tests across the Internet and then discuss the dangers of this recommendation.  Professionals were intrigued by the finding that the individual tested negative for illicit drugs on his screening, despite an alleged recent ingestion of marijuana.

Rather than acknowledging that the niacin may have effectively helped the individual pass his drug test (despite the adverse event of acute liver failure), authors ranted about the dangers of attaining medical information from the Internet.  Clearly in this particular case, the outcome of acute liver failure and lasting liver damage outweighed the [theorized] benefit of administering niacin to pass a drug screening.  Though this report emphasizes the danger of hepatotoxicity from mega-dosing with niacin, it also provides anecdotal evidence to support the hypothesis that niacin may conceal recent drug usage on a screening.

  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24711953

2011: Niacin toxicity resulting from urine drug test evasion scheme.

Daul and Beuhler (2011) discuss the usage of niacin as an intervention for the management of dyslipidemia, however, they also acknowledge that niacin is touted online as being an effective agent to conceal recent illicit drug ingestion on a screening.  For this reason, many individuals mega-dose with niacin supplements, suspecting that this strategy will help them pass a drug test on short notice.

Authors mention that while there’s no scientific data to support the effectiveness of niacin for passing a urinalysis, many remain convinced that it works.  What’s problematic is that a subset of those mega-dosing with niacin in hopes of passing a drug screening exhibit niacin toxicity, yielding serious adverse effects.  In this paper, Daul and Beuhler document the case of a 23-year-old male who entered the emergency room with an array of symptoms including: acute renal failure, coagulopathy, cognitive dysfunction, fever, microangiopathic hemolytic anemia, and thrombocytopenia.

It was discovered that the 23-year-old patient ingested 22.5 grams of sustained-release niacin in the previous 48-hour period in effort to pass a mandatory employment-related drug test.  For some perspective, most individuals implementing the niacin method to pass a drug test use between 1000 mg and 2500 mg (1 to 2.5 grams).  This patient used 22.5 grams (or 22,500 mg) which equates to nearly 1250-fold the daily recommended allowance of dietary niacin.

Fortunately, the patient was able to make a full recovery in 10 days with proper medical care including: ventilation (for respiratory failure) and hemodialysis (for acute renal failure).  Professionals noted that mega-dosing with niacin can lead to toxicity in multiple systems throughout the body, leading to serious adverse effects.  In the report it was not mentioned whether the patient underwent a drug screening and/or whether he might’ve passed.

  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20138459

2007: Use of niacin in attempts to defeat urine drug testing–five states, January-September 2006.

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) published a report written by doctors Mendoza and Heard (2007) discussing cases in which niacin supplements were taken with the intent of concealing ingestion of illicit substances on urinary drug screenings.  Authors note that while niacin is sometimes prescribed for the management of medical conditions such as hyperlipidemia and hypercholesterolemia, adverse reactions are uncommon at medically-recommended dosages.  Furthermore, individuals taking niacin in attempt to conceal recent ingestion of illicit drugs (on a test) often administer niacin at quantities much greater than those recommended to treat medical conditions.

Administration of niacin at extremely high doses is understood to increase severity of side effects (e.g. skin flushing, itchiness, stomach aches, etc.), as well as the likelihood of adverse reactions.  As of 2005, the American Association of Poison Control Centers recorded 3,109 cases of niacin toxicity among callers.  Throughout 2006, it was noted that the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center (based in Denver, CO) noticed a number of cases in which individuals experienced adverse reactions following the nonmedical usage of niacin supplements.

It should be mentioned that The Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center is not limited to the state of Colorado, it also serves Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, and parts of Nevada – encompassing an estimated 10 million individuals.  To determine the prevalence of niacin toxicity, researchers compiled records of all calls from 2005 to 2006 in which niacin was implicated as causing an adverse reaction.  While evaluating the records, researchers assigned each call to one of 6 distinct categories including:  unintentional dosing errors for medical conditions, adverse reactions at therapeutic levels, pediatric ingestion (unintentional), suicide attempts, adverse reactions without reason for using niacin, and adverse reactions with nonmedical/nonsuicidal intentional use.

