Evidence based

Will CBD Oil Make Me Fail A Drug Test?

CBD oils are unlikely to cause you to fail your upcoming drug test — but there are some caveats.

Article By
Justin Cooke , last updated on April 16, 2021

You’ve got an upcoming drug test, and you’re worried your CBD oil may cause you to fail.

While it’s possible that certain types of CBD products could lead to a failure on a drug test — it’s exceedingly rare.

The only way to guarantee your use of CBD products won’t show up on a drug test is to use products made from CBD isolate or broad-spectrum extracts.

Here, we’ll cover how drug testing works, how long they can detect the presence of cannabis in the body, and what products to use or avoid if you’re expecting a drug test.

  • Table of Contents

Drug Tests Look For THC — Not CBD

A drug test will only find what it’s looking for.

If a particular substance isn’t specifically included in the list of compounds the test is designed to look for — it won’t show up on the results.

The substances an organization may deem “problematic” can vary. For example, most corporate drug tests look for signs of illicit drug-use only — such as heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamines. They don’t worry about substances like anabolic steroids the same way an athletic commission might.

There aren’t any athletic commissions or anti-doping agencies that include CBD on their list of banned substances — so there’s no reason to test for it.

However, THC is officially listed as a banned substance by federal governments and anti-doping agencies. Virtually all drug tests will check for THC.

If a CBD product makes you fail a drug test, it’s because of the THC content — not the CBD content. Therefore, the only way to completely avoid the potential for failing one of these tests is to use products that are completely THC-free.

How Do Drug Tests Work?

Testing for drugs in the urine, blood, hair, or saliva requires high-tech lab equipment — such as mass-spectrometry, gas chromatography, or immunoassay testing.

At-home tests use a more primitive method involving reagents — a series of chemicals that will react and change color if exposed to the substances they’re designed to identify.

Here are the most common methods used to assess a sample for illicit or banned substances:

1. Mass spectrometry & Gas Chromatography

Gas chromatography and mass spectrometry are two methods usually used in combination to assess the contents of urine, blood, or saliva. Together, these methods are considered the “gold standard” for drug testing [3].

These tests both work by measuring the mass of various chemicals and charting them on a graph. It gives a “fingerprint” of the various compounds present in the substance being tested.

In some cases, an immunoassay test provides another layer of assurance and avoids false negatives or positives.

2. Immunoassays 

Immunoassay tests look for the presence of specific antibodies produced by the body in response to a substance — rather than looking for the substance itself.

Most drugs or medications trigger a reaction in the body in the form of an antibody. An antibody is designed to recognize a compound that enters the bloodstream and tags it. Some antibodies will tag substances as “safe”; others tag them as “dangerous,” which would activate parts of the immune system to attack or remove them from the body.

Antibodies can be used to identify drug-use even after there are no longer any detectable levels of the drug in the body.

Types of Drug Tests

There are many different types of drug testing methods a company or athletic organization can use to test for substances they deem to be a problem.

We can break these tests down according to the analysis method (reagent testing, mass spectrometry, gas chromatography) or by differentiating what’s being tested (urine, blood, hair, or saliva).

There are pros and cons for each type of test, and some are better at others at finding the presence of drugs in the body.

1. Urine Drug Tests

Urine drug testing is the most common test used today. They’re cheap, non-invasive, and reliable.

Most urine drug tests check for the presence of THC. More specifically, they don’t look for THC itself, but one of the main metabolites of this compound produced by the body called THC-COOH. These metabolites can be detected in the urine up to 30 days after using it.

If you used THC products just once or twice, it should be cleared by the body completely within about 3–7 days and will not be detectable in a drug test.

2. Blood Drug Tests

Blood tests are much less common than urine because it’s invasive, expensive, and surprisingly unreliable for discovering the presence of various drugs or substances.

When it comes to THC, blood tests will only really be able to tell if a person is currently under the influence of THC. If the test scores over 5 ng/mL, the person is legally considered “impaired,” — but the levels of THC will quickly drop to undetectable levels within about 24 hours.

3. Saliva Drug Testing

Another method some companies use to test their employees is through a saliva sample. This method is very uncommon because it isn’t as reliable as some of the other tests.

