CBD & drug testing – Does CBD show up on drug tests?

Gail Evans, Alphabiolabs

By Gail Evans, Technical Trainer at AlphaBiolabs
Last reviewed: 01/27/2023

Cannabidiol (CBD) has grown in popularity in the US, with sales of CBD products hitting $4.6bn in 2020 alone and predicted to reach more than $20bn by 2025.

But what exactly is CBD? In this article, we explain CBD, why people use it, and whether CBD will show up on a drug test.

What is drug testing and how are drug tests performed?

When a person uses drugs, a proportion of the drug and its metabolites are released into the bloodstream, with a small amount being excreted by the body in a variety of ways.

This makes it possible to analyze a variety of samples for the presence of drugs including hair, nails, oral fluid (saliva) and urine.

Even after the ‘high’ has worn off, drug use can be detected by a drug test long after the drug was first consumed, depending on the type of test you take.

The most common types of drug test include urine drug tests, oral fluid drug tests, hair drug tests and nail drug tests, with each offering a different insight into a person’s drug use.

Oral fluid drug tests can detect drugs for up to 48 hours, while urine drug tests can detect drugs and their metabolites up to four days after drugs were consumed.

The rate at which head hair grows means that head hair drug tests provide a wide window of detection for drug use, making it possible to detect metabolites in the hair for up to 12 months after drug use, depending on the length of the hair.

Similarly, nail drug testing can be used to provide an overview of up to 12 months for drug use (six months for fingernails and 12 months for toenails).

Order a Home Drug Test Kit Online

What is CBD and what is CBD used for?

Cannabidiol or CBD, is a chemical found in marijuana.

However, unlike marijuana, CBD produces few if any psychoactive effects. This is because CBD only contains small amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

It is typically sold online, by pharmacies and by specialist retailers in the form of CBD oil but can also be found in the form of liquid, capsules, and gummies.

The purchase and sale of CBD products is legal at a federal level, provided products are hemp-derived and contain less than 0.3% THC. However, this varies from state-to-state, with some states considering the use or possession of any marijuana (cannabis) product illegal.

This means it is important to know the law for CBD in the state in which you reside.

Advocates of CBD claim that it can be used to alleviate the symptoms associated with common conditions including anxiety, mild to moderate pain, and insomnia.

However, research is still being undertaken to determine how CBD might be used as a treatment for other conditions including Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis.

There is currently only one prescribed CBD product that has been approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration – Epidiolex – which is approved to treat seizures caused by certain types of epilepsy.

Is CBD legal in the US?

The sale of CBD was effectively legalized at a federal level in 2018, with the passing of the Agriculture Improvement Act (2018 Farm Bill), which removed hemp from the federal Controlled Substances Act.

This made hemp-derived CBD products legal with the added stipulation that they must contain less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the psychoactive ingredient found in the Cannabis sativa plant.

However, despite this ruling, it is important to note that the legalization of CBD varies from state-to-state.

Some states consider possession of any marijuana (cannabis) products illegal, while others only permit the use of CBD when prescribed by a physician for the treatment of specific conditions.

This means it is important to understand the law in your state before purchasing CBD products.

What is the difference between CBD and THC?

Although both cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) derive from the Cannabis sativa plant, and are classed as cannabinoids, there are some differences between the two.

THC is the main psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana and is responsible for the ‘high’ that people experience when using marijuana.

Unlike THC however, CBD produces few if any psychoactive effects.

Marijuana, which contains much higher amounts of THC, is a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning it remains illegal at a federal level due to its potential for abuse and dependency.

However, some states have legalized marijuana for medicinal and/or recreational purposes.

CBD products are legal at a federal level if they are hemp-derived and contain less than 0.3% (trace levels) of THC, although this varies from state-to-state, so it is important to understand the law in the state where you reside.

CBD vs THC – What’s the difference?

Does CBD show up on drug tests?

When drug testing for marijuana, the sample will be analyzed for the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC – the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) above certain cut-off levels.

CBD products that are legal at a federal level must contain less than 0.3% THC (although this varies from state-to-state).This means that legally compliant CBD products will only contain very, very small amounts of THC.

For this reason, it is unlikely that a drug test could detect the use of CBD, although it is important to understand the law in the state where you reside.

Unfortunately, not all CBD products are regulated. Some sellers have been known to sell CBD products containing much higher levels of THC than permitted under federal or state law.

In these circumstances, the person using them could test positive for THC on a drug test.

If you are due to take a drug test and are currently using CBD products, either prescribed or purchased online/over the counter, we strongly advise you disclose this information before undergoing a drug test.

What are the different types of CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) comes from the cannabis plant, but different plants have their own compounds and chemical compositions, as well as varying levels of THC.CBD products are available in three forms:

  • Full-spectrum CBD: containing all the compounds that naturally occur in cannabis plants, such as flavonoids, terpenes, and cannabinoids including THC.

Full-spectrum CBD products such as oils, creams and edibles may contain trace levels of THC. However, to be legal at a federal level, they must contain less than 0.3% THC.

  • Broad-spectrum CBD: as with full-spectrum CBD products, these products contain compounds from the cannabis plant including cannabinoids and terpenes.

However, in broad-spectrum CBD products, the THC has been removed. Commonly sold as an oil, these types of products are very unlikely to contain THC.

  • CBD isolate: these products contain pure CBD and do not have any additional compounds from the cannabis plant. Known as hemp-derived CBD, these products should not contain any THC.

Will CBD cause a false positive on a drug test?

A drug test will only provide a positive result if certain drugs and their metabolites are detected in a person’s sample.

In instances where CBD is being used, a positive reading will only occur if there is indication of THC in the person’s system above a certain level.

There are a few different reasons why using CBD could result in someone failing a drug test, including:

  • Cross-contamination during the manufacturing of CBD products
  • Second-hand exposure to THC (e.g. via second-hand smoking of marijuana)
  • Using unregulated products (e.g. CBD products containing levels of THC above the legal federal amounts (above 0.3% THC)

Where can I get a drug test?

AlphaBiolabs offers two types of home drug tests, designed to give you peace of mind or enable you to seek support for a loved one who is struggling with substance misuse.

  • Home Urine Drug Test Kit (pack of 3 – $34.95) – this easy-to-use home drug testing kit can detect drugs and their metabolites in a urine sample. The self-contained screening kit includes built-in test strips, allowing you to read the results in just 5 minutes
  • Drug and Alcohol Nail Test (from $99) – this test can detect drug use for a period of up to 12 months prior to samples being collected, with only a sample of fingernail clippings or toenail clippings required. Simply follow the instructions included in your test kit to collect your nail clipping samples and return them to our accredited laboratory for testing
  • Home Hair Drug Test Kit ($99)

Please be aware that our home drug test kits are for peace of mind only, and the results cannot be used in court or for legal reasons.

For confidential advice about which test might best suit your needs, you can email our Customer Services team at info@alphabiolabsusa.com.

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Gail Evans AlphaBiolabs

Gail Evans

Technical Trainer at AlphaBiolabs
A professionally-trained forensic scientist, Gail joined AlphaBiolabs in 2012 and holds the role of Technical Trainer. Her day-to-day responsibilities include delivering in-depth training sessions both internally and externally, covering DNA, drug, and alcohol testing. Before joining the company, Gail was a practising forensic scientist, attending scenes of crime, and analyzing physical and biological material with potential evidential value. Gail also holds qualifications in chemistry and is a Lead Auditor for the ISO 9001 standard, the international standard for quality management.

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