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CBD and Drug Tests.... What's The Deal?

There is a lot of conflicting information out there about whether or not CBD products will cause consumers to fail a drug test looking for THC. You have CBD companies claiming that CBD is worry free when it comes to drug testing and yet some consumers are finding that that is not the case. So what’s the truth? Unfortunately the answer is not simple. There are five main factors that contribute to your personal risk of failing a drug test: your metabolism, the way you take your CBD, the type of CBD taken, the brand of CBD used, and the drug test being used. More research is needed in all of these areas before definite conclusions can be reached. For now, research agrees that the higher the dose and the longer you have taken the product, the bigger your risk is and the longer it takes for the cannabinoids to work their way out of your system. It is important that you do your research into the CBD products you are interested in and look for independent lab results wherever possible.


CBD Application Methods and Metabolism


Application method has a large impact on the rate that your body absorbs CBD and THC into your bloodstream. We’ll be taking a look at two studies that look at oral and topical application methods. This study involves seven participants that were given either 0mg, 0.39mg, 0.47mg, 7.5mg, or 14.8mg of THC per day orally. The doses were given three times a day for five days and their urine was tested over a 10 week study using various testing methods. Using federal drug testing mandates, detection rates for the two lowest doses (typical of current hemp oil THC concentrations) were less than 0.2% and the two highest doses had a detection rate of 23%-46%. It should be noted that the individuals only received doses for five days, so no conclusions can be drawn about detection rates in urine drug tests with long-term use. A trial period of an oral CBD product to see how it works for you is likely relatively low risk, but your risk increases with a broad or full spectrum CBD product and depends heavily on your metabolism in general. 

This study looks at whether or not topically-applied THC can be detected by blood or urine tests. The participants applied two creams, one that contained 1.7ng THC/mg and one that contained 102ng THC/mg. The two topicals did not produce a positive result with either the urine or blood tests. Again this is encouraging news for those using hemp-derived CBD products, but more research with more concentrations and actual CBD products are necessary before any definite conclusions can be drawn. 


Much of the research surrounding cannabinoid metabolism is centered around cannabis that contains more than 0.3% THC. More research is needed on CBD metabolism in general and also the metabolism of hemp derived-CBD products. Until then, know that an individual’s metabolism plays a large role in how CBD and THC are absorbed and broken down by the body and start low, go slow.


CBD, CBN, CBG, and Drug Tests


Consumerlab.com notes that there is a roughly 10% chance a low to moderate CBD dose will cause you to fail a drug test. They caution however, your actual risk is dependent on your metabolism and the size of the dose. It also stands to reason then that the type of CBD taken would also impact your risk level. To dive into this a little further, here are a few other studies that look at cannabidiol (CBD),  cannabinol (CBN), cannabigerol (CBG), and cannabichromene (CBC) and their effects on drug testing. These cannabinoids are found in both broad spectrum and full spectrum CBD products and CBN in particular is growing in popularity as a sleep aid. More research is necessary to confirm results and to study the effects of long-term CBD usage of all kinds on drug testing.


This study suggests that pure CBD isolate would not cause a positive drug test with a single dose. The authors tested both oral CBD, administered via a capsule, and vaporized CBD. Trying pure CBD isolate once, no matter the form, to gauge how CBD isolate works for you will not cause a positive THC drug test. While more research is needed to confirm these findings over the long term, you likely have a low risk of failing a drug test due to pure CBD isolate usage. The authors do note that depending on the individual, low doses of THC (like those found in Full Spectrum CBD products) may be enough to cause a failed drug test. So the important thing for consumers is to ensure that the CBD isolate they are buying is pure, containing no other cannabinoids.


Another study run out of Salt Lake City tested the effects of CBD, CBC, CBN, and CBG on two immunoassays (the actual procedures for detecting THC and its metabolites) for urine drug tests. The study looked at cross-reactivity; basically, whether or not these additional cannabinoids would change the results of the tests. For one assay, there was no cross-reactivity for any of the tested cannabinoids. The other assay showed “notable cross-reactivity with CBN” and that 100 ng/mL of CBN was sufficient to cause a positive result. They also established that CBN has an additive effect on THC by taking samples that were weakly positive for THC and added 50 ng/mL of CBN. The response for all the samples increased (the test recognized more THC in the sample) and 13 of the 21 samples then tested positive for THC. However, the authors note that not all the samples responded the same. This means that depending on the procedures for the urine test, it is possible that a CBN product will cause a failed drug test. It is unclear whether or not broad spectrum CBD or full spectrum CBD can affect urine drug tests the same way. Since the concentration of CBN is much smaller in these two categories it may be a risk factor of long-term usage, but no studies have explored this. 


With regard to THC drug tests in general, certain tests currently in use are unable to distinguish between CBD and THC. When drug tests involve the use of gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, THC and CBD are broken down into derivatives and measured in order to be identified.  This study shows that when trifluoroacetic anhydride (TFAA) is used to derivatize CBD and THC “their resultant derivatives produced the same retention times and mass spectra”. This essentially means that they are seen as the same thing by the machine reading them. The authors note that this is most likely caused by CBD being converted to THC under the acidic conditions provided by the addition of TFAA. I do want to take a moment here and note that current research has confirmed that CBD cannot be converted into THC or any of its metabolites in the human stomach. I say this to point out that THC drug tests themselves need to be researched more thoroughly, especially given the current conflict between state and federal law on hemp-derived CBD and marijuana. In states where CBD is legal and marijuana is not, false positives due to the testing process itself can have devastating consequences for the individual.

To Sum It Up...

So until more research comes out, what do you do? Essentially: find brands and products that you trust, start low and go slow when you try CBD, and work with your doctors and employers as much as possible to protect yourself from testing issues. If your workplace prohibits THC but allows the use of CBD products, do research on your prospective products so that you can be confident that they are pure CBD isolate. Advocate for better testing procedures that provide more accurate results and can differentiate between CBD and THC. The CBD industry is large and growing, the research will come. Until then, the best we can do is be well-researched and cautious.

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