One of the most asked questions we get is if using CBD will cause a failed drug test. It’s a very serious matter for a lot of workers who are either regularly or randomly tested for intoxicating substances. Whether it’s prescribed by a doctor or over the counter, legal or illegal, nearly all companies have some type of policy regarding working under the influence.
With the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp-derived products, including CBD (and all cannabinoids) were legalized at the federal level. The one caveat to the Farm Bill was that all hemp-derived products must contain less than .3% THC. THC or tetrahydrocannabinol is the chemical compound in the cannabis plant that creates the feeling of euphoria (a.k.a. gets you high).
So, CBD is federally legal, and it won’t get you high. Therefore, using CBD should not interfere with your employment, right? Well, the answer is a bit complicated.
You Can’t Always Trust the Label
As consumers, we expect nothing but the best from the companies we buy from and put trust in brands that they are looking out for our best interest. If you pick up a bottle of Advil, you expect the medication inside is what it says on the label or if you buy a pound of ground beef, there’s an expiration date so you know when to use it by. These products are tested and regulated by government agencies such as the FDA and USDA.
When it comes to CBD, there is little governmental oversight and no approval process for producers. CBD is not drug but rather an herbal supplement and therefore not subject to extensive scientific testing by the FDA. Which ultimately means, when you buy a CBD product, you are trusting the manufacturer to ensure what is in the container is what is on the label. However, a 2017 research study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), found that nearly 70% of all CBD products were mislabeled. Additionally, 21% of the products tested contained higher THC levels than the federally mandated limit of .3%.
How can you definitively know that the CBD product you’re buying is labeled correctly? Look for a reputable company that publishes independent, third-party lab results for all their products. These lab results should contain a certificate of analysis (with certificate number), list all compounds and amounts per batch, the testing date and be signed off by a qualified scientist. You should be able to find test results on a company’s website or sometimes as a scannable code on the packaging.
What you take and how you are taking it can ultimately determine if you will pass a drug screening. Generally speaking, CBD products come in three different types: full spectrum, broad spectrum and isolate. We’ll discuss these in more detail in a future blog, but for now let’s focus on the basics.
Full-Spectrum CBD – Contains all the cannabinoids of the hemp plant, including a small amount of THC (less than .3%)
Broad-Spectrum CBD – Contains all the cannabinoids of the hemp plant but does not contain THC.
CBD Isolate – Only contains CBD. Does not contain any other cannabinoids or THC.
In other words, assuming that you’ve checked the manufacturer’s independent lab testing for accuracy, you will not consume any THC with a broad-spectrum or isolate CBD product.
OK, so you’re in the clear if you use a broad-spectrum CBD product, right? Well, this is where is gets a bit tricky. In a 2019 study by the University of Utah, three urine samples that included CBD along with three other cannabinoids, CBN, CBC and CBG (commonly found in broad-spectrum CBD products) were tested for THC using a common drug screening method. In one of the tests, CBN reacted with the sample and created a false-positive. This is because CBN is a derivative of THC.
What if you’re using a full-spectrum CBD product?
While the small amount of THC is unlikely to trigger a positive or false-positive drug screening, the amount that you use, how often you take it and your body type will all play a role in the test results. It’s impossible to know exactly how CBD will react with every individual, so let’s look at some general rules.
The longer you take a full-spectrum CBD product, the more likely it is that THC will build up in your body over time. Even with the smallest doses of full-spectrum CBD with minimal THC, over time the THC will build up within your fat cells to a limit that may register on a drug screening.
Eating fatty foods while taking a full-spectrum CBD product can increase THC absorption greatly. A 2019 study by the University of Minnesota found that taking a CBD product with a high-fat meal resulted in 14 times higher absorption than taking with a non-fat meal. Essentially, this means that even if you don’t use a lot of full-spectrum CBD, it’s possible to retain THC in your body if you take CBD while eating fatty foods.
Your body type also can determine how THC is stored in your body. THC is most commonly stored within your fat cells. Again, speaking in general terms, people who are skinnier tend to store less THC over time and those who are heavy or obese store THC for longer periods.
When in Doubt, Talk to Your Doctor and Employer
Ultimately, you are in control of what goes into your body. Before starting any CBD regiment, talk to your doctor or medical care provider first. They can walk you through all the options and how it may react with your body. They may even prescribe or give you a treatment plan that includes some type of CBD product.
Additionally, you can talk to your employer if you have questions about using CBD and any potential drug screening. As CBD is becoming more widespread, employers have recognized that using a hemp-derived product is part of a healthy lifestyle. Company policies will vary, so it’s best to ask before starting with CBD.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Consult your care provider before taking any herbal supplements.
The statements regarding these products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Results from products may vary. These items are not intended to cure, treat or prevent any diseases.
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