Cannabis laws are complicated. So much so that they make CBD seem complicated, too. Thankfully it’s not, and it is completely legal to take.
But does CBD show up on a drug test? Many people worry about this very question.
Drug tests usually check for THC, so chances are just using CBD won’t make your test show positive results. But, since there can be trace amounts of THC in any CBD product, there is a possibility of it happening.
Keep reading to learn about cannabis drug tests, how they work, and what you can expect when taking CBD.
Drug Tests for Cannabis: How They Work
Drug tests that check for cannabis are checking for THC. This is the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
THC may have a number of negative side effects. They include increased heart rate, coordination problems, dry mouth, and anxiety among a number of others.
A few different types of drug tests can check for cannabis in the human body. But these tests only check for THC metabolites. Taking CBD should not result in a positive drug test. However, since there are CBD products on the market that contain trace amounts of THC, it is possible.
Important Note: Drug tests check for THC metabolites in the system. They do not check for CBD directly. So positive test results would come from using enough CBD to have trace amounts of THC show up in the bodily fluids.
Immunoassay drug tests are one of the most common types of cannabis drug tests. A sample of urine gets collected and analyzed to check for remnants of THC. Other bodily fluids, like blood, could also work, but urine is the most common sample collected.
This test does not check for THC itself. It only detects chemicals that THC produces as it breaks down. It cannot shed any light on the level of impairment or amount of THC an individual experienced or consumed.
These tests are relatively inexpensive. They are also widely accessible and provide fast (usually same-day) results. This is why they are so commonly used.
However, they are not infallible. False positives and false negatives do occur. Because of this, many organizations use these types of tests as presumptive screening measures. They may follow up with a confirmation drug test at a later date.
Mass Spectrometry Tests
This type of test is considered the gold standard when it comes to cannabis drug tests and it is commonly used for confirmatory testing. It is most often performed for forensic or workplace drug testing.
This is an advanced method of testing that detects compounds in bodily fluids based on their unique chemical structures. It is usually combined with other advanced testing measures to get the most accurate result.
Mass spectrometry is more expensive than other tests and takes considerably more time to complete. Staff needs to be thoroughly trained to be able to complete the process. And the results may not be available for days up to weeks.
How Long Will CBD Stay in the Body?
Drug tests can detect THC in your body for a relatively long period of time. It can be found for up to three days after one single use. And it can stay in your system for over a month with heavy consumption. This is because it gets stored in the fat cells and can linger around long after it is consumed.
CBD is also stored in the fatty tissues of the body. No matter how you take it, chances are that it will linger inside your body for a couple of days.
A study conducted in 2020 showed that people who took only a single dose of CBD had detectable levels of it in their urine for up to five days after.
How much you eat and the types of foods that you eat can impact how long CBD stays in the body. A high-fat meal usually leads to more CBD being present in the bloodstream. This means that if you consume CBD with a high-fat meal, it can stay in the body a lot longer than it would if you consumed it while fasting.
Unsurprisingly, the frequency that you take CBD and how much you take will also have an impact on how long it stays in the body. People who take large amounts of CBD can have more of it stored in fats. It can last weeks in the system. Frequent smaller doses will build up in the body over time as well.
But the important fact to remember here is that traditional drug tests do not test for levels of CBD in the body, they are only testing for THC metabolites.
How Much CBD Needs Taking to Show Up On a Drug Test?
There is no standard amount of CBD it takes to show up on a drug screening. Different people will break down CBD differently leading to different levels stored in the body.
And drug tests are manufactured differently. Test manufacturers set different cut-off levels for positive test results. But basic immunoassay tests check for at least 50 nanograms of THC per milliliter of urine.
CBD can lead to a positive drug test result if it is consumed in high quantities or for a long enough period of time for THC levels to become detectable. This can happen surprisingly fast if the product taken has more THC than the label states. Unfortunately, this is a common scenario. CBD is not regulated by the FDA and many products on the market are not what they claim to be.
A 2017 study analyzed 84 CBD products being sold to consumers and found that less than one-third of the products had accurate labeling. Many of the products had less CBD than what was indicated. But more alarmingly, 21% of the products contained THC.
