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Many people use CBD products to alleviate everyday problems. Common examples include regulating sleep patterns, controlling seizures, managing pain, and relieving appetite loss. So, unsurprisingly, whether CBD shows up on a drug test is a common question among job applicants and employers alike—especially for safety-sensitive roles.
CBD stands for cannabidiol, a chemical in the Cannabis Sativa plant. There are over 80 biologically active cannabinoid chemicals in total. The one that causes a ‘high’ is tetrahydrocannabinol, more commonly known as THC.
“CBD drug tests” screen for THC, not CBD. However, many CBD products contain trace elements of THC. In many cases, users may be unaware they are ingesting it, and it can possibly be flagged in a workplace drug test.
In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at CBD and THC, review different types of CBD, and determine the THC level required to register a positive result. We'll also delve deeper into how screening works to answer the most common questions.
Will CBD show up on a drug test?
Many job applicants want to know: can you “fail” a drug test from CBD? The presence of CBD itself won’t show up on a drug test. However, the use of certain CBD products could, in theory, result in a positive test if there are low levels of THC present.
THC sometimes finds its way into CBD products due to contamination in the manufacturing process. Harvesting and refinement techniques also play a role in determining which compounds are present. However, because there are very few CBD products approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), products are not always third-party tested, meaning relevant information could be omitted from manufacturers' labels.
CBD oils, in particular, are popular remedies for various ailments and can be made from either hemp or cannabis plants (which are close relatives of the Cannabis Sativa plant). The CBD is simply extracted and diluted into a carrier, such as hemp seed oil or coconut oil.
CBD oils are available for individual purchase, but are also found within everyday household goods, including bath salts, shampoo, cosmetics, topical creams, dietary supplements, and food and drinks. Again, if a product has not been FDA approved, it can be difficult to know exactly if and how much CBD oil is present in any such products.
Does CBD oil show up on a drug test if it’s in the household products you use? Unfortunately, the answer is not black and white. Technically, using products containing hemp derivatives or CBD oil in the form of toiletries, cosmetics, or topical creams should not show up on a drug test because the compound never enters the bloodstream or becomes stored in our body’s fat cells.
For food and beverage products, the answer is more complex. While regular dietary supplements and drinks are less likely to contain THC, it’s still possible. What about things like edibles and tinctures? How often does CBD oil “fail” drug tests? Certainly, in the case of CBD consumables like gummies and oils, the presence of THC is more likely due to the gaps in formal oversight.
CBD vs. THC: what's the difference?
So, does CBD show on drug screenings? The answer is: it depends. The distinguishing factor is whether THC is present. To answer this question more clearly, it helps to have more in-depth knowledge of the differences between CBD and THC and an overview of the different types of CBD.
While both are cannabinoids, CBD and THC interact with receptors in the user’s brain differently. The main difference is that THC produces a ‘high’ or ‘buzz,’ whereas CBD does not. So those who consume products with zero or minimal quantities of THC should not experience any psychoactive effects.
It’s also important to note that while marijuana and hemp CBD both derive from cannabis plants, they may contain very different levels of THC. In general, hemp-derived CBD products are less likely to contain THC—and therefore are less likely to show up on a CBD drug test rather than marijuana-derived CBD. Will hemp come up on a drug test? While unlikely, it’s not impossible.
Types of CBD
To better understand the answer to “Does CBD show on drug tests?,” a closer look at the CBD classification system is needed. It makes it easier to select CBD products based on their likelihood of containing THC.
Full-spectrum CBD products include oils, edibles, topical creams, and serums. As the name suggests, full-spectrum products contain all of the compounds that naturally occur in the plant the CBD was extracted from. This includes cannabinoids, flavonoids, essential oils, terpenes, and THC.
While full-spectrum CBD oil can be extracted from hemp, it is more likely to be harvested from marijuana subspecies. In turn, it is more than likely to contain THC and may result in a positive CBD drug test. The problem for users is that not all manufacturers disclose which plants they extract their CBD oils from, so it’s often impossible to determine how much THC may be in any given product.
