CBD Won’t Get You High, But It Could Mean You Fail a Drug Test
When you buy a CBD product — let’s say CBD oil tincture — that’s marketed as “THC free,” as many CBD products are, the last thing you’re probably worried about is failing a drug test.
After all, drug tests look for marijuana use, not CBD. Right? Well, it’s actually not so simple.
Despite its legality, non-intoxicating cannabidiol (CBD) products — even those marketed as “THC free” — can actually cause consumers to fail drug tests. False-positive drug screen results have serious consequences for the tens of millions of Americans who must pass drug tests in the workplace, in the military, for accessing unemployment benefits or even competing in athletic events.
False positives are also a problem for the employers who do testing: disqualifying candidates who may have hard to find skills; bad PR and even a lawsuit.
Thanks to the federal legalization of hemp, CBD products are widely available at mainstream retailers such as CVS, Kroger, Walgreens and others. An estimated 25% of Americans have given CBD a try, and approximately 1 in 7 adults said they use CBD products regularly.
It’s time we re-examine the common practice of drug testing that can penalize someone so severely for using a federally legal substance.
Testing can be imprecise
There is no comprehensive federal law that regulates drug testing in the private sector. As a result, testing methods and state requirements vary widely. Different types of drug tests have different detection thresholds; over-the-counter medications, supplements and even foods or beverages can cause someone to fail a drug test. Some estimates indicate 5% to 10% of all drug tests produce a false-positive result.
Urinalysis, the most common method of drug testing, is also considered the least accurate method. Urine drug tests are usually done via immunoassay (also known as “office collection,” where the analysis is performed on-site). Immunoassays are less sophisticated than sending samples to a laboratory for testing, but are widely used because they’re fast, cheap and easy to administer. A Mayo Clinic guide for clinicians acknowledged that “the main disadvantage of immunoassays is obtaining false-positive results.”
There’s no reliable data for CBD false-positives, though Forbes quoted a testing lab executive estimating 10% of regular CBD users can test positive for THC.
Fired for CBD use
Drug tests are not designed to detect CBD, but CBD products can trigger false positive results because of the way drug tests work. Urine tests don’t actually detect drugs in the system. They detect metabolites, the compounds the body creates as it processes a substance. Urine tests typically screen for the metabolites of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive and federally illegal cannabinoid found in cannabis and, to a lesser degree, in hemp plants.
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So while hemp-derived CBD in and of itself is legal, full-spectrum CBD products often contain trace amounts of THC — up to 0.3% by weight is legal. Unfortunately, many of these products are marketed as “THC-free,” which is misleading. Many consumers don’t realize that over a period of use, the small amounts of THC can accumulate. The human body eliminates heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine metabolites in just a few days, but THC metabolites can remain detectable for weeks.
False positives can have very real results. A recent Consumer Reports article documented three instances of CBD product consumers who were fired after failing drug tests — and that’s indicative of a much larger problem. Just this past September, a 72-year-old Washington man who was taking CBD oil for glaucoma and arthritis tested positive for THC and lost his job. NASA has warned its employees that using CBD products could get them fired. And The New York Times in October explained how a common drug testing method easily can return false-positives.
What to do
Some argue that anyone who’s regularly drug tested must avoid CBD altogether. But what if your CBD medicine is prescribed by a doctor (as is required in states like Texas and many others) for serious conditions like epilepsy or multiple sclerosis? An Arizona woman who was fired after a false positive was taking it for seizures and migraines. Anecdotes abound, but the truth is that the vast majority of those who use CBD take it for pain.
As a veteran, I know active-duty service members who could benefit from having CBD as an option to address chronic pain, PTSD or addiction issues, but because of drug testing, their options are pretty much limited to prescription opioids and benzodiazepines — or nothing at all.
Some states and zero-tolerance companies are stepping up and revising their policies. Others say that in the wake of widespread cannabis and hemp legalization, we should stop testing for cannabinoids altogether. One thing remains clear: Testing that could result in serious consequences — from losing a job to losing parental rights – should not be this unreliable.
HR professionals and employers need to ensure that the lab they use for their drug testing is aware of the potential false-positives CBD can produce and that the testing method can recognize the difference. Even then, employers will still need to account for their employees and candidates who use CBD to treat medical conditions and may inadvertently have used a THC-free product that wasn’t
Does CBD Show Up on a 10-Panel Drug Screen/Test?
