Why using CBD might make you fail a drug test
Drug tests don’t screen for CBD, but that doesn’t mean you’re in the clear.
Danielle Kosecki is an award-winning journalist who has covered health and fitness for 15 years. She’s written for Glamour, More, Prevention and Bicycling magazines, among others, and is the editor of The Bicycling Big Book of Training. A New York native, Danielle now lives in Oakland where she doesn’t miss winter at all.
You nailed your cover letter and rocked the interview. All that’s standing between you and an awesome new job is a mandatory drug screening. Will that CBD oil you’ve been taking for pain relief cause you to fail the test?
This story discusses substances that are legal in some places but not in others and is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You shouldn’t do things that are illegal — this story does not endorse or encourage illegal drug use.
How cannabis drug tests work
When it comes to marijuana, drug tests typically only screen for THC — the compound in cannabis that gets you “high” — or one of the compounds created when your body metabolizes it. And by law CBD products can only contain up to 0.3% THC.
Different types of drug tests have different detection thresholds, but the type you’re most likely to encounter is the “pee test.” To pass a urine drug test, the amount of THC in your body must be below 50 ng/mL. That’s the cutoff recommended federally by the National Institutes of Health and clinically by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which helps set industry standards for lab certifications.
To hit 50 ng/mL of THC, you’d probably have to consume upwards of 2,000 mg of CBD products that contain 0.3% or less of THC, which is much higher than the average person is likely to take. Even in clinical trials and research studies, people are usually only administered 100-800mg/day.
So you’re in the clear, right? Not quite. There are two ways you could hit that 50 ng/mL mark.
Why CBD might cause you to fail a drug test
First, THC is fat-soluble, so when you ingest it — especially via edibles or a drop of oil under the tongue — it’s absorbed along with other fats and can be stored in your body’s fatty tissue.
Depending on how much CBD (and thus THC), you consume, how often you consume it, your body weight and your diet, it’s possible for THC to accumulate in your body in as little as four to six days and trigger a positive drug test. Research has found that THC can be detectable in your system for up to 30 days, but it’s usually only present in heavy cannabis users after the first week.
Full-Spectrum CBD May Trigger Positive THC Result
Use of so-called “full-spectrum” formulations of cannabidiol (CBD) products can cause users to test positive for THC, the component of marijuana that causes euphoria, according to an open-label study published in JAMA Psychiatry.
Full-spectrum CBD products contain THC, but at levels too low (≤0.30% by weight) to meet federal guidelines for Schedule 1 classification. To determine whether use of such a product might cause a positive urine drug test for THC, the authors enrolled 15 individuals being treated for anxiety to receive a full-spectrum, high-CBD extract containing 9.97 mg/mL of CBD (1.04%) and 0.23 mg/mL of Δ9-THC (0.02%), 1 mL sublingually 3 times per day for 4 weeks. Presence of THC was assessed using a presumptive test panel, followed by gas chromatograph-mass spectrometry performed by Quest Diagnostics.
Seven patients tested positive for THC, and 7 tested negative (1 patient dropped out).
“Despite limitations in sample size and diversity, these findings have important public health implications,” the authors concluded. “It is often assumed individuals using hemp-derived products will test negative for THC. Current results indicate this may not be true,” and the results may have “potential for adverse consequences, including loss of employment and legal or treatment ramifications, despite the legality of hemp-derived products.”
Dahlgren MK, Sagar KA, Lambros AM, et al. Urinary tetrahydrocannabinol after 4 weeks of a full-spectrum, high-cannabidiol treatment in an open-label clinical trial. JAMA Psychiatry. ePub ahead of print. November 4, 2020. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2020.3567