Should you worry about CBD oil showing up on a drug test?
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- Should you worry about CBD oil showing up on a drug test?
- Is there such a thing as a CBD oil drug test?
Cannabidiol (CBD) has recently surged into the therapeutic spotlight for its perceived anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, pain-relieving, and seizure-suppressing properties. It can be found in health and wellness aisles across the world — perhaps even at your local Walgreens or CVS — and comes in many forms, some of which include CBD oil, tinctures, edibles, elixirs, and more.
CBD is a non-intoxicating compound found in cannabis, which some say provides the benefit of relaxation without the high that THC provides.
Although hemp-derived CBD products are available in states where recreational cannabis isn’t legal, some people might worry whether their use of CBD oil will show up on a drug test. Even in states where it is legal to buy THC-heavy cannabis from a retail store, some employers still screen employees for cannabis use. It’s a valid concern considering that even CBD products derived from hemp are legally permitted to contain traces of THC, 0.3% or less to be exact, perhaps leaving some consumers to wonder whether there’s a small amount of THC in their CBD oil — and whether that will show up on a drug test.
“I think that people who are afraid of testing positive should use isolate that is third-party tested to have no THC or extremely minute trace amounts that result in no THC. That’s the simple and safest thing,” said Dr. Joseph J. Morgan, Professor of Cannabis Education at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia and medical adviser.
CBD is a non-intoxicating compound found in cannabis, which provides the benefit of relaxation without experiencing the high that THC provides. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
While there are certain CBD products, such as distillate and crystalline, that contain zero THC, the fears of inexperienced consumers may still persist. Like most things in the constantly evolving cannabis space, there are a number of factors to consider.
Should you worry about CBD oil showing up on a drug test?
In most cases, it’s highly unlikely that CBD oil will show up on a drug test. Most employment drug tests specifically look for the presence of THC or THC metabolites. Most employers abide by the guidelines set forth by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA), which includes detection for THC but not CBD.
But what if your CBD oil contains small traces of THC? Many top CBD manufacturers have products with no presence of THC. Although hemp-derived CBD products are legally allowed to contain a maximum of 0.3% THC, some prospective consumers may still be reluctant to try CBD that contains even a small amount of THC. Thankfully, there are ways to create hemp-derived CBD products without any hint of the intoxicating cannabis compound.
For instance, producers can isolate CBD compounds after the oil is extracted from the stalks and seeds from hemp plants. This process leads to pure CBD, effectively eliminating any THC and other plant-based constituents from the end product. Once isolated, the CBD can be mixed with liquid oils that contain fatty acids to improve absorption.
But how can you tell how much THC, if any, might reside inside your CBD oil? Can you really trust everything the label on the side of the bottle? The safest bet is to look for well-known CBD products that are independently tested.
“Buy from reputable forms that are third-party tested that have batch numbers, lot numbers, and retained batch samples. If they claim that either that their plants are genetically engineered for no THC or they use methods that purge THC, to make sure that that’s third-party validated,” Morgan said.
While it’s possible that small amounts of THC that exist within a CBD product could accumulate and show up in a drug test, it’s still highly unlikely. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
There are also different types of drug tests that can be used, all of which present different detection thresholds. For instance, a hair test is made to detect habitual substance use, so it will probably not raise any red flags even if you are consuming CBD oil that has low levels of THC.
Urine and oral drug screenings have a lower threshold for detection, so there is slightly more risk with these tests, according to a December 2018 article published in Vice. While it’s possible that the small amounts of THC that exist within a CBD product could accumulate and show up in a drug test, it’s still highly unlikely.
Under the SAMHSA framework, the cutoff limit for the presence of THC is 50 nanograms per milliliter. Following these guidelines, if an extremely high dose of 2,000 milligrams of CBD oil that contains 0.3% THC was consumed, there’s a slim chance of receiving a “false positive” result on a urine screening.
Is there such a thing as a CBD oil drug test?
