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Will CBD Oil Result in a Positive Drug Test?

Arno Kroner, DAOM, LAc, is a board-certified acupuncturist, as well as an herbalist and integrative medicine doctor. He operates a private practice in Santa Monica, California.

CBD (cannabidiol) oil is a popular product for everything from pain control to anxiety to promoting sleep. However, with the rise of CBD comes the concern about failing a drug test due to detection of CBD oil. News stories are emerging across the country involving famous sports players, employees of companies, and others who have gotten positive drug screening results for the presence of THC—the psychoactive component of marijuana   —even though CBD oil is said to be THC-free.

What are the odds that CBD oil users will test positive when subjected to illicit drug screenings, and what can be done to prevent it?

Does CBD Oil Contain THC?

When a drug test is performed, the active chemical in marijuana that gets detected in a positive screening is THC. However, most people are under the impression that CBD oil is THC-free.

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 (including low-quality isolates and many full-spectrum tinctures).

Breakdown of Cannabis

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 plants; however, it is important to note that they are still two separate plants.

CBD is one of many active chemical compounds in the cannabis plant. One reason it’s gaining momentum in popularity is because it is said to lack the component of the plant that causes a person to get high, which is called THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).  

The primary difference between hemp and marijuana is that hemp is nearly void of THC. In fact, a cannabis strain must contain less than .3 percent THC to be classified as hemp. This is the reason hemp can be legally sold as 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 psychoactive component) and CBD, whereas hemp contains CBD and only trace amounts of THC. Hemp contains many cannabinoids—CBD is only one example.

There are several techniques for extracting CBD oil from the cannabis plant. The extraction method determines whether the active CBD compound gets processed as a “full spectrum oil” or an “isolate.” A CBD isolate is a pure compound with no other active compounds or cannabinoids at all. A full spectrum oil contains other active plant compounds in addition to the CBD such as CBN (cannabinol) and cannabis terpenes (the part of the plant that gives the plant its aroma), and more.

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.

In a study conducted by researchers from the Lautenberg Center, researchers discovered that CBD was more effective for treating inflammation and pain when used with other cannabis plant compounds derived from a full spectrum product over 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 make 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 fails a CBD drug test.

1. 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. Sometimes, this may be because a person purchases a low-quality product that does contain a small amount of THC—most manufacturers will claim their products do not contain THC, but this is not always the case.

2. 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 apt to occur when CBD oil is purchased from cannabis dispensaries in places where cannabis is legal, as opposed to an online retailer.

3. Mislabeling of Products

CBD oil extracted from hemp is not supposed to have any more than .3 percent of 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, which does contain THC.

In fact, one study discovered that almost 70 percent of the CBD products sold online were not labeled properly, “causing potential serious harm to its consumers.” The reason for this widespread mislabeling is that CBD products are not strictly regulated by the FDA.

4. 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.  

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

For instance, if 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.

5. CBD Oil Breaks Down 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.  

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

How to Avoid a Positive CBD Drug Test

If you take CBD oil, there are measures you can take 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.
  • Ensure that the CBD oil is an isolate product extracted from a viable industrial hemp supply, and is not 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.

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 .3 percent THC. However, because CBD oil is not very well regulated, there is no guarantee that a product contains pure CBD oil, or that its concentration is at a safe or effective level.   It is best to use utmost caution and do your research when purchasing a quality CBD oil product to ensure its purity, especially if you need to undergo drug screenings.

Cases of CBD oil users failing drug tests are on the rise. Learn more about why this happens and how to avoid it.

Pure CBD Won’t Make You Fail a Drug Test, But…

By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Aug. 9, 2019 (HealthDay News) — As the CBD craze sweeps the nation, some users may wonder whether the cannabis extract can make them fail a drug test. A preliminary study suggests the answer is “no” — at least if the CBD is pure.

Researchers found that CBD, or cannabidiol, did not react with either of two commercially available tests used to screen for marijuana use. However, another cannabis compound — cannabinol (CBN) — did.

CBD and CBN are two of many chemicals found in cannabis plants. They differ from THC, the source of the marijuana “high.” CBD is present in marijuana but more abundant in hemp — cannabis plants that have little THC. CBN, meanwhile, is a THC derivative.

If you think CBD products are suddenly everywhere, you’re right: There has been an explosion since last year, when Congress lifted a decades-old ban on growing hemp.

Licensed farmers can now grow the plant, as long as it contains less than 0.3% THC. The result? CBD is turning up in everything from oils and lotions to coffee and cookies.

CBD is promoted for easing anxiety, insomnia and chronic pain, among other ailments. The jury is still out on those uses, but there is some science behind the compound. Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a drug containing pure CBD — called Epidiolex — for treating certain rare, severe seizures.

CBN, meanwhile, is far less famous than its cousin, but it is used in products marketed as sleep aids.

Given that context, it’s important to understand how the compounds interact with drug screening tests, said Grace Kroner, lead researcher on the new study.

She and her colleagues at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center in Salt Lake City spiked three batches of urine samples with CBD, CBN and two other cannabis compounds — cannabichromene and cannabigerol.

The researchers tested each batch with two tests commonly used for THC screening. CBN reacted with one, while the other three compounds triggered no false-positives.

Why did only one test pick up CBN? The tests are known immunoassays — which means they use antibodies to detect drugs. Kroner explained that there are slight differences in the antibodies that test manufacturers use — so it’s possible to get different results.

Continued

While the findings may be a relief to some CBD users, there is a big caveat: The researchers used pure CBD. In the real world, CBD products are largely unregulated and may contain other compounds due to processing.

According to Robert Fitzgerald, a professor at the University of California, San Diego’s Center for Advanced Laboratory Medicine, “It would depend on the purity of the product.”

On the positive side, he noted, immunoassays are only screening tests. They would be followed up by “confirmatory testing” that does distinguish THC from other compounds. But you could still have a problem if your cannabis product was contaminated with THC, Fitzgerald said.

Legally, Kroner noted, CBD products should only be produced from hemp plants with no more than 0.3% THC. But there’s no way for consumers to know for sure what’s in the products they buy.

A 2017 study found that about seven out of 10 CBD products did not contain the amount of cannabidiol stated on the label. And about one in five contained THC.

A false-positive on a drug test could have implications for people at work, and in their medical care. For example, some health care organizations do not allow patients to start opioid painkillers if they use marijuana.

It all points to the importance of taking “cross-reactivity” into account when a drug screening test comes back positive, Kroner said.

“Confirmatory testing should be done before any clinical decisions are made,” she said.

What should you do if you use any of these products and have a drug test coming up?

The simplest course is to refrain for a while, according to Kroner. But she also advised being up front about your CBD or CBN use — or any supplement use, for that matter — so that your test results can be interpreted in that light.

Kroner reported the findings Monday at the annual meeting of the American Association for Clinical Chemistry in Anaheim, Calif. Studies presented at meetings are generally considered preliminary until they are published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Researchers found that CBD, or cannabidiol, did not react with either of two commercially available tests used to screen for marijuana use. However, another cannabis compound — cannabinol (CBN) — did.