CBD topicals are becoming much more commonplace, and you're right to wonder how they interact with your body and a drug test result. Whether you're considering tossing it in your gym bag for post workout recovery or getting a professional massage with CBD massage oil, you'll find that there are a wide variety of CBD fo Read on to learn more about how drug tests for cannabis work and what research says about CBD use potentially leading to a positive result. A male driver was checked during a traffic stop. A blood sample was collected 35min later and contained 7.3ng/mL THC, 3.5ng/mL 11-hydroxy-THC and 44.6ng/mL 11-nor-9-carboxy-THC. The subject claimed to have used two commercially produced products topically that contained 1.7ng and 102ng THC per mg, r …
Can Topical CBD Oil Cause Positive Drug Test?
CBD topicals are becoming much more commonplace, and you’re right to wonder how they interact with your body and a drug test result. Whether you’re considering tossing it in your gym bag for post workout recovery or getting a professional massage with CBD massage oil, you’ll find that there are a wide variety of CBD formulas available, each containing a colorful array of different cannabinoids, terpenes, and other plant derived compounds.
It boils down to this–CBD itself will not cause a failed drug test, but the THC content of some CBD products is much more controversial. Here, we’ll explore how CBD topicals work and whether CBD, or the trace amount of THC found in some CBD topicals, can penetrate the vascular system and make it into the bloodstream.
Let’s start with the basics:
- CBD topicals do not reach the bloodstream, but still interact with the Endocannabinoid System to provide therapeutic benefits.
- Drug tests don’t look for CBD, so CBD itself will not interfere with a drug test result.
- Some people worry about the trace amounts of THC in some topicals, but research shows that topical THC also does not reach the bloodstream.
- The benefits of CBD topicals may far outweigh the risks for most people looking to soothe topical aches, pains, and skin concerns.
What Is CBD?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is the primary cannabinoid found in hemp, as opposed to THC, the primary cannabinoid found in marijuana. Unlike THC, CBD is non-psychoactive, but it still interacts with the Endocannabinoid System in a meaningful way.
CBD is potentially therapeutic, both when taken by mouth when used topically. As a topical, CBD is widely believed to help reduce inflammation, soothe muscle pain, promote athletic recovery, and address an array of skin concerns. Evidence exists to help support these benefits, which we will discuss in greater detail below.
CBD’s ability to offer these therapeutic benefits without causing a head high is its greatest appeal. Still, some people have run into drug testing issues due to the trace amounts of THC found in full spectrum CBD oil products designed to be taken by mouth. Thankfully, this is much less of a worry for CBD topicals because of the way they interact with the body, meaning you may be able to use full spectrum topicals with far less risk.
What are CBD Topicals?
CBD topicals are exactly as they sound–CBD in topical form. This can mean CBD oil meant to be rubbed on the skin, CBD salves meant to target certain skin conditions, or CBD muscle rubs meant to penetrate deep and help to alleviate pain.
The type of CBD topical that you choose is totally based on preference, but it usually depends on how you intend to use it. All in all, though, they’ll each be pretty similar. As a rule, CBD topicals contain a base, usually an oil or butter of some form that’s meant to carry CBD and help it absorb into the skin. CBD is fat soluble, so it needs to be carried by an oil in order to effectively penetrate the skin.
Some topical CBD products also contain other hemp derivatives, like other cannabinoids and terpenes, as well as other botanicals, like camphor, menthol, or other essential oils chosen to boost the product’s therapeutic effects.
You’ll also have multiple formula options to choose from, but there are three basic options. Let’s break them down:
Full Spectrum refers to a CBD formula that contains a wide array of the cannabinoids found in cannabis, including trace amounts of THC, but also usually CBN, CBG, CBC, and more.
Broad Spectrum CBD products typically contain a large concentration of CBD alongside other trace cannabinoids, but they do not contain THC.
CBD Isolate simply refers to a formula that contains only isolated CBD molecules. It will not contain any other cannabinoids, though some CBD isolate products do have added terpenes and botanicals.
The difference in these two formulas is up for debate, but many people believe that Full Spectrum CBD formulas are more effective for most therapeutic purposes because they provide the added benefit of the entourage effect, a phenomenon where hemp cannabinoids work synergistically to boost each other’s effects. This of course is why CBD drug testing comes into question. Full Spectrum products contain at least trace amounts of Delta-9-THC, an illicit cannabinoid that will register on a drug test report.
Luckily, you probably don’t need to be concerned about the THC in topical CBD products. Here’s why:
How CBD Topicals Work (and Why They Won’t Make You Fail a Drug Test)
CBD, like other cannabinoids, interacts with the Endocannabinoid System, a regulatory system responsible for carrying out crucial bodily processes. The Endocannabinoid System wears lots of hats, but the most significant to CBD topicals is its ability to regulate pain signaling and the inflammatory response.
Research shows that CBD may help to reduce inflammation and pain across several applications, and CBD topicals do this by penetrating the deeper layers of the skin and interacting with CB2 receptors in the tissues below the surface.
