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Read on to learn more about how drug tests for cannabis work and what research says about CBD use potentially leading to a positive result. Due to CBD’s association with the psychoactive compound THC, many wonder if it can show up on a drug test or not. Find out here. Cases of CBD oil users failing drug tests are on the rise. Learn more about why this happens and how to avoid it.

Does CBD Show Up On A Drug Test?

Dr. Jessica Cho practiced medicine with a single mission: Help patients attain wellness and create a life full of joy, vitality and balance.

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Table of Contents

  • How Drug Tests for Cannabis Work
  • Can CBD Use Lead to a Positive Result on a Drug Test?
  • How to Make Sure a CBD Product Doesn’t Contain THC

Despite the widespread popularity of cannabidiol (CBD), a lot of confusion about the plant compound remains, including whether it shows up on a drug test.

CBD and delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are both cannabinoids, or active constituents, of the cannabis sativa plant. However, while the intoxicatingly psychoactive properties of THC lead to a “high,” CBD doesn’t produce the same intoxicating effects.

Since the two cannabinoids are sourced from the same plant, it’s fair to wonder whether both THC and CBD would show up on a drug test. Read on to learn more about how drug tests for cannabis work and what research says about CBD use potentially leading to a positive result.

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How Drug Tests for Cannabis Work

Drug tests for cannabis aim to detect THC, not CBD. According to Kelly Johnson-Arbor, M.D., a triple-board certified medical toxicologist and co-medical director of National Capital Poison Center in Washington, D.C., there are a few types of drug tests that can detect the presence of cannabis in the human body.

One of the most common tests is the immunoassay. “In this test, a sample of a patient’s urine (or other bodily fluid like blood) is analyzed to look for chemicals that resemble the active metabolite, or breakdown product, of THC,” explains Dr. Johnson-Arbor. “The immunoassay does not test for the presence of THC itself, and the test does not provide information about the degree of impairment or amount of THC to which an individual was exposed.”

Immunoassays are inexpensive and accessible, and they provide fast results. However, because false positives and false negatives can occur, they’re considered presumptive screening tests. Dr. Johnson-Arbor says many organizations use confirmation drug testing as a next step.

“Confirmatory testing using mass spectrometry is often used for forensic or workplace drug testing and is considered the ‘gold standard’ for drug testing because it’s the most accurate way to detect the presence of a drug in a person’s urine or blood,” says Dr. Johnson-Arbor. Mass spectrometry is an advanced method of testing that detects compounds based on their unique chemical structures and, for confirmatory testing, is typically combined with other advanced testing methods. Mass spectrometry, however, is more expensive and time consuming than immunoassays, it requires highly trained staff, and results may not be available for days or even weeks.

Drug tests can detect THC for three days after a single use and more than 30 days after heavy use. “THC is fat soluble and can be stored in body fat for a long time,” says Dr. Johnson-Arbor. “Chronic THC use can lead to accumulation of THC in fatty tissues, and the THC can then slowly release into the bloodstream over time.”

What Level of THC Leads to a Positive Result on a Drug Test?

There’s no standard level of THC evaluated across all drug tests. “Different laboratory test manufacturers may have different cutoff levels for positive THC test results,” says Dr. Johnson-Arbor.

With that said, the cutoff level for THC on an initial immunoassay test is 50 nanograms per milliliter of urine. “This amount represents the concentration of THC metabolites in the urine but doesn’t reflect the actual amount of THC used by the patient being tested,” says Dr. Johnson-Arbor.

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Can CBD Use Lead to a Positive Result on a Drug Test?

CBD use can lead to a positive drug test result if the CBD product consumed contains higher levels of THC than the label indicates—a discrepancy that’s not as uncommon as you might think.

“CBD products are largely unregulated and may contain unwanted contaminants, including THC or other illicit drugs,” says Dr. Johnson-Arbor. “In one study from 2017, an analysis of 48 CBD products revealed that less than one-third of the products had accurate labeling about their CBD concentration, and 21% contained THC [1] Bonn-Miller M, Loflin M, Thomas B, et al. Labeling Accuracy of Cannabidiol Extracts Sold Online. JAMA. 2017;318(17):1708-1709. .”

