CBD and Drug Tests?
Updated: Mar 24, 2019
CBD users who are not also marijuana users frequently wonder about CBD and drug testing. Since drug testing is now common for everything from jobs to awards to legal situtations, it’s a very reasonable worry. And since CBD comes from cannabis, and marijuana is a type of cannabis, where does it all fit?
Do drug tests test for the presence of CBD? Is there THC in CBD oil? How much THC would it take to trigger a positive result (meaning you test positive for THC)? And, can CBD cause a false positive on a THC drug test?
Companies routinely conduct drug tests today, hoping to determine before hire if a person will be reliable and healthy enough to come to work on a regular basis. But with the number of states now recognizing recreational and medical use of marijuana, the actual amount of testing for THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana, is on the decline. The low unemployment rate/competitive job market has also played a factor. More employers are re-evaluating their standards and accepting the research showing that cannibas use can provide measurable health benefits and actually increase the wellness of some employees.
So, let’s take a look at how drug tests work, and whether or not CBD use is likely to trigger a false positive.
What do drug tests test for?
Perhaps most obvious is testing for a number of illicit drugs such as cocaine, heroin and, of course, marijuana. Each illicit substance has its own method of detection. Here we are only concerned with the detection of marijuana use.
Marijuana use is easily detectable by a number of methods including urinalysis, hair analysis, and saliva tests. What these tests are all looking for is previous use of a compound called THC, which is short for delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol. The metabolites of THC can remain in a user’s system for many days, even weeks.
What’s the difference between THC and CBD?
THC and CBD are very similar compounds. They belong to a family of compounds which are produced by cannabis called cannabinoids. Interstingly, our bodies also naturally produce a cannabinoid identified as endocannabinoids while plant produced cannabinoids are called phytocannaboinoids. Research has shown that both THC and CBD can have significant health benefits.
There are only slight differences in these molecules, but that slight difference makes a big difference in how the body reacts to each molecule.
Neurons (brain cells) in the human brain are outfitted with receptors that respond to a wide range of signaling molecules such as hormones and cannabinoids. A particular receptor called the CB-1 receptor has an affinity for THC. When THC binds with the CB-1 receptor it alters the way your neurons behave and causes an altered state of consciousness.
Interestingly, CBD does not bind with CB-1 receptors, but actually blocks them, reducing your susceptibility to THC effects. In fact, supplementation with CBD has been shown to reduce the recovery time from THC effects.
So, as you can see, there is no point for drug tests to test for CBD.
Types of THC drug testing
There are a number of methods that test for THC use. The most common test used by employers is urinalysis—or testing for traces of THC metabolites in urine.
There are also THC use tests which use saliva and hair follicles. Saliva tests are more common for DUI testing since there are obvious challenges with obtaining a urine sample at the scene of possible DUI.
The vast majority of employers that test for drug use are using urinalysis.
THC’s primary metabolite THC-COOH is fat soluble. Drug tests actually look for drug metabolites, not the THC itself. These metabolites can be detected for up to 2–5 days after exposure for infrequent users, while for frequent users it can stick around for as much as two weeks, and for those who smoke marijuana daily, it can be as high as 30 days.
Marijuana use is also detectable with hair follicle tests. This test can provide a detection period of up to 90 days. (If an individual’s hair is shorter than 1.5 inches, this detection period will be shorter.) Hair drug testing measures THC metabolites embedded inside the hair shaft. Occasional marijuana use may go undetected in a hair follicle test.
Saliva testing detects the presence of THC itself rather than its inactive metabolites. Because only tiny amounts of the drug are secreted into saliva, THC is extremely difficult to identify in oral fluids. For this reason, most saliva tests typically only detect the presence of THC one to two hours following use. This can be useful in cases of suspected DUI. It cannot, however, be used to determine actual levels of impairment.
THC is detectable in blood for 12–24 hours for infrequent users and as much as seven days with heavy use. Because blood tests are invasive and difficult to administer, they are used less frequently, and typically only in criminal investigations such as DUIs.
Can CBD trigger a false positive on a drug test?
Drug tests are not designed to detect CBD. Thankfully, cannabinoids which are non-intoxicating, such as CBD, will not trigger a positive result on a THC test. But all CBD is not created equal and there may still be a risk.
Unless purified, CBD oil products sourced from marijuana are likely to contain some amount of THC. CBD oil products which are sourced from hemp can also contain THC but in extremely small amounts. The legal limit for THC levels in agricultural hemp is less than three parts in 1,000, or 0.3%. So for every 1,000 mg of CBD there is less than 0.3 mg of THC.
What this means is that if you’re taking very large doses of a CBD oil product (1,000 mg/day or more) which contains even tiny amounts of THC, you may be susceptible to a false positive result during an initial urinary screening.
However, a dose of 0.5mg of THC—the amount you might find in a daily serving of hemp-extracted CBD oil—produces a false positive rate of less than 1 in 500.
Is there THC in your CBD?
This is an important fact to discover if you anticipate you may be asked to do a drug test. Some CBD oils out there do include tiny amounts of THC. There are a few rules you can follow to avoid false positives due to THC in your CBD oil.
First, don’t use CBD oil made from marijuana. Don’t use any CBD product that does not actually specify that it was sourced from agricultural or industrial hemp. Look for CBD oil brands that tell you exactly how their product is sourced. Some may even provide lab tests which show the exact percentage of THC in the product.
Some CBD oil products are made with a purified form of CBD called CBD isolate. This CBD has gone through a distillation process which removes all other compounds, leaving behind a product that is over 99% pure CBD. These products are generally better suited for consuming high doses of CBD. Using these products reduce the chance of a false positive due to detection of THC to near zero.
1. Drug tests do not test for CBD.
2. CBD cannot produce a false positive for THC use.
3. CBD which contains small amounts of THC, when taken in large doses, might potentially cause a false positive, but even the chances of that are small.
4. If your livelihood depends on passing a drug test, you should be using CBD sourced from hemp for normal daily dosages.
5. If you’re taking large doses of CBD, use a product which contains CBD isolate.
If you are taking high doses of full-spectrum CBD oil and you’re deeply concerned that it might trigger a false positive, stop worrying and test yourself using a home test kit.