Assessment of these records revealed that a total of 92 calls to the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center reported niacin ingestion.  Of the 92 calls, a total of 18 (20%) were associated with intentional usage (nonmedical, nonsuicidal, etc.) – likely to pass a drug test, and another 18 (20%) gave no explanation for ingestion of niacin.  Among the 36 of 92 callers that ingested niacin either intentionally or for unknown reasons, 8 persons admitted to taking niacin to alter their drug test results.

Another 10 individuals were suspected to have taken niacin deliberately to alter their drug test results (based on age and quantity ingested).  Dosages administered per day among those who admitted to mega-dosing to pass a drug test ranged from 1000 mg to 8000 mg per day.  Others that were theorized to have administered niacin to pass a drug test ingested between 400 mg and 5000 mg per day.

Though no deaths occurred among these callers, some of the reported adverse reactions included: flushing of skin, nausea, rash, tachycardia, and vomiting.  There were a few limitations with this CDC report including: retrospective data collection, possible misrepresentation of niacin usage (among some callers), theoretical underreporting of niacin dosages, and/or potentially underreporting of adverse reactions.  Perhaps a problematic limitation is the hypothesis (by researchers) that individuals under 30 years of age ingesting large amounts of niacin were assumed to have done so to modify drug screening results.

Authors of this report mentioned that niacin usage may have somehow become a more frequently-occurring phenomenon in states covered by The Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center compared to other states, and the data collected in this report may be an inaccurate representation of niacin usage and/or toxicity throughout the U.S.  Additional information provided by poison control centers throughout the U.S. should help investigators determine whether this was a regional phenomenon.  Thereafter, 4 medical case reports of niacin toxicity in attempt to defeat drug testing were mentioned in this article.

It was noted that 2 of the 4 case reports involved life-threatening adverse reactions, however, none of the individuals died.  In the 2 of 4 cases in which life-threatening reactions were sustained, the amount of niacin ingested was 5500 mg (within 36 hours) and 2500 mg (within 48 hours), respectively.  Symptoms of niacin toxicity outlined in case reports included presentations of:  metabolic acidosis, hepatotoxicity, blood sugar abnormalities, neutropenia, and electrocardiographic irregularities.

This report by the CDC emphasizes the dangers of niacin toxicity in attempt to alter drug test results and notes that zero evidence exists to support the idea that niacin supplementation legitimately manipulates outcomes on drug tests.  Based on this information, the CDC proposes educating individuals who are at greatest risk of mega-dosing with niacin to pass a drug test.

  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17443121
  • Source: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5615a2.htm

Note: While all of the medical literature emphasizes that there’s no evidence to suggest that niacin is effective for reducing the window of drug detection on a urine test, it’s equally important to emphasize that there’s no evidence to suggest that niacin is ineffective.  Furthermore, based on one of the reports in which an individual tested negative for illicit drugs on short notice, one might suspect that niacin mega-dosing is an effective strategy to pass a urinalysis.  Though deliberately altering a drug test with supplemental niacin cannot be endorsed, the safety and efficacy of mega-dosing with niacin for the modification of urinalysis outcomes warrants investigation on the basis that many will blatantly assume its safe and effective without a formal study reporting the truth.

Dangers & Side Effects of Niacin for Drug Tests (Possibilities)

There are some side effects and potential dangers associated with taking large doses of niacin in effort to pass a drug test.  Medical reports have documented several cases of niacin toxicity resulting from mega-dosing in fear of failing an upcoming drug screening.  Though there’s no evidence that niacin helps with passing of drug tests, those who are convinced of its efficacy should at least be aware of possible dangers.