Another analysis in F100 Research of 67 CBD-containing food products in Germany found 25% of the samples contained THC above the lowest observable adverse effect level (LOAEL) of 2.5 milligrams per day.

If you use CBD products regularly, it’s important to keep in mind that they might contain potentially problematic ingredients. CBD itself may not get you high or yield a positive drug test result, but products containing higher amounts of THC than the manufacturer claims might.

Does the Type of CBD Matter?

CBD is derived either from hemp, a specific strain of the cannabis sativa plant, or from THC-containing cannabis. Hemp-derived CBD should contain no more than 0.3% THC, per the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), but product testing reveals it can sometimes exceed this federally legal limit.

A small 2021 study in JAMA Psychiatry evaluated urine samples of 15 participants who used full-spectrum, hemp-derived CBD and found detectable levels of THC in seven study participants four weeks after discontinuing use. The researchers concluded that using hemp-derived products specifically doesn’t always mean you’re in the clear when it comes to drug testing [2] Lachenmeier D, Habel St, Fischer B, Herbi F, et al. Are Adverse Effects of Cannabidiol (CBD) Products Caused by Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) Contamination?. F1000Res. 2019;8:1394. .

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“Since the possession, growth and sale of cannabis remains illegal on a federal level, any positive drug test for THC can have serious legal consequences, regardless of whether it was caused by use of contaminated CBD products,” says Dr. Johnson-Arbor. warns. With that said, broad-spectrum CBD and CBD isolate products are less likely than full-spectrum CBD to be contaminated with detectable levels of THC due to the extraction methods used specifically to remove THC from the formulations, as well as other terpenes and cannabinoids in the case of CBD isolate.

How to Make Sure a CBD Product Doesn’t Contain THC

Unfortunately, it isn’t easy for the consumer to be sure how much THC is in a particular CBD product.

“Since the CBD industry is largely unregulated, there is no definitive way to know whether a particular CBD product does or does not contain THC,” says Dr. Johnson-Arbor. “While manufacturers may provide test results for their CBD products that claim that the product does not contain THC, the test results are often representative of only a sample batch of CBD manufactured or sold by the company at a single time. These results do not reflect the composition of every available CBD product sold by the company.”

That said, you should always look for a Certificate of Analysis (COA), which details the compounds found in a CBD product. You can usually find it on the company’s website, or you can request one from the company. If they don’t provide a COA, it should be considered a red flag as it may mean the company isn’t testing their products—or they are and don’t want to reveal the results of those tests to consumers.

Long story short, yes, CBD may yield a positive result on a drug test. There are certain actions you can take to determine whether the product you’re buying contains the lowest amount of THC possible, but there’s no guarantee that the labeling is accurate due to the lack of regulation of CBD products.

Does CBD show up on a drug test?

While CBD is the trendy new kid on the block, it’s often recognised for its associations with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive compound that causes users to “get high”. Many then question whether or not CBD will show up on drug tests requested by their workplace or athletic organisation. Depending on the nature of the job, your employer may frequently test staff, while drug testing is common for athletes to prevent the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs.

As CBD derives from the hemp plant, which can naturally contain THC, it’s worthwhile doing your research before beginning your CBD journey. Drug tests do not specifically screen for CBD, it’s the THC content that will show up and could theoretically cause someone to fail the test. Most CBD products on the market are THC-free, including our CBD oils and drinks , however, there are multiple reasons why a test result may be positive. Here we explore these.

Will CBD oil show up on a drug test?

If you consume CBD oil, it should not be identifiable on a drug test. As touched upon what does show up, though, is THC. CBD originates from the hemp plant, which contains the whole spectrum of cannabinoids, including THC. Due to this, it is possible for CBD oil to result in a positive test if the product you consume contains THC too. While the CBD compound is not screened per se, THC is traceable.

Generally speaking, it should not show up if you have purchased CBD products from a regulated seller as these will contain very low amounts of THC, or none at all. It’s therefore highly unlikely that your workplace or athletic drug test will be positive if you have carefully considered where you buy your CBD oil from.