And this is a worldwide problem.
A German study in 2019 looked at 67 CBD-infused food products and found that 25% of them had more THC than the observable adverse effects level.
No matter where you are if you take CBD products regularly then it is important to keep in mind that they might contain ingredients not listed on the label. CBD itself may not show up on a drug test, but if you take a product that has more THC than what is shown on the label there is a good chance it will show on a drug test.
How to Minimize the Chance of a Positive Test
All CBD products legally sold in the U.S. are hemp-derived. Industrial hemp should have no more than .3% THC in it. But the amount of THC that ends up in finished products is not always under this limit.
A small study in 2021 looked at 15 participants who used full-spectrum hemp-derived CBD. Seven of the study participants had detectable levels of THC in their systems 4 weeks after discontinuing the CBD.
Full Spectrum CBD
Full spectrum products leave a natural balance of cannabinoids and terpenes in the extract. This is because having all of the compounds that grow together in the cannabis plant is thought to have more well-rounded effects.
Researchers think this is due to the entourage effect. A phenomenon where the compounds in cannabis can help each other to work more efficiently.
For example, THC may be able to help people dealing with things like anxiety or nausea. But consuming THC also has some negative side effects and it can sometimes make anxiety worse. This may be because THC binds so strongly to the CB1 receptors in the brain. When these receptors get overstimulated they may cause more anxiety or other unwanted effects.
But CBD stops THC from binding as strongly to CB1 receptors in the brain and can help to minimize the negative effects of the compound.
So, using a full spectrum product may be able to help people get the best effects for their bodies.
Although full spectrum products seem to be the most effective, the possession, growth, and sale of cannabis still remain federally illegal. Many states have chosen not to launch medical or recreational cannabis programs and taking a product with THC is simply not an option for residents of these states.
Testing positive for THC can have serious legal consequences, even if it was caused by mislabeled CBD products. Therefore, it is probably best to avoid taking CBD for a couple of weeks if you are planning on taking a drug test in the near future.
Broad Spectrum CBD
Broad spectrum products are a good middle-of-the-road option for many. It is further refined to remove any traces of THC. There are still other compounds and terpenes in the extract.
This means you can still benefit from mild entourage effects. But you won’t have to worry about any THC contaminating your system is you will need to pass a drug test.
CBD isolate is the safest option for those who want to take CBD and pass a drug test. This is the most refined. CBD is extracted from hemp and completely stripped down until there are no other compounds left.
The downside to CBD isolate is there is no entourage effect that can be experienced as it is pure CBD. But you can still enjoy the calming effects of CBD without needing to worry about having THC showing up on a drug screening.
And remember, not all brands are transparent about what is in their products. You can buy an isolated product that actually contains THC anyway.
How to Find CBD Products that are Safe
There is not a lot you can do after buying a CBD product to determine if there is THC in it or not. You need to do your own research before you commit to a brand or product.
Labels often make products look amazing, but they can be misleading. Read a company’s page to get a sense of its brand values. Check to see where they source their ingredients and what kind of ingredients they use.
See if they have lab results available on their website. These lab test results are called certificates of analysis (CoA), and they are proof that a company tests its products for potency and or purity before sending them out to consumers.
A link to these results may be directly on the product webpage for whatever you are viewing. Or there may be a lab results page on the website where you can search through the CoAs for all of the company’s products.
Just because there is a link, doesn’t mean the product is guaranteed to be efficacious or safe. Sometimes these links are broken and don’t lead to anything. Make sure to click through and read the CoA for yourself.
The report should list the compounds in the products and their concentrations. This is how you can verify whether or not there is THC in the product.
Takeaways from CBD and Drug Tests
Yes, CBD may make a drug test register a positive result for cannabis. It is not a guarantee, but due to the wide variety of CBD products and lacking regulations, it is possible.
You can take caution with the products you buy to minimize the risk of getting something with too much THC. And if you are still stressed about the question “can you fail a drug test due to CBD?” then you can opt for CBD isolate products with recent lab test results for a couple of weeks.