Contraindications: Niacin supplementation should be avoided among those with certain medical conditions, as it may worsen underlying symptoms of the particular condition and/or may lead to serious adverse events (e.g. death).  Examples of persons in which niacin supplementation is contraindicated include those exhibiting: arterial bleeding, hepatic dysfunction, elevated serum transaminases, peptic ulcer disease, renal dysfunction, and others.  If you aren’t sure as to whether niacin is safe given your medical history and/or current set of medications, it is recommended to consult and discuss the safety of niacin supplementation with a medical professional.

Death: Though elevated dietary niacin intake is not associated with death, it is possible that supplementation with extremely high doses of niacin could cause death.  The dose with any substance makes the poison, and with niacin, it seems to take quite a bit to increase odds of fatality.  Still, those using the niacin method to pass a drug test may end up taking 100 to 200-fold the recommended daily allowance of niacin, which could yield disastrous biologic effects.

It is understood that anyone with preexisting medical conditions and/or compromised organ function (liver, kidneys, etc.) may be more vulnerable to niacin toxicity and its secondary effects.  Assuming niacin induced liver failure and the individual experiencing this condition failed to seek emergency medical attention, he/she may die.  When also considering that individuals might drink excessive quantities of water while using the niacin method, it is possible that water poisoning could lead to death.

Elevated blood sugar: Evidence suggests that mega-dosing with niacin sometimes spikes blood sugar, leading to exacerbation of symptoms among those diagnosed with diabetes.  The degree to which blood sugar increases after taking niacin is largely subject to variation, but most reports suggest between 5% and 10%.  If you have been diagnosed with diabetes or have a history of blood sugar abnormalities, it is important to monitor blood sugar while taking niacin and discuss any significant changes with a medical professional as soon as they arise.

Facial flushing: An extremely common side effect associated with niacin supplementation is facial flushing.  When high doses of niacin are ingested (e.g. 1000 mg/day to 2500 mg/day), the facial flushing is thought to be more pronounced than at lower doses.  The flushing may last between 15 minutes and 1 hour, or may persist the entire day (if an individual is consuming slow-release niacin).

Some have reported success mitigating this flushing effect by administering 300 mg aspirin prior to niacin supplementation (~30 minutes before) or a prostaglandin receptor antagonist (e.g. laropiprant).  Another strategy for decreasing facial flushing involves consuming a large meal along with the niacin.  In many cases, the flushing will subside as the body becomes tolerant to the significant increase in circulating niacin (resulting from exogenous supplementation).

Gastrointestinal issues: A common side effect of taking large doses of niacin is experiencing GI abnormalities.  You may end up dealing with stomach aches, flatulence, indigestion, nausea, and/or vomiting as a result.  Not everyone experiences severe gastrointestinal issues while taking niacin, but the greater the dosage of niacin that you take, the more likely you are to experience these as a side effect.

Hyperuricemia: When taking high doses of niacin, some individuals may experience a condition known as hyperuricemia, characterized by elevated concentrations of uric acid in the bloodstream.  The safe upper range of uric acid in the blood is considered 6 mg/dL and 6.8 mg/dL in men and women, respectively.  If uric acid concentrations exceed upper safe thresholds, individuals may experience gout and/or exacerbation of gout symptoms.  In extreme cases, hyperuricemia can cause joint pain, kidney stones, bodily pain, and even kidney failure.  Anyone utilizing high doses of niacin as a detoxification strategy should be cognizant of possible hyperuricemia, especially if susceptible.

Liver failure or damage: Many individuals using the niacin detox method to pass a drug test are unaware of the fact that mega-dosing with niacin may induce liver failure or inflict liver damage, especially among those with preexisting liver dysfunction.  Before you consider mega-dosing with niacin, your hepatic function should be evaluated by a medical professional to rule out possible impairment.  Furthermore, the dosage of niacin you plan on taking should be verified as safe by your doctor.