The threshold for a failed THC drug test is around 4 ng/mL depending on the test.

THC will only remain detectable for 72 hours in a saliva sample. People who use THC on a daily basis for several weeks at a time may test positive for up to a week after stopping.

4. Hair Drug Testing

Hair can also be tested to identify the presence of various substances. These tests can identify drug use over a much longer duration of time but aren’t nearly as reliable as the other forms. Hair tests often produce false positives or false negatives, so most organizations don’t even bother with this type of test.

The threshold for THC on a hair test is very small — just one picogram per milligram.

THC can remain detectable in the hair for as long as 90 days.

Types of CBD Extracts: What Are The Chances of Positive Results on a Drug Test

The only products that are considered “safe” from triggering positive results on a drug test are the CBD isolate and broad-spectrum CBD products. By definition, neither of these products contain any THC.

However, there have been cases where products labeled THC-free were found to have detectable or even high concentrations of THC. Whether this is by mistake or not, it could lead to a failure on your test. This is why you should always look for brands with a good track record and offer third-party tests for their products to prove the absence of THC.

1. Full-Spectrum CBD Extracts

(Small chances of showing up on a drug test)

These products are made from hemp plants (defined by cannabis plants with naturally low THC levels). They’re made to include all the active cannabinoids, terpenes, and other phytochemicals in the hemp plant.

Full-spectrum hemp oils are regarded as the most effective overall due to a concept called the entourage effect. However, because of the presence of THC in these products, there’s a (slight) chance these products could appear on a drug test.

The concentration of THC in these products is very low (<0.3%), so it’s very unlikely to register at all — but not impossible.

2. CBD Isolate Extracts

(Won’t show up on a drug test)

An isolated CBD oil contains nothing but pure CBD as the active ingredient. All the other cannabinoids — including THC — have been completely removed from the extract.

These products won’t cause you to fail your drug test unless they’ve been cross-contaminated with extracts that contain THC.

Some research found that the acidic conditions of the stomach could (theoretical) convert some CBD into THC [1].

However, this was an in vitro study and doesn’t necessarily translate to real-life humans. The concentrations that were converted are so low it’s still extremely unlikely that this would ever register on a drug test. This study has been contested with other research as well [2] — but it’s something still worth noting.

3. Broad-Spectrum CBD Extracts

(Very unlikely to show up on a drug test)

A broad-spectrum extract falls in the middle of full-spectrum and CBD isolate products. They include several active terpenes and cannabinoids naturally produced in hemp — with the exception of THC.

These products are very unlikely to result in a failed drug test due to the lack of THC.

4. Marijuana Products (High-THC)

(Very likely to show up on a drug test)

This is a whole other category of cannabis products. They’re the products that are made from marijuana plants (characterized by a higher concentration of delta 9 THC (>0.3%). Even marijuana oils that contain high concentrations of CBD or are only weakly psychoactive are likely to cause you to fail your upcoming drug test.

If you’re drug-tested for any reason, you should avoid using marijuana extracts of any kind.

Final Thoughts: Will CBD Oil Make Me Fail A Drug Test?

The short answer is “not likely” — but with some caveats.

A drug test won’t look for CBD because it isn’t a banned substance. What these tests will look for is a related cannabinoid called THC.

CBD isolates and broad-spectrum products contain 0% THC by definition and are unlikely to trigger a failure on your upcoming drug test.

Full-spectrum extracts contain very small concentrations of THC and therefore, could (theoretically) cause you to fail.

Marijuana-based products contain high concentrations of THC and are very likely to trigger a positive on a drug test up to a month after you use it. 

References Used In This Article

  1. Merrick, J., Lane, B., Sebree, T., Yaksh, T., O’Neill, C., & Banks, S. L. (2016). Identification of psychoactive degradants of cannabidiol in simulated gastric and physiological fluid. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, 1(1), 102-112.
  2. Nahler, G., Grotenhermen, F., Zuardi, A. W., & Crippa, J. A. (2017). A conversion of oral cannabidiol to delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol seems not to occur in humans. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, 2(1), 81-86.
  3. Kapur, B. M. (1993). Drug-testing methods and clinical interpretations of test results. Bull Narc, 45(2), 115-54.

Further Reading

Further Reading