How does CBD show up on a drug test?

While manufacturers of CBD may claim that their products have no THC content, this isn’t always the truth, which is why it can show up on a drug test. You may find that your CBD oil is flagged up if it hasn’t been third-party tested or is wrongly labelled, displaying an incorrect THC percentage. False positives are another explanation. This tends to occur if the person is also taking other drugs, such as dronabinol, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS) like ibuprofen, naproxen and sulindac, or pantoprazole and efavirenz.

Negligence might play a role too. Some suppliers will cut corners by using cheaper extraction methods that don’t remove all of the THC. As there isn’t any regulatory standard for extractions processes, the risk of THC being present in your CBD products increases as a result.

A urine drug test (or immunoassay test) will identify if someone has any THC in their system. This method uses antibodies designed to latch onto specific drugs and its metabolites. In this situation, the test would be looking for the presence of THC. If the antibodies identify it, you’ll receive a positive result.

It’s worth noting that, while your CBD oil shouldn’t contain THC, if it does, it may be detectable for three days after a single use, or more than 30 days for frequent use. This is because THC is a fat soluble that slowly releases when the person burns or recycles this fat.

What are the types of CBD?

There are three different types of CBD, and each contains varied levels of THC. It’s important to understand the differences between the types as some have higher percentages of THC than others.

  • Full-spectrum CBD

This contains all of the naturally occurring compounds in the plant, including CBD, terpenes, flavonoids and other cannabinoids such as THC. As full-spectrum CBD tends to be extracted from cannabis plants other than the hemp plant, it can have varying amounts of THC. That said, full-spectrum CBD that’s derived from hemp is legally required to contain less than 1mg of THC. It is possible for this type to show up on a drug test!

  • Broad-spectrum CBD
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These contain additional compounds too, including terpenes and cannabinoids such as THC. However, most of the time, nearly all of the THC content is removed, meaning broad-spectrum CBD products may only have trace amounts — this might still be identifiable in a drug test, though.

This contains nothing but pure CBD. It comes from the hemp plant and naturally has very little THC, and therefore will not show up on your workplace or athletic drug test. You can take larger doses of isolate CBD without worrying about the presence of THC.

Which substances are banned or illegal in the UK?

CBD is completely legal and safe to use in the UK, provided products meet the specific government standards to be bought and sold here. Legal CBD products must contain no more than 0.2% THC , otherwise they will be classed as a prohibited substance.

As we mentioned earlier, athletes must regularly undertake urine drug tests to ensure they are not using any performance enhancing drugs. These test for substances within certain banned categories, including androgens (growth hormones), stimulants, diuretics, narcotics and cannabinoids like THC. If you’re a sportsperson who uses CBD oil in your daily routine, it is possible for it to show up in a drug test if you buy an unregulated or contaminated product.

These substances are also prohibited in the workplace and if they are present in a drug test, it’s likely you’ll face serious consequences. You might have to attend a meeting with your boss or even face job loss. This includes any alcohol you consume or drugs you take at work — prescription medications are excluded from this.

How do I avoid testing positive when consuming CBD?

By now you should hopefully better understand how it’s possible for CBD to show up on a drug test. If CBD oil or any other CBD-derived product is becoming a regular part of your routine, you can avoid the possibility of testing positive by always checking how reputable and trustworthy the brand in question is.

Many CBD companies, including us at TRIP, ensure the purity of products through third-party lab testing. Remember to check the label before consuming CBD. Identify which plant it originates from and what kind of CBD it contains.

Thorough research will set you on the right path and help you to achieve balance in your life without risking your job or professional hobby.

Does CBD Show Up On a Drug Test?

Sherry Christiansen is a medical writer with a healthcare background. She has worked in the hospital setting and collaborated on Alzheimer’s research.

Verywell Health articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and healthcare professionals. These medical reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more.

Femi Aremu, PharmD, is a professional pharmacist with experience in clinical and community pharmacy. He currently practices in Chicago, Illinois.