Though some individuals suggest that only doses of niacin exceeding 3000 mg per day will cause liver failure or damage, evidence reveals that risk significantly increases when doses exceed 2000 mg.  Additionally, it has been noted that liver damage is more common among users of slow-release niacin (as opposed to the immediate-release versions).  If you already used the niacin method, you may want to verify that your liver function was not compromised by supplementation. (Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1731514).

Niacin toxicity: While many believe it is safe to ingest upwards of 2000 mg of niacin per day, it should be noted that not everyone can take this amount.  Furthermore, those using the niacin method to pass a drug test may get carried away and ingest between 2000 mg and 3000 mg per day, or even upwards of 3000 mg.  At these extremely high (mega) doses, niacin can induce toxicity characterized by a host of unwanted effects including: bladder dysfunction, blood clots, fainting, gastrointestinal dysfunction, gout, hepatic impairment, irregular heart rate, maculopathy (thickening of macula and retina associated with blindness), renal impairment, seizures, and skin rashes.

Promotes obesity: Researchers Li, Sun, Zhou, et al. (2010) document the fact that niacin is not only an appetite enhancer, but appears to induce insulin resistance at high doses.  They also discuss the fact that prevalence of obesity is correlated with the spread of grain fortification with niacin throughout the world.  For this reason, they organized an investigation to test whether niacin may be promoting obesity.

Results of their investigation revealed that obesity prevalence in the United States was determined by niacin consumption in that the greater the amount of niacin consumed, the more likely a person was to be obese.  One could highlight the fact that many “junk foods” may be high in grains that were fortified with niacin, however, it is plausible that niacin may be a direct culprit for obesity onset.  Many individuals taking niacin in attempt to pass a drug test believe that it will somehow help them burn excessive adipose tissue (containing THC), which might be the opposite of its effect (especially if used regularly).  (Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20480523).

Side effects: Common side effects associated with niacin supplementation include:  diarrhea, headaches, hot flashes, itchiness, nausea, pain, warmth, redness, runny nose, skin rash, tingling sensations, and vomiting.  The larger the dose a person administers of niacin, the greater the number of total side effects they should expect to experience, and the more severe each of the side effects are likely to be.  Some side effects can be minimized by gradually titrating the dosage of niacin upwards, but most individuals following the niacin protocol to pass a drug test start by ingesting mega-doses.

Water intoxication: Though many are concerned with the side effects of mega-dosing with niacin, many should understand that drinking lots of water could also provoke serious and/or unwanted effects.  With the niacin protocol, individuals are recommended to drink as much water as possible to “flush” the illicit drug metabolites from their system.  The problem is that extremely high intake of water may lead to water intoxication and/or hyponatremia.

Water intoxication (or poisoning) occurs when overhydrating disrupts balance of electrolytes (e.g. sodium, calcium, magnesium, potassium, etc.).  In extreme cases, water poisoning can lead to severe symptoms such as: behavioral changes, confusion, drowsiness, irritability, weakness, twitching, vomiting – as well as brain damage and/or death.  For this reason, it is important to ensure that you’re not going overboard with the water consumption and that you’re supplementing with electrolytes if necessary.

Note: Mentioned above are just a few of the most common adverse effects and dangers associated with niacin mega-dosing.  For additional information regarding potential side effects of niacin, talk to a medical professional and read the scientific literature.

How to know whether the niacin method really works…

If you want to know whether supplementing with niacin is an effective strategy for passing a drug test, you’ll need to conduct an investigation.  Conducting a large-scale, randomized controlled trial (RCT) to determine if niacin supplementation augments ability to pass a drug test on short notice would yield the most relevant evidence.  If you’re not in a position to conduct a randomized controlled trial, you could set-up a self-experiment to determine whether niacin significantly decreases window of drug detection compared to a placebo control.

