Mental illnesses are common in the United States, from depression to bipolar disorder. Studies show that cannabis compounds can be effective in treating these conditions. But do they show up on a drug test? This is important information that will help you keep your medical history private.
THC and CBD are compounds called phytocannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids are organic compounds that can be extracted from the Cannabis sativa plant–which includes industrial hemp and marijuana. Both compounds–among other phytocannabinoids–were discovered in the 1960s. For obvious reasons, THC was the cannabinoid compound that was isolated and synthesized first by Raphael Mechoulam in 1964, and since then has been cannabinoid compound that has been of the most interest to researchers. In the 1990s, endocannabinoids were discovered–which are compounds that are produced in the human body and chemically resemble phytocannabinoids, like THC and CBD. Because of its psychoactive properties, THC and its effects on living organisms–mainly humans and lab mice–has been studied and stigmatized more widely than other phytocannabinoids. THC is also the compound that if found in your urine in a random or routine test, can land you in jail, or out of the job. But what about other cannabinoids? Will CBD show up in a drug test and will it chemically resemble THC?
There are around 85 known phytocannabinoids. THC and CBD are the most abundant and easily extracted. Chemically they do look quite different though. And this is good news for federal employees, and those in the private sector who use CBD for its many therapeutic benefits. For the most part, CBD will not show up in a drug test, but there are a few exceptions. So buyer beware.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a standard test it recommends to federal employers to detect certain levels of THC, and many other private employers have followed suit. This standard test looks specifically for marijuana metabolites, meaning the THC has been sufficiently metabolized by the body, and has taken on a slight chemical change by adding another molecule, THCA. The test looks for THCA found in body fluids–that is Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol-9-carboxylic acid (THCA). THCA found in the body at or above 15 ng/ml is said to give a positive test for marijuana.
Fortunately, for most CBD users, it would very difficult to get a positive result with enough THCA to give a false positive test for marijuana. The typical daily CBD dose, for general health, is a mere 2.5-15 mg of CBD oil. For other ailments, like treatment for pain or sleep disorders, doses are upwards of around 150 mg a day. To get a false positive test for marijuana, you would have to consume a daily dose of more than around 1000-2000 mg of CBD. A false positive could theoretically be found in the urine of someone who consumed that much CBD simply because THC compounds could come into contact with CBD extracts during processing (which has been known to occur), or simply because even the industrial hemp plant contains a very small amount of THC in its resins–usually less than .3%.
There are obvious reasons that, while THC has many therapeutic benefits, it also has some side effects that might negatively affect job performance, and for that reason employers want to ensure on-the-clock sobriety. For instance, the CDC has stated that marijuana can have a negative impact on flying airplanes, automobiles, or operating machinery. So newer, less expensive tests that can detect THCA in urine have been developed (prior to these newer tests, it was only detectable in blood plasma). Bad news for regular pot smokers, but good news for employers. If however, a consumer of CBD also smokes or ingests marijuana, even after a few days of restraining from use–based on a few factors–the test results for THCA may come back positive. For instance, for a seasoned marijuana user, the body accumulates THC in the tissues, and so it takes a longer duration of time for the body to completely metabolize THC and rid itself of it. Also, the age, diet, and metabolism of a person can determine how fast someone passes THC through their system.
All this said, CBD has many medicinal and therapeutic uses. It has been shown to calm anxiety, alleviate depression, decrease neuropathic pain in MS sufferers, and has been shown to cure epileptic seizures where other drug treatments have failed. CBD also has some promising “novel” approaches to fighting cancer. It can even negate some of the psychoactive side effects of marijuana. And has been known–in some preclinical trials–to help other drug users gently come off of more harmful and addictive substances, like opiates. So the fact that using CBD will not, in most cases, cause a false positive THC test result is a relief to many.