Despite the fact that cannabidiol (CBD) is derived from cannabis—the same type of plant that marijuana comes from—CBD should not show up on a drug test. That said, it is possible.

Drug tests check for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) because that is the cannabis compound that makes people feel high. CBD products are typically THC-free.

However, CBD products can contain 0.3% of THC by law. In some people, that may be enough to yield a positive drug test result.

This article explains why CBD products may show up on a drug test as THC. It also details what to look for in CBD products so you can prevent a positive drug test.

Does CBD Oil Contain THC?

The active chemical in marijuana that gets detected in a positive drug test screening is THC. Most people are under the impression that CBD oil is THC-free, which is generally true. But not always.

As it turns out, depending on the source of the cannabis that is used to produce the CBD oil, some products do contain traces of THC. This includes low-quality isolates and many full-spectrum tinctures. A full spectrum oil contains other active plant compounds in addition to CBD.

Cannabis Types

Cannabis is the umbrella term describing hemp and marijuana plants—two different varieties of the Cannabis genus. Both marijuana and hemp can be described as cannabis, but they are two different plants.

CBD is one of many active chemical compounds in cannabis plants. One reason it’s becoming more popular is that it’s said to lack THC.

The primary difference between hemp and marijuana is that hemp is nearly void of THC. In fact, a cannabis strain must contain less than 0.3% THC to be classified as hemp. This is why hemp can be legally sold in various products.

Most CBD products are made from hemp, not marijuana.

There are many distinctions between marijuana and hemp that relate to CBD oil. Marijuana contains both THC (the “high”-inducing element) and CBD. Hemp contains CBD and only trace amounts of THC.

Hemp also contains many cannabinoids, which is a name for the compounds found in cannabis. CBD is only one example.

There are several techniques for extracting CBD oil from the cannabis plant. The extraction method determines whether the CBD oil is an “isolate” or a “full-spectrum oil.”

A CBD isolate is a pure compound with no other active compounds or cannabinoids. The full-spectrum compounds may include other active chemicals, such as cannabinol and cannabis terpenes (the part of the plant that gives the plant its aroma).

Study of CBD Oil

While some CBD oils claim to be isolates, they may be full-spectrum oils and actually contain more cannabinoids (such as THC) than they claim.

A study conducted at the internationally known Lautenberg Center For Immunology and Cancer found that CBD was more effective at treating inflammation and pain when used with other cannabis plant compounds.

These compounds were derived from a full-spectrum product rather than a CBD isolate product alone. This is one reason that full-spectrum products (those containing THC) are popular.

However, the distinction between full-spectrum oils and isolates makes all the difference if you are being tested for drug use.

Reasons for Failing a CBD Drug Test

There are several common reasons a person can test positive for THC after taking CBD.

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Using Product With THC

The most common reason for a failed CBD drug test is that a person is using a CBD oil product that contains THC. This may be a full-spectrum product. Sometimes, though, it could be a low-quality isolate product that contains a small amount of THC.

Although most manufacturers claim their products do not contain THC, this is not always the case.

Cross-Contamination of THC

Very small amounts of THC present in the material that CBD is extracted from can get into the CBD oil in high enough amounts to result in a positive drug test. This scenario may be more likely to occur when CBD oil is purchased from cannabis dispensaries in places where cannabis is legal.

Mislabeling of Products

CBD oil extracted from hemp is not supposed to contain more than 0.3% THC. However, it’s not uncommon for sellers to mislabel their products as THC-free hemp when, in reality, it’s a low-quality oil extracted from marijuana. And marijuana does contain THC.

In fact, one study discovered that almost 70% of the CBD products sold online were mislabeled. This caused “potential serious harm to its consumers.” The reason for this widespread mislabeling is that CBD products are not strictly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Secondhand Exposure to THC

Inadvertent exposure to marijuana (via secondhand smoke) is unlikely to be enough for a person to get a positive drug test result. But it is possible. Being in a room with heavy pot smokers for several hours may cause the inhalation of enough THC-containing smoke to result in a positive test result.

