Drug testing has been around the US for over 25 years, ever since US President Ronald Regan first required it for federal employees in 1986. Employees were tested for trace amounts of THC to see whether they’re cannabis users, but they were also tested for other drugs and opiates.
Cannabinoid metabolites remain in the fat cells of the body even after the effects of cannabis wear off, which is why they can be caught on drug test days, even weeks after smoking. But what about CBD products like CBD edibles, tinctures, gummies, and others? Will they show up on a drug test?
The answer to that question will be provided below as we go over the amount of time CBD remains in the body, and whether a drug test can pick it up.
The Basics of Drug Testing
The cannabis plant is a rather complex one as it contains more than 400 chemical entities, 60 of them being cannabinoid compounds. It contains the popular and psychoactive cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and the non-intoxicating one cannabidiol (CBD).
Even though CBD is used for its health benefits and most CBD products contain below 0.3% THC, a lot of users fear that it will show up on their drug test. Standard cannabis drug tests check for the presence of THC metabolites in the blood, urine, or hair strands, so cannabis users want to know whether these trace amounts of THC show up on a drug test and how long it takes before CBD is out of their system for good.
How Long Does CBD Oil Stay in Your Body?
The time that CBD remains in the body and can be detected depends on several factors:
- Metabolism and BMI: The metabolism of a person, as well as their BMI (Body Mass Index), affect how long CBD stays in the body. Moreover, it’s important whether CBD is taken on an empty stomach or with food since some foods, especially fatty foods like avocados, enhance the bioavailability of CBD.
- Frequency of use: How often you use CBD will also influence the amount of time it remains in the body.
- CBD dosage: The amount of CBD you’ve taken will influence how long the cannabinoid remains in the body.
- Method of consumption: How you consume CBD correlates to how long it’ll take for you to feel its effects, as well as how long it takes the body to process it. Vaping has almost immediate effects which start after CBD is inhaled and as it enters the lungs, but that also means that it leaves the body faster compared to consuming edibles or applying topicals. Edibles take about an hour to kick in, however they linger inside the body for a longer period of time.
It’s important to say that drug tests don’t screen for the presence of CBD in the blood since it doesn’t provide psychoactive effects on users. The only cannabinoid that can be detected is THC, so if your CBD product has higher levels of THC than what the FDA allows, it may result in a positive drug test.
What Do Studies Say About How Long CBD Lasts in the Body?
A 1991 study published in “Pharmacology, Biochemistry & Behavior” examined how long it takes for CBD to leave the body after consuming high doses daily. The study showed that after one week without taking CBD, the CBD concentration in the blood was just 1.5 nanograms per milliliter.
A 2018 review of CBD studies concluded that the half-life of CBD is between 2-5 days if the user takes an oral dose daily. Other methods of consumption had different half-lifes.
A 2016 study was done on participants who consumed different cannabis products like oils, capsules, and flowers. A few hours after administration, all users had a urine sample positive for CBD, and two hours after administration, urine samples from all 15 subjects tested positive for CBD presence. After 24 hours, the urine samples were free of CBD.
This concludes that CBD can be detected in the body for a certain period of time, however, most cannabis tests check for the presence of THC, not CBD.
How Long Do the Effects of CBD Last?
How long the effects of CBD last will vary depending on the consumption method.
Ingesting CBD oil involves administering a few drops of it directly into the mouth. However, ingestion isn’t the most effective method of consumption. That’s because swallowing the CBD oil makes it pass through the digestive system instead of going directly to the bloodstream and giving you instant effects. Only about 5% of the CBD you swallow will end up in the bloodstream, meaning that the bioavailability of CBD with this method of consumption is low. Ingesting CBD oil will take between 1-2 hours until the onset of the effects of CBD.
This method of consumption is more effective compared to ingestion. By placing a few drops of CBD oil sublingually and holding for a few minutes, CBD is transferred directly into the bloodstream through the mucous membrane in the mouth. The sublingual method has a higher bioavailability compared to ingesting the oil, since it bypasses the digestive system and the metabolizing of cannabinoids in the liver.
The inhalation consumption method has rapid effects since CBD is inhaled in the lungs, and it’s quickly transferred into the bloodstream and put into circulation. After only a few minutes of inhaling from your vape pen, CBD levels reach their peak, which is why this method is great for people in need of immediate pain relief.
CBD can be infused into creams, lotions, salves, and other topical CBD products. Topical products are absorbed through the surface of the skin and interact with the cannabinoid receptors on the skin to provide localized pain relief.
Will CBD Show up on Your Urine Drug Test?
According to the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp-derived CBD products are legal in the US only if they have THC levels lower than 0.3%. Generally, employers test for THC presence in drug screenings to check for substance abuse, since THC is the cannabinoid that provides psychoactive effects. So if you’ve been consuming CBD oil, you’re probably safe if you’re taking a smaller dose.
Taking a higher dose of full spectrum CBD oil may put you at risk of getting a positive drug test result, especially if the labelling of the product is false (the FDA checks the labelling of CBD products, so this is unlikely). Consuming broad spectrum CBD, as well as pure CBD isolates make it even less likely that you’ll get a positive result since they contain little to no THC or other cannabinoids in their ingredients.
Can You Get a False Positive Result From CBD?
There are a few reasons why you can get a fake positive result. One of them involves consuming CBD products that have higher THC content than the one listed on the label. This 2019 analysis done in Germany concluded that 25% of the samples had misrepresented the THC levels on the label.
You can also get a false-positive result in a urine drug screen if you’ve been using some of the following drugs or medication:
- NSAIDs like ibuprofen, naproxen and sulindac;
And finally, second-hand cannabis smoke isn’t likely to result in a positive urine drug screen. A guide on cannabis urine testing done by the Mayo clinic and intended for clinicians reviewed an older study which tested 80 individuals. Out of the 80 urine samples in the study, only 2 tested positive (but the levels didn’t go over the federal threshold).
Final Thoughts on the Effects of CBD Oil and Urine Testing
While there are different drug tests on the market that test for the presence of cannabinoids in the body, they’re generally focused towards testing for the presence of THC. Since CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, legal under federal law, and used to treat certain medical conditions, employers don’t test for it.
In the unlikely chance that you do get a positive result on your mandatory urine drug screening at work, explain to your employer that you’re using CBD products. They may be the cause for your positive result since some CBD products may be contaminated with more THC or have improper labelling. Also, using other drugs and medication may interfere with your drug screen results and result in a false positive.
If you work at a company that requires you to take mandatory drug tests, make sure that the CBD products you’re using come from a reliable source and contain THC levels lower than 0.3%.