An ongoing series of informational entries
Our Third Blog Entry
OCTOBER 18th, 2018
You may be wondering how using CBD products effects drug screenings, if at all. Luckily, we’ve done the research for you and have the information you need. Before we get into all the little details and science behind drug panels and how they react with CBD, let’s first discuss the different classifications of CBD.
When it comes to CBD products, the most commonly sold are full spectrum and isolate based. These can also commonly be known as pure, but in this article, but, for simplicity purposes, we will stick to the term “full spectrum” and “isolate based”.
Full spectrum is a product derived from the seeds and stems of hemp plants, which contains a combination of CBD, natural plant terpenes and cannabinoids such as CBG (cannabigerol), CBN (cannabinol) and less than 0.3% THC. Just like CBD, these other cannabinoids and terpenes are naturally occurring in hemp and marijuana plants. Full spectrum products include oils, topical, and softgels among other options.
So what could this mean for CBD users concerned with drug screenings? Here’s where it gets tricky. Hemp-derived CBD products contain less than 0.3% percent THC. While there is no risk of intoxication or feel “high” from CBD products with these trace amounts of THC, that does not mean you are completely “safe” if screened. Even small trace amounts of THC can be picked up.
CBD users faced with routine drug screenings often turn to isolate products. The term “isolate” comes from the extraction process by which CBD is actually isolated from other elements and what remains should be pure CBD and nothing else. Most products claim to be around 99% pure. Which means some trace amount of other cannabinoids, including THC, could remain. When looking into isolate CBD, numbers make the difference. Products containing 99.9% CBD are less likely to have identifiable amounts of THC. Anything with 99.5% or less will contain higher trace amounts. There’s no guarantee either way, but the purer the CBD the less likely a drug screen will pick up any amounts of THC.
How drug screens work
For the purpose of this article, we’ll refer to the most commonly used test. The UDS, or urine drug screen, is used more often due to its convenience, cost and pain-free procedure. The UDS analyzes urine for illegal and certain prescription drug usage. The test usually screens for amphetamines, methamphetamines, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, marijuana, cocaine, PCP, methadone, and opioids (narcotics). Though typically screened through a breathalyzer (breath test) a UDS can also detect alcohol usage.
There are two forms of tests used for urine screening. Immunoassay tests give rapid results and are more cost-effective, but have a higher likelihood of giving false positives. A false positive is when a UDS shows positive for drugs when none were in the patient’s system. This type of screening also doesn’t pick up on all forms of opioids.
The next, more expensive test, is the gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) test. It works very similarly to the immunoassay, but requires more time and rarely results in false positives. Either test can produce a false negative. This is where no drugs are detected by the UDS, even though the patient had drugs in their system.
The immunoassay UDS doesn’t actually measure drugs. This test detects how drugs react within the patient’s immune system to determine it’s ability to build antigen-antibody complexes. The test has a cutoff limit, expressed in nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml). Any amount above the cutoff number results in a positive screening.
Here’s one issue with the immunoassay UDS. With instant results, the individual administering the test doesn’t usually add the numeric values of the ng/ml to their findings. Typically, a simple positive or negative result is sent back to the party requesting the test. This is because most immunoassay screens don’t include the ng/ml percentages. More often than not there’s a simple test strip that turns a different color to indicate the presence of specific drugs.
When asked to complete a UDS, it’s good to note the potential for false positives. If you’re certain there are no drugs in your system, and your screening produced a positive result, you should inquire as to which UDS was used. If results were instant, it was most likely an immunoassay test. If this was the case, be sure to request a second screening utilizing a GC/MS.
Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) tests are used to detect and study trace amounts of chemicals, as low 0.000000000001 gram. Gas chromatography (GC) works to analyze and separate various components in a substance, such as urine, to then test the purity of that substance and/or identify a specific compound. Mass spectrometry (MS) categorizes ions based on their mass. An MS analysis can be used in complex as well as pure samples. Together, put in simpler terms, the GC/MS measures the amounts of chemicals in a given sample by comparing it to a pre-measured standard (or clean) sample.
So which CBD product is safe?
Although pure isolate CBD should contain very little if any amounts of THC, there’s never a guarantee that any cannabinoid is “safe” when it comes to drug screening. Because any hemp plant may contain THC, the active compound drug screens are designed to detect when testing for marijuana, any CBD product can still have at least trace amounts of THC which can ultimately lead to a positive screening regardless of how small the chance of that happening is.
It is less likely that a UDS would show positive for THC with a patient taking pure isolate CBD, than perhaps full-spectrum products, but the only way to be completely safe would be to stop all usage of any substances prior to your scheduled screening. Still, this is not a promise that your screening will come back negative, but it is not a bad idea to stop usage at least ten days (if not longer) before a urine test if possible.