There's a lot of chatter about detox drinks and their ability to help rid the body of traces of drugs—something people who are worried about withdrawal symptoms or about to take a drug screening test may want to do.
However, the evidence that drug detox drinks actually work is limited. What's more, using them can be risky for those who are on the road to recovery. Discover why below.
What are detox drinks?
Detox drinks are beverages like smoothies, teas, and juices that are meant to remove toxins from the body, especially those related to drug use. They may include ingredients like turmeric, dandelion, vitamin B2, vitamin B12, and potassium. While these ingredients may look innocent, detox drinks aren't always safe.
Drug detox drinks are generally advertised with one of two express purposes. Either they're designed to help people pass drug screening tests, or they're intended to help minimize drug withdrawal symptoms. These advertised purposes are often targeted at individuals dealing with OUDs, some of whom may be looking for a way out of active addiction.
How do detox drinks work?
The body has its own system for removing toxins. The kidneys and liver specifically help the body filter and expel unwanted substances through urine or excrement. Sellers of detox drinks claim their products will help the body clear toxins faster. But there's no scientific evidence that this is the case.
In fact, many detox drinks have been shown to use false advertising. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has even taken legal action against companies selling detox or cleansing products due to false claims. In some cases, these goods even contained dangerous ingredients.
The reality is that there isn't much a person can do to "speed up" the body's natural detoxification process—especially when it comes to drugs. Exactly how long it takes for a drug to clear the system depends on the type of drug and the person, as traits like age, sex, and weight can all make a difference.
For example, research shows that THC can be detected in urine for up to four weeks following use. Meanwhile, an opioid that's injected intravenously, like fentanyl, can stay in the system for up to 24 hours—and show up on a blood test for up to 12 hours after use. However, many factors impact these numbers, from age to metabolic rate.
The risks of drug detox drinks
Detox drinks claim to eliminate byproducts of drugs like opioids or THC from the body, for example by getting rid of traces in urine. However, there is no substantial research-based evidence that suggests that detox drinks actually work. The few studies that have been done on them have design flaws that make them unreliable.
What's more, some detox drinks have been shown to cause physical harm. One case study revealed that people experienced potentially life-threatening symptoms, such as seizures, due to detox drinks.
Even detox drinks with “all-natural” products can be risky. For example, many detox juices advertise containing high-oxalate materials, like spinach and beets. While that may sound healthy, drinking too much high-oxalate juice can actually lead to kidney problems.
For people trying to recover from an OUD, detox drinks can also be mentally damaging, giving false promises of a faster or easier recovery. Relying on detox drinks to speed up recovery can build expectations that will go unmet, adding yet another hurdle to the already challenging process.
Real help for opioid use disorders
The truth is that there is no quick fix for recovering from an OUD. A detox drink not only isn't going to be a silver-bullet solution—it may even be harmful. That said, one path that has proven effective in helping people with OUD is medications for addiction treatment (MAT).
MAT is the gold standard of care for OUD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It involves prescribing patients with a drug to reduce physical withdrawal symptoms, while also providing counseling for mental support. This holistic approach has proven among the most successful paths for those with OUD.
Ophelia provides MAT care online, making it more accessible for all. Our clinicians get to know you as the first step to finding a routine that works, from Suboxone® and other buprenorphine-naloxone medications to virtual meetings on your time.