A more likely secondhand exposure scenario is a positive marijuana hair test. This results from direct contact with marijuana paraphernalia or from another person having THC on their hands.

For instance, say that someone who had direct contact with marijuana then touched your hair. You could feasibly receive a false positive on a drug screening that tests your hair.

CBD Oil Breakdown in the Digestive System

Some sources report that in rare cases, false positive test results have come from CBD oil that breaks down into very small amounts of THC in the stomach. Other studies, however, have refuted this finding.

The conclusion is that it’s still theoretically possible for traces of THC to be present in stomach acid when “less-purified CBD productions” are ingested.

How to Avoid a Positive CBD Drug Test

If you take CBD oil, you can take steps to try to prevent failing a drug test:

  • Do thorough research to ensure the CBD product you’re using is pure and that the company is legitimate.
  • Look for manufacturers that have been accredited by the Better Business Bureau.
  • Ensure that the CBD oil is an isolate product extracted from a viable industrial hemp supply. It should not be a low-quality tincture.
  • Ask questions about product processing techniques and the possibility of cross-contamination.
  • Avoid secondhand exposure to marijuana use via pot smoking or hair contact from THC users.

Summary

CBD oil is usually marketed as THC-free, but that’s not always the case. Full-spectrum CBD oils contain other cannabinoids, which may include THC. Isolate products may be contaminated with THC, as well.

You have to be proactive to avoid failing a drug test if you’re taking CBD oil. Most important: Ensure that you’re using a pure product made by a reputable company.

A Word From Verywell

In theory, getting a false positive on a drug test from CBD oil should be relatively impossible from pure CBD oil containing less than 0.3% THC. However, because CBD oil is not well regulated, there is no guarantee that a product contains pure CBD oil or that its concentration is safe or effective.

Use the utmost caution and do your research when purchasing a quality CBD oil product to ensure its purity, especially if you need to undergo a drug screening.

Frequently Asked Questions

Drug tests look for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the element in marijuana that causes a high. CBD oils can have trace amounts of THC even if they’re labeled “THC-free.”

Yes. If the products contain THC, you could test positive. If you know you’ll need to take a drug test, avoid full-spectrum CBD products that may contain small amounts of THC. Be sure you purchase products from a reliable source. And be wary of online retailers; researchers have found that 21% of online CBD and hemp products were mislabeled.

Drug tests do not typically measure CBD. Most tests check for THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana. Depending on the frequency of use, THC can be picked up on a test anywhere from a few days for a single use or over a month for heavy daily pot smokers.

CBD edibles take about 30 to 60 minutes to start to take effect. They last five to six hours, depending on your metabolism and dose. A CBD edible may show up on a drug test as THC metabolites for three days. However, if you frequently take CBD edibles, it can take up to 15 days to have a clean urine test.

The FDA strongly advises against taking CBD or THC products while nursing. Cannabis products can be excreted through breastmilk and are not safe for the baby. Cannabinoids can stay in your milk for up to six days, so “pumping and dumping” may not be a good option.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

Huestis MA. Human cannabinoid pharmacokinetics. Chem Biodivers. 2007;4(8):1770-804. doi:10.1002/cbdv.200790152

Nahler G, Grotenhermen F, Zuardi AW, Crippa JAS. A conversion of oral cannabidiol to Delta9-Tetrahydrocannabinol seems not to occur in humans. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2017;2(1):81-86. doi:10.1089/can.2017.0009

Bonn-Miller MO, Loflin MJE, Thomas BF, Marcu JP, Hyke T, Vandrey R. Labeling accuracy of cannabidiol extracts sold online. JAMA. 2017;318(17):1708. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.11909

Crippa JA, Guimarães FS, Campos AC, Zuardi AW. Translational investigation of the therapeutic potential of cannabidiol (CBD): Toward a new age. Front Immunol. 2018;9:2009. Published 2018 Sep 21. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2018.02009

By Sherry Christiansen
Sherry Christiansen is a medical writer with a healthcare background. She has worked in the hospital setting and collaborated on Alzheimer’s research.

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