CBD isolate products sometimes come in the form of oils and tinctures. More often, however, they are sold in small blocks or slabs that can be easily broken apart and consumed. CBD isolate products contain pure CBD. All other plant compounds such as other cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes are removed in the manufacturing process. In theory, that means there should be no chance of a THC-induced psychoactive effect. With all of the THC removed in CBD isolate, the risk of testing positive for THC on a drug test is virtually eliminated—but never guaranteed.
Broad-spectrum CBD products are the least widely available, usually come in oil form, and represent the middle ground between full-spectrum CBD and CBD isolates. Broad-spectrum manufacturing removes most of the cannabis plant compounds, while other chemical compounds, including CBD, remain. Because broad-spectrum CBD is typically harvested from hemp plants, the chance of THC presence is decreased to trace amounts so the risk of testing positive is significantly reduced.
THC levels and drug testing
Urine testing is most common among employers that screen for THC because it’s the least invasive approach and is the approved testing methodology for federally mandated drug screening. Other methodologies include collecting samples of hair, blood, or oral fluid (saliva).
Urine testing is also preferred because it can detect higher concentrations of THC over significant periods of time. This leads us on to our next round of commonly asked questions:
- How long after use does CBD show up on a drug test with a urine sample?
If THC is present in the CBD products consumed, it can show up in your urine for a month or more.
- How long after use does CBD show up on a drug test with a hair sample?
If THC is present in the CBD products consumed, it can show up in your hair for up to 90 days.
- How long after use does CBD show up on a drug test with a blood sample?
If THC is present in the CBD products consumed, THC can show up in your blood for up to 36 hours.
- How long after use does CBD show up on a drug test with a saliva sample?
If THC is present in the CBD products consumed, THC can show up in your saliva for up to 48 hours.
Every individual will test differently depending on age, gender, and general health history. Even repetitive tests on the same person will deliver varied results based on the level of THC, frequency of use, metabolic rate, and hydration. Frequency of use, in particular, is especially relevant to urine testing timelines. (Keep in mind, not all CBD contains THC. The time periods listed below are based on CBD usage that contains THC.)
- In occasional users who consume CBD 2-3 times per week, THC is detectable up to 3 days after use.
- In moderate users who consume CBD 4-5 times per week, THC is detectable for 5-7 days after use.
- In frequent users who consume CBD daily, THC is detectable for 10-15 days after use.
- In chronic users who consume CBD multiple times per day, THC is detectable for 30+ days after use.
How much THC needs to be present for a positive test?
A positive result is determined by a minimum baseline presence of THC, known as the cut-off level. Urine tests are usually considered positive if more than 50 nanograms per milliliter of THC is detected in the urine.
Will THC show up on drug tests from passive exposure?
A positive result caused by passive exposure to secondhand smoke is unlikely, yet not impossible. Cannabis smokers exhale minimal amounts of THC. So a testee would need to be in an unventilated area with smokers for a considerable amount of time to witness any significant effect. Yet even then, THC would be more likely to show up in a saliva sample than in a urine test, and would be unlikely to reach the cut-off threshold for a positive result.
Does CBD show up on drug tests as a false positive?
Cut-off levels are set by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and are usually relatively high to account for false positives. However, it is possible for some medications to trigger positive results. In such cases, tests can be declared negative provided the medication is taken at the recommended dosage and under the direction of a licensed physician.
What happens when a CBD drug test comes back positive?
If the initial screening returns a positive result for THC, job-seekers should inquire if a second analysis may be conducted. In some cases, a specialist doctor reviews the results to verify the chain of custody, checks storage specifications, and confirms the appropriate use of the correct chemicals during testing, etc. The individual may also be contacted directly to ensure there can be no other reason for a positive THC result before a positive outcome is declared.
CBD & drug tests: a summary
- Workplace drug tests do not screen for CBD, only THC.
- Due to the unregulated nature of the industry, trace elements of THC can be found in some CBD products.
- Hemp-based CBD isolate products are the least likely to contain THC.
- Consumables are more likely to result in a positive test result than topical creams and other products for external use.
- Urine testing is the most common method used for employee drug screening.
- THC is detectable in urine for up to 30+ days, depending on the frequency of use.
- A positive test is one which registers more than 50 nanograms per milliliter of THC.
- False positives are possible, but rare.
- Positive results from passive exposure to marijuana smoke are highly unlikely.
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