Within the health and wellness industries, one of the biggest emerging trends is the use of cannabidiol – more commonly known as CBD. CBD is a natural product of cannabis plants and has become increasingly popular thanks to the wide range of health benefits it offers such as pain relief for chronic conditions, alleviation of anxiety and depression improved blood pressure and even treatment of neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Because of its growing popularity, CBD can be found in a variety of different forms including oils and tinctures, CBD-infused food and drink, vapes, and creams or lotions. However, while CBD is federally legal, some states still ban it. Because of this, users can often worry about CBD showing up when taking a workplace drug test.
This is a misconception though, as drug tests screen for THC rather than CBD. This means that if you use hemp-based CBD products, which only have trace amounts of THC at the most, you don’t usually have anything to worry about when it comes to drug tests. However, marijuana-based products can result in a positive result, as they contain more THC.
To understand the issue fully, it’s important to know the difference between different CBD and THC products, the factors affecting how long CBD stays in your body, the detection window for drug tests, and other reasons you could show a positive test result.
Hemp-derived CBD Vs. Marijuana-derived CBD: What’s the difference?
Contrary to the common usage of the term, “cannabis” actually refers to a family of plants rather than a single, specific one. The two most well-known members of the cannabis (or Cannabaceae) family of plants are hemp and marijuana. Both of these plants are commonly used to produce CBD products, but their chemical composition means there are key differences between the two.
The marijuana plant produces both CBD and THC – the main psychoactive ingredient in weed which gives it its signature high, and the chemical compound which is actually tested for on a drug test. This means that marijuana-derived CBD products can come with a higher risk of triggering a positive drug test result.
Hemp, meanwhile, also produces CBD and THC, but only produces minuscule amounts of THC in comparison to marijuana. This means hemp-derived CBD products will only ever contain trace amounts of THC (up to 0.3%), if at all. Because of this, it’s highly unlikely the use of hemp CBD products will ever produce a positive result on a drug test.
How long does CBD stay in your body?
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There’s no exact answer to this. There’s a lot of variation in the way that different people’s bodies process CBD, and the way that they choose to take it can have a significant impact as well. The following factors can all impact the way your body handles CBD and how long it will remain in your system.
CBD molecules are fat-soluble rather than water-soluble like other compounds. What this means is that they bind to your body’s fat cells rather than your body’s internal fluids, and because of this your body’s fat content is a big factor in how quickly CBD is processed and removed from your system.
In short, if you have a higher BMI, then your body will metabolize CBD slower, and it will take longer to leave your body. On top of this, other bodily factors can also affect how fast your body processes CBD, such as your age and genetic disposition.
Frequency of Use
The more often you use CBD products, the longer the CBD will remain in your body. This is because frequent use can lead to a build-up of CBD within the body over time, causing your body to process and remove it slower. If you only use it on an infrequent or irregular basis, though, your body will process it and remove it from your system faster.
Just as more frequent use leads to slower processing of CBD in your body, so does the use of heavier doses. This is for similar reasons – higher doses lead to a build-up of CBD in your system that your body will process slower than if you only use lower doses which are more manageable for your body.
Method of Ingestion
The speed your body processes CBD varies greatly depending on how it enters your system. For example, smoked or vaped CBD enters your bloodstream rapidly through the air breathed into your lungs, and as such will both take effect and wear off fairly quickly.
If ingested as an edible, or as an oil or tincture added to food or drink, CBD will remain in your body for long as it must pass through your digestive system rather than directly entering the bloodstream. This slows the speed at which your body can process the CBD, meaning both the effects and the time it stays within your body are prolonged.
How long is CBD detectable in urine?
In terms of using a small amount of CBD product a single time, your body can process it fairly quickly and it will become undetectable in urine in as little as 24 hours. A heavier dose or more frequent usage, however, can lead to longer detection windows of up to 3-5 days for the heaviest users.
The method of ingestion can also increase the detection window. The slower effects of edibles, oils, tinctures, and creams can mean that your body processes them slower, prolonging the detection window in urine. Vaping or smoking CBD makes it enter your bloodstream faster, and while some evidence shows it stays in your body for longer overall, it’s also likely to be detectable in urine for less time.
Will CBD show up on a drug test?
CBD itself won’t show up on a drug test, as tests don’t look for it. Rather, they look for THC in your system, as this is the psychoactive component of weed, which is a more highly controlled substance than CBD products. As a result, while CBD itself won’t appear on a drug test, the use of CBD products can still mean a positive result due to their potential THC content.
The major factor in this is what type of CBD product you use. Hemp-based products have negligible amounts of THC, so hemp users have little to worry about. If you use marijuana-based CBD products, their THC content will be higher, and you’ll be more likely to get a positive drug test result from them.
THC content in marijuana-derived CBD products
The likelihood of a marijuana-derived CBD product triggering a positive drug test result largely depends on what type of product it is. The three major categories are:
- Full Spectrum CBD: These products contain all the naturally-occurring compounds of the plant they’re derived from. In full-spectrum hemp products, this means a 0.3% or less THC content, but means widely varying THC contents for full-spectrum marijuana products.
- Broad Spectrum CBD: This means additional compounds from the plant are present alongside CBD, but all THC is removed, meaning they usually won’t even contain trace THC. This type of CBD product is less widely available and is usually sold as an oil.
- CBD Isolate: This is essentially pure CBD – no additional compounds from the plant are included. CBD isolate products are usually hemp-based and create the absolute lowest risk of triggering a positive drug test result.
Full spectrum, marijuana-derived products carry the highest risk of appearing on a drug test as the THC content within them is completely unregulated.
How much THC needs to be present to fail a drug test?
You won’t fail a drug test automatically just for having THC in your system – it needs to be above a particular level to count as a positive result. The level most commonly used is that set by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which is 50 nanograms per milliliter of urine.
In practice this means that when using hemp-based, broad spectrum or CBD isolate products, you’d have to use upwards of 2000mg every day for the trace amounts of THC to build to the minimum level for a positive result. Full-spectrum marijuana-based CBD products, however, can reach this level much easier due to their higher THC content.
As with CBD, the time that THC remains in your system can be affected by the frequency and size of the doses you take, as well as the method of ingestion. In general, THC can remain detectable for between 3 to 15 days. However, frequent and heavy use can increase this to as much as 30 days, and ingesting it as an edible or oil can also extend the detection window as it takes your body longer to metabolize it than when smoking or vaping.
Other Possible Reasons For CBD to show up on a drug test
There are a few other reasons that CBD usage may lead to a failed drugs test, the most common ones being:
- Cross Contamination – The supplier may make a range of different CBD products of varying types, some with higher THC levels. Mistakes in the manufacturing process or when storing low-THC CBD products can therefore lead to accidental contamination by high-THC products.
- Secondhand Exposure – if you use CBD products socially and people that you’re with smoke or vape products with higher THC levels, you may inhale the second-hand fumes, thus letting THC enter your bloodstream.
- Product Mislabelling – you might simply not be taking what you think you’re taking – if the supplier makes a mistake and mislabels their CBD products, you may end up taking higher-THC products without realizing.
Conclusion: Should I be worried about CBD turning up on a drug test?
In short, no – drugs tests do not test for CBD itself, so you don’t need to worry about how long it stays in your system. What you do need to be aware of is that full-spectrum marijuana-based CBD products can have high levels of THC, a compound which is tested for. If you’re required to take a drug test at some point in the near future, it’s, therefore, safer to stick to hemp-based or CBD isolate products to avoid triggering a positive result for THC.