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CBD, a beneficial substance for a variety of bodily ailments, is often confused with its illegal cousin THC, especially when it comes to drug testing.
CBD does not show up on drug tests simply because drug tests are not looking for it. However, sometimes CBD products contain trace amounts of THC, which can possibly show up on a drug test, but only if you are consuming “full spectrum” products very frequently.
CBD produces no psychoactive effects and is non-habit-forming, and when used with the same caution as any other relaxing substance, it should have no reason to interfere with one’s ability to do work, participate in sports, or function in day-to-day life.
But what about CBD allows it to exist as a safe alternative to THC, and is there any risk of cross contamination?
Will CBD ruin a drug test?
The short answer is no. Drug tests that test for marijuana do not use the presence of CBD as an indication of drug use.
Most drug tests will aim to detect the presence of THC or other ancillary compounds in marijuana, not CBD. As long as you have ingested only CBD, you should be completely fine should you be expected to take a drug test soon afterwards.
However, the tricky thing is that taking CBD is not a guarantee that it is pure. There can be trace amounts of other substances in your CBD oils, edibles, and vapes.
Trace amounts of other substances
CBD is a naturally occurring substance that is found in both hemp plants and marijuana plants, and it can be derived from either source. Hemp is a type of cannabis plant that has a lower THC content than marijuana, and this can be reflected in the composition of the products distilled from it.
THC can be an obstacle when taking a drug test after consuming CBD, and as can CBN, another naturally occurring compound found in cannabis plants.
Certain CBD products can be broken into three different categories: full spectrum CBD, broad spectrum CBD, and CBD isolate, that indicate the purity and composition of your extract.
Will full spectrum CBD oil make me fail a drug test?
Full spectrum CBD is unlikely to make you fail a drug test because it contains only trace amounts of THC, but because cannabinoids are fat-soluble and build up in the body over time, things can become risky in the long-term.
Full spectrum CBD is an extract that includes all of the various compounds that one might find in the plant it is being distilled from.
This can mean that if it is distilled from a strain of marijuana, it will include some amount of THC. If it is distilled from a hemp plant, that amount will likely be very small to the point of being negligible.
Because CBD products sold legally in the U.S. are derived from hemp, the amount of THC in them, even full spectrum products, must contain 0.3% THC or less by weight.
Many producers will fail to disclose the plant of origin on products, and CBD is not regulated by the FDA, so if you are particularly worried about THC in your CBD products, try to avoid full-spectrum CBD or choose a variety that is hemp-derived.
If random drug testing is a part of your job, it may also be best to heed this advice (as it can be hard to ensure that the amount of THC in your system is below what tests look for).
Broad spectrum CBD
Broad spectrum CBD contains many of the compounds included in the plant it is being distilled from, except all of the THC has been removed.
This can be a safer bet for those who are worried about THC content but would still like to reap the benefits of other cannabinoids and terpenes found in hemp plants.
CBD isolate is pure CBD — no THC, no ancillary compounds from the plant it was distilled from.
This is the best bet for those who only want CBD. CBD isolate may not produce as intense effects as full or broad spectrum CBD might, but the peace of mind that comes with it may be worth the potential loss.
Does CBD show up on drug tests?
The average commercially available drug test, such as a 10-panel drug test, will not test specifically for CBD.
While it could technically be possible for an administrator to add a test that detects the presence of CBD, it would be incredibly uncommon, and is not part of typical routine drug testing. A company would likely have to make a very specific request for a CBD oil drug test.
Additionally, CBD does not get you high, and has little to no effect on an individual’s ability to function in the workplace or at school.
Employers generally are unconcerned with testing for it, just as they are unconcerned with other non-intoxicating substances, such as Advil or Motrin.
Four Types of Drug Tests
Though you don’t have to worry about a drug test looking specifically for CBD, it’s beneficial to be aware of how drug tests work and how they might impact you, particularly if you use products that contain THC.
Blood tests aren’t used very frequently for employment-related drug-testing, primarily because the blood offers such a limited look into drug use.
Because most substances are detectable in the blood for only a few hours, relying on blood tests to paint an accurate picture isn’t the best option.
