While a large number of these topicals feature very little THC, many users are worried about the potential risks that accompany them and whether they could trigger a positive result on a drug test. These are just a couple of the challenges faced by patients using marijuana to manage pain in a society still largely unreceptive to their needs.
Cannabis topicals are an incredibly useful way to get localised pain relief and reduce inflammation. With the market expanding rapidly, their use is becoming significantly more widespread, even extending outside of traditional cannabis users.
WHAT ARE TOPICALS?
With topicals unable to get users high, it would stand to reason that it’s not possible to fail a drug screening as a result of their use. In principle, this is true; but there are some caveats. This study from 2017  confirmed that topicals containing THC did not cause a positive test in both blood and urine.
“Topical” is a term used to describe products applied to the surface of the body. Balms, ointments, lotions, and salves are all included in this category. What makes them unique is that rather than being consumed orally, they are applied directly to the skin. For that reason, they are not taken as a recreational drug, but instead for exclusively therapeutic use.
The caveat is transdermal patches. These work in the same way as a nicotine patch, providing patients with a strong dose of the active ingredient that is absorbed into the bloodstream through the skin. As such, use of THC-rich cannabis patches is likely to result in a failed drug test.
While some CBD oils claim to be isolates, they may be full spectrum oils and actually contain more cannabinoids (such as THC) than they claim.
CBD is one of many active chemical compounds in the cannabis plant. One reason it’s gaining momentum in popularity is because it is said to lack the component of the plant that causes a person to get high, which is called THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).
1. Using Product With THC
There are several techniques for extracting CBD oil from the cannabis plant. The extraction method determines whether the active CBD compound gets processed as a “full spectrum oil” or an “isolate.” A CBD isolate is a pure compound with no other active compounds or cannabinoids at all. A full spectrum oil contains other active plant compounds in addition to the CBD such as CBN (cannabinol) and cannabis terpenes (the part of the plant that gives the plant its aroma), and more.
Some sources report that in rare cases, false positive test results have come from CBD oil that breaks down into very small amounts of THC in the stomach. Other studies, however, have refuted this.
In fact, one study discovered that almost 70 percent of the CBD products sold online were not labeled properly, “causing potential serious harm to its consumers.” The reason for this widespread mislabeling is that CBD products are not strictly regulated by the FDA.
If you are concerned that THC in your CBD oil or other CBD product may show up on a drug test, you may be able to reduce the chance of that occurring, though there is no guarantee. Some of the factors that may increase the likelihood of a failed drug test are:
The legality of CBD products can be confusing. CBD products made from certain cannabis plant varieties are legal only in states where marijuana is legal, due to the potential THC content. CBD products made from hemp variety plants are legal throughout the United States as long as they contain less than 0.3% of THC and do not make any medical claims. (A hemp plant is defined as Cannabis sativa that contains less than 0.3% THC.)
Topical products that claim to contain CBD—like shampoos, cosmetics or creams—should not cause any reaction during a drug test because they do not enter the bloodstream. In the case of CBD oils, gummies, teas or transdermal patches, the situation is more complicated. In a test of 84 CBD products obtained online, 18 contained THC.
Factors in CBD Oil Showing on Drug Screen
CBD has taken off as a natural remedy for a variety of ailments. CBD products like CBD oil can be made from either the hemp plant or the cannabis plant, which are closely related varieties of the same cannabis species, Cannabis sativa. CBD products contain a cannabinoid—a chemical—called cannabidiol, which does not make you high. The substance in marijuana that causes a buzz is a different cannabinoid, called THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol.
THC can be detected in a urine test for up to 15 days, depending on how often and how much you use. It leaves the bloodstream in about five hours, but substances your body makes from THC (THC metabolites) can show up for as long as 7 days. CBD tends to stay in the bloodstream from 2 to 5 days, depending on dosage and frequency. If you have been using CBD for a while, it can stay in your body for up to 30 days or more.
CBD products can still be problematic, however, when it comes to drug testing. Though drug tests screen for THC, not CBD, many CBD products contain a trace amount of THC which will be detected in your bloodstream during a drug test.
CBD will not show up in a drug test because drug tests are not screening for it. CBD products may well contain THC, however, so you can fail a drug test after taking CBD products. If you take CBD oil, you should plan accordingly if your work or activities require you to undergo drug testing.