  1. Conduct a RCT: Anyone in position to organize and conduct a randomized controlled trial (RCT) that tests the efficacy of niacin for decreasing window of drug detection on a standard screening (e.g. SAMHSA-5) would be able to provide the most evidence to support or dismiss niacin’s hypothetical (arguably mythical) efficacy. The more participants in the trial, the more accurate results are likely to be. After ingestion of a specific dose of THC, instruct all individuals to remain sober.  Randomly assign half of the individuals to receive high-dose niacin (e.g. 1000 mg to 25000 mg per day) and the other half to receive a placebo.  Recommend high intake of water and monitor all patients for adverse reactions and/or side effects.  Administer a urine drug test each day throughout the detox and determine whether the group of niacin recipients (on average) tests negative for THC significantly quicker than those receiving the placebo.
  2. Self-experimentation: It’s a bit more difficult to conduct a self-experiment to determine whether niacin is effective for detoxification. Assuming you wanted to test its efficacy, you could ingest a specific amount of THC, then implement the niacin method. In days thereafter, you would need to administer urine-based drug tests and document the number of days (and hours) it takes to test below the cutoff threshold.  Next, you will ensure your sobriety (so that no THC is still in your system) and ingest the same amount as in the first experiment.  Keep all variables the same in the niacin method, but don’t take the niacin.  (You could blind your self-experiment by using a placebo and preventing yourself from knowing whether you took the niacin or the placebo).  In the second round of testing, you can then determine the days and hours it took to test below the cutoff threshold.  If the windows of drug detection are similar regardless of whether niacin or the placebo was used, you can assume that niacin had no effect.

If you’re unable to conduct and/or reference a reasonably designed trial attempting to determine whether niacin specifically lead to a shorter window of drug detection (e.g. THC), it’s logical to assume that passing a drug test was correlated with the niacin method – rather than a causal byproduct.  Asking others whether the niacin method worked for them, especially in online forums is an unreasonable way to assess whether the method is effective.  Critical details such as: dilution of urine, recency of drug use, amount ingested, amount of niacin taken, etc. may explain why a person passed his/her drug test – other than the niacin.

Have you taken Niacin for a drug test?

In the event that you’ve self-experimented and actually taken niacin in attempt to pass a drug test, leave a comment describing your experience.  Mention whether you passed your drug test, and if so, whether you firmly believe (e.g. would bet money) that niacin was the primary reason you ended up passing.  If you failed your drug test after taking niacin, have you considered the possibility that niacin may actually (contrary to popular belief) prolong excretion of certain substances at high doses?

To help others better understand your experience, provide some details such as: number of days before your drug test you were abstinent (from the illicit drug), whether you were an acute or chronic user, the specific test you took (e.g. SAMHSA-5) and its detection limits (e.g. 50 ng/mL), the type of niacin you used and the daily dosage, and the quantity of water you drank (e.g. 2 gallons per day).  Also mention things such as your age, body type (height, weight, fat %), detoxification efforts (e.g. sauna, exercise, fasting, etc.) you made, as well as any other substances you may have used to dilute your urine (e.g. creatine, vitamin B2, sugar, etc.).  When reflecting upon these variables, do you remain convinced that niacin helped you pass your drug test?

If you attribute your passing of a drug test to mega-dosing with niacin, can you propose a convincing mechanism of action by which it reduces the window of drug detection?  Based on the abundance of anecdotal reports suggesting that niacin supplementation increases odds of passing a drug test (on short notice), it may warrant scientific investigation.  A study could provide objective evidence showcasing niacin’s effectiveness in modulating THC excretion speed and/or corresponding urinary constituents.

Assuming it is proven ineffective in a randomized controlled trial, this should put an end to the niacin mega-dosing for detoxification and/or to pass drug tests, as well as decrease cases of niacin toxicity among adherents.  That said, even if a formal investigation were to be conducted, a subset of drug users may remain skeptical of the results (especially if negative), believing that there’s some sort of conspiracy to prevent them from using this method to “pass.”  What are your thoughts on niacin supplementation to pass a drug test?

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