Blood testing can be useful to determine whether or not a person has taken a substance while under the influence, but you’re unlikely to encounter it otherwise.
Urine testing is the most commonly used drug test because it’s easy, fast, and affordable for employers. It’s also far less invasive than some other methods.
Urine testing is simple to distribute to a large amount of employees on a regular basis, making it the go-to choice of most fields that engage in random drug testing.
Urinalysis is also the only method approved for federally-mandated drug testing.
These tests, unless otherwise specified, generally look for the standard five-panel drug selection: marijuana (THC), amphetamines/methamphetamines, cocaine, PCP, and opiates.
Urinalysis is so reliable because it shows metabolites of a substance – that is, remnants of a substance left behind in the body even long after use. So, even if a person has not used opiates in the past few days, urinalysis can still reveal a concerning drug habit that may pose a risk at the workplace.
Unfortunately, despite tremendous legal and social strides, marijuana and THC are still considered controlled substances and, as such, are commonly tested for.
Ideal for testing for recent drug use, saliva tests are cheaper than urine tests and can be collected on-site, which makes them another common choice for employers.
Saliva tests usually require the collection of a swab from the inside of an individual’s cheek. These tests can look for the standard 5-panel selection and more, but they can have a hard time detecting use that’s occurred more than 48 hours before testing.
Hair testing can reveal drug use patterns for up to 90 days prior to sample collection and look for everything that other 5-panel tests do.
Though they provide the most detailed insight into an individual’s long-term drug habits, hair tests can’t compete with the speed or ease of other testing options, and they can be on the pricier side.
What type of drug test do most employers use?
Most employers rely on urine testing for both pre-employment and random drug screening. Urine testing is fast, simple, and affordable, so it’s the best option for employers looking to test on a frequent basis.
Employers usually do random drug testing, or at least claim to, on the basis of promoting workplace safety. Both pre-employment and random drug screenings tend to stick to a 5-panel test (which looks for amphetamines/methamphetamines, cocaine, opiates, THC, and PCP).
Does CBD show up on a 10-panel drug screen?
No, CBD does not show up even on a 10-panel drug screen. That’s because CBD is not one of the substances being searched for; it’s simply not a drug that these tests are looking for.
- Cannabis: THC, synthetic cannabinoids
How long does CBD stay in your system?
CBD is estimated to stay in an individual’s system for 2-5 days, however, a number of variables can affect the full length of time it stays.
CBD can be affected by the frequency with which an individual uses it. It is a compound that has a tendency to remain in an individual’s body and build up over time if used often enough. Someone who has only used it once will likely have CBD in their system for a shorter amount of time than someone who’s an habitual user. Dosages can also have an effect. Someone who takes a higher dosage will take longer to completely rid it from their system.
Additionally, as with other substances, food and water intake can affect how quickly it is metabolized. Having a lower BMI, or having eaten less food can make it metabolize more quickly.
Again, as with many other substances, the way you ingest or use CBD can affect how quickly it metabolizes. Oral ingestion of pure oils or vaporized CBD can be much faster than edibles, balms, or rubs, which may take longer to be absorbed.
It is highly unlikely that an employer or administrator will test you specifically for CBD usage . It is uncommon in widely available testing kits, and there would not be much reason for an employer or administrator to seek out a test for a non-psychoactive, non-habit-forming substance. However, an employer could still theoretically test you for it.
It is somewhat unlikely, but still possible, for THC to show up in a drug test from use of products marketed as CBD , depending on the type and quality of product that you have purchased. If you are interested in limiting the amount of THC you ingest, it might be smart to purchase only broad-spectrum or CBD isolate products.
CBD can stay in your system for 2-5 days, but this can be changed based on a variety of variables, such as food and water intake, frequency and dosages, and method of use.
Shopping for CBD can be confusing, especially if you are worried about the labelling of the products you are buying. However, shopping from a reputable distributor can ease much of the worry, and can help introduce you to a world of products aimed at treating a wide variety of physical and mental health complications. Click here to shop from a wide selection of hemp and CBD products from a long list of honest and high quality distributors.
If you’re specifically concerned about passing a drug test, check out CBDistillerys Broad-Spectrum CBD Oil.