While it may be uncommon for anyone to screen for the presence of CBD, does a CBD oil drug test even exist? Technically, since CBD is a chemical that your body metabolizes, a specific test can be developed to detect it. But the average drug test will not identify any usage of CBD oil.
To obtain a CBD oil drug test, an employer or entity would have to pay a testing company an additional charge to change their testing regimen to include CBD. When you consider that this non-intoxicating compound won’t get you high or impair your ability at work, there’s really no need for a CBD oil drug test.
If you’re concerned that using CBD-infused products will cause you to fail a drug test, there are certain precautions you can take to ensure that no THC enters your system. Look for producers who create high-quality CBD products that contain zero THC, such as distillate or crystalline products.
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I Swear I am only using Hemp!
Can the new Farm Bill regarding hemp-based products affect Urine Drug Screen Results?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a product that can be extracted from cannabis plants including marijuana and hemp. When extracted from marijuana, it may also have high levels of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which is a chemical that gives the user a “high” sensation. However, when CBD alone is extracted from hemp, there are much lower levels of THC present. There are many different types of extraction methods including extraction with ethanol, hydrocarbon extraction, and soundwaves (sonic and ultrasonic). Early this year, President Trump signed the latest 2018 Farm Bill which legalized the production of and commercial farming of hemp in the United States of America. 1,2 Previously, hemp, which is a type of cannabis plant, was listed as a schedule I controlled substance due to its similarity to marijuana. However, under the new law, production of hemp is legal as long as the plant does not contain higher than 0.3% THC. 1,2 There are several different types of hemp products. They have been used for various reasons with many different routes of administration such as inhaled, topical application, and edible products. While hemp products under the new farm bill are supposed to contain less than 0.3% THC, natural OTC products are largely unregulated with limited testing on purity of products. Therefore, OTC hemp products may contain higher concentrations of THC than the law allows. With this new law, a lingering question is whether or not hemp-based products can cause an unexpected positive in drug screen for THC, and if so, how much of a hemp product can you take while also avoiding a positive THC drug screen. Herbal products are not regulated, which allows a multitude of variabilities to occur. With lack of testing and standards on all over-the-counter products, they may contain more than 0.3% THC, irrespective of the new farm bill passage. Therefore, these lingering questions about urine drug screens do not have a definitive answer.
How much THC in your system does it really take to show up on a drug screen?
There are many different ways to test for drug use including urine, blood, saliva, sweat, and nails. 3 For ease of testing and reliability, urine tests are often used. Typically for urine drug screens, immunoassay testing is the most common and least expensive, which has moderate selectivity but lower sensitivity which can often result in false positives and negatives. These tests are quick and can be resulted rapidly in a medical office setting at the time of prescribing. Because of their lower sensitivity, positive immunoassay screens can be sent out for a confirmatory gas or liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) for definitive results. 3 When using immunoassay, the most common concentration cutoff to reduce the chance for false positives is 50 ng/mL. 3 This cutoff was established by the Department of Health and Human Services specifically for workplace testing. For confirmatory positive results that undergo GC-MS, the urine level cut-off is 15 ng/mL, since this test is more sensitive and more specific for the THC metabolite 11-nor-delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol-9-carboxylic acid (9-carboxy-THC). 3 While this is the gold standard for workplace testing, other institutions may have different cutoffs for positive tests and policies regarding the matter.
How much hemp, and for how long will it test positive?
In order to answer this question, we must first understand what a drug detection window is. The Drug Court Practitioners fact sheet defines a drug detection window as the length of time in days following the last substance usage that sequentially collected urine samples will continue to produce a positive drug test. 4 When evaluating the detection window of THC, there is no one definitive answer. This is because the excretion and detection of THC containing compounds in urine may be affected by drug dose, route of administration, duration of use, rate of metabolism and also the sensitivity and specificity of the test. 4 Average detection times of THC in urine for inhaled marijuana have been reported that take into consideration some of these variables. While marijuana has higher levels of THC than hemp products, some of the data may give us an idea of how long THC may be detectable. This information is included on the following table. 3
|Frequency of Use||Detection Window|
|Single Use||3 days|
|Moderate Use (4 times/week)||5-7 days|
|Daily Use||10-15 days|
|Long-term heavy smoker||>30 days|
Table 1: Average length of time THC can be detected in urine. 3
Do hemp products truly contain THC levels less than 0.3% as required by the 2018 FARM bill?
In 2017, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study that assessed 84 hemp products and their label accuracy. It was discovered that out of the 84 products tested, only 26 products were accurately labeled and met their labeled claims. 5 THC levels of up to 6.43 mg/ml (or 0.643%) were detected in 18 of the 84 samples tested. 5 This detected levels are high enough to cause mental impairments and also may be detected by drug screens, making this products not eligible to be considered commercial grade hemp products. 5
There are also articles that address hemp use and drug tests. For example, one study supported that using products with less than 0.3%, would not result in positive drug screens. 6 Though the power of the study was low with just 15 subjects. In this study, the patients took oral THC in increasing concentrations after 10 days periods. The first 30 days included daily use of products containing less than 0.3%, while the 31st to the 40th days used products containing 0.3% and 0.4%. 6 Only one patient was recorded to have urine immunoassay levels >50 ng/mL, and this patient had taken 10 days of product having a THC concentration of 0.4%. 6 Despite study limitations, results may give us insight as to what level of THC will result in a positive urine drug screen. A family also reports father being denied a liver transplant after testing positive on a urine drug screen due to use of hemp-based products for chronic pain relief. The institution suggested that, it was a reflection of non-compliance per doctors’ orders. This is a great reflection on the impact unregulated hemp products in healthcare. 8
As we reflect on our initial suspicion as to whether the use of hemp products could result in a positive urine drug screen for THC, we must first understand that the answer to this question may be far cloudier than we might have anticipated. The variation within commercially sold hemp products and the quantity to which they are consumed creates an uncertainty as to whether a product could result in a THC detection greater than 0.3%. With herbal products not being regulated by the government, manufacturers are not required to ensure that their products meet the standard of hemp product according to the law. This therefore makes it impossible for one to distinguish whether an elevated 9-carboxy-THC level is due to hemp or other derivatives from the cannabis sativa species.
Finally, to address the initial question as to whether the Farm Bill will have an effect on urine drug screens, we believe it can. Until hemp products are more tightly regulated to meet purity standards, this issue may continue. Military divisions such as the United states Airforce prohibits the use of hemp products by its personnel. Such decision was based on studies showing that products made with hemp seed and hemp seed oil may contain varying levels of THC, which is detectable under the Air Force Drug Testing Program. So, in order to ensure military readiness, the consumption of such products containing, or products derived from hemp seed or hemp seed oil is prohibited. 9
Many thanks to Dr. Jacqueline Cleary for mentoring recent graduates, Drs. Kwasi Ameyaw and Nicholas Stevens. Bios appear below.
As always, comments are welcome!
Dr. Kwasi Ameyaw is a recent PharmD graduate from Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. He completed his ambulatory care advanced pharmacy practice rotation under the mentorship of Dr. Jacqueline Cleary at Hometown Health Center in Schenectady, NY. He plans on practicing as a hospital staff pharmacist back in his hometown of Chicago IL.
Dr. Nicholas Stevens recently graduated from Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. He completed his ambulatory care advanced pharmacy practice experience under the supervision of Dr. Jacqueline at Hometown Health Center in Schenectady, NY. Upon licensure, Nicholas will practice community pharmacy with Kinney Drugs closer to his hometown of Castle Creek, NY and has hopes to work per diem as a hospital pharmacist as well.
I Swear I am only using Hemp! Can the new Farm Bill regarding hemp-based products affect Urine Drug Screen Results? Cannabidiol (CBD) is a product that can be extracted from cannabis plants