In other words, CBD may penetrate all layers of the skin, all the way down to joints and ligaments, but it does not need to crossover into the vascular system to reach the Endocannabinoid System. That means that CBD (or THC) that’s applied topically doesn’t reach the bloodstream or have any systemic effect on the body.
Because CBD Topicals Don’t Reach the Bloodstream, They Have Virtually No Effect on Drug Tests
First and foremost, it’s important to note that drug tests don’t test for CBD. The risk of failing a drug test after using CBD involves only the trace amount of THC in Full Spectrum CBD products. The risk is already very small (and there’s no THC risks associated with Broad Spectrum or CBD Isolate).
Evidence suggests that THC, when applied topically to the skin, also doesn’t reach the bloodstream. That brings the already small risk down to zero. That means you should be safe to use full spectrum CBD topicals, even if you’re subject to drug testing.
Benefits of CBD Topicals
We lightly touched on how topicals work and the benefits that topicals may provide, but let’s dig deeper into the research available to support the use of topical CBD for inflammation and pain.
As we noted above, CBD can penetrate deep into the skin to interact with CB2 receptors, where it may have an impact on the body’s pain and inflammation response. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), CBD may be useful for managing certain inflammatory skin conditions, like acne, psoriasis, and eczema.
Research has also found that its anti-inflammatory effects may help to provide pain relief when used topically. One 2016 study, for instance, found that CBD, when applied topically to mice, may have long lasting benefits for reducing inflammation and pain-related behaviors caused by arthritis.
Furthermore, CBD may be useful for managing certain pain conditions that are difficult to treat. A 2020 study found that topical CBD oil may help to reduce pain related to neuropathy, a condition characterized by nerve damage that causes numbness and weakness in the hands and feet.
More research is needed to understand the full potential of CBD topicals for managing different types of pain and discomfort, and to compare the benefits of full spectrum and CBD isolate formulas. For now, we know that CBD topicals potentially offer a wide range of benefits with very little risk, so they may be worth a shot for anyone looking to manage topical skin conditions or muscle pains.
Types of CBD Topicals
We briefly covered the different types of CBD topical formulas above, but let’s touch on the two most common product types you’ll find in today’s hemp market–salves and muscle rubs.
CBD Skin Salves
A salve is a thick, buttery application that offers moisturizing properties. When infused with CBD, as well as other cannabinoids and botanicals, it can potentially be used to address topical skin concerns, like redness, irritation, itching, wounds, dry skin, blemishes, and more. Most skin soothing salves won’t contain menthol or other ingredients that will potentially irritate a rash or blemish, so this is the best option for skin care purposes.
Our CBD Skin Balm is designed to soothe topical scrapes, cuts, burns, and more. The functional formula combines nourishing rosehip oil and shea nut butter with rejuvenating essential oils to help support optimal skin health and healing.
CBD Muscle Rub
Muscle creams, on the other hand, can come in many forms. These may be creams, lotions, roll-ons, or a solid stick that can be applied to a targeted location. Usually, these will contain a higher potency of CBD alongside fast-acting botanicals, like camphor, menthol, and other plant-based analgesics.
Our CBD Muscle Rub, for instance, combines a potent CBD extract with hand selected botanicals, including cooling menthol, soothing arnica, and a powerful dose of turmeric oil. The combination is designed to support blood flow, lower inflammation, and offer a synergy that helps to calm pain and discomfort in the joints and muscles.
Where to Buy Topical CBD
Although CBD has not yet been approved by the FDA as a topical treatment for any condition, many people are eager to give it a shot for managing arthritis. Luckily, because it’s derived from hemp, it’s much more accessible than other cannabis products. In fact, you can order federally legal hemp products online and have them shipped right to your door from almost anywhere in the country.
There’s one drawback–the hemp industry is still poorly regulated, so you’ll need to take care to choose a high-quality, well-formulated CBD cream. At Vida Optima, we follow the same stringent quality standards for all of our CBD products, whether they are meant to be ingested or applied topically.
Our VidaDerm CBD Skin Care line is carefully formulated with premium CBD extract, hand chosen botanicals, and nourishing plant oils to offer a gentle and effective option for combating skin concerns at the surface and aches and pains deep in the joints. Pair it with a systemic CBD dose from our Vitality Collection for a full-coverage CBD wellness routine.
Does CBD Show Up On A Drug Test?
Dr. Jessica Cho practiced medicine with a single mission: Help patients attain wellness and create a life full of joy, vitality and balance.
Commissions we earn from partner links on this page do not affect our opinions or evaluations. Our editorial content is based on thorough research and guidance from the Forbes Health Advisory Board.
Table of Contents
- How Drug Tests for Cannabis Work
- Can CBD Use Lead to a Positive Result on a Drug Test?
- How to Make Sure a CBD Product Doesn’t Contain THC
Despite the widespread popularity of cannabidiol (CBD), a lot of confusion about the plant compound remains, including whether it shows up on a drug test.
CBD and delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are both cannabinoids, or active constituents, of the cannabis sativa plant. However, while the intoxicatingly psychoactive properties of THC lead to a “high,” CBD doesn’t produce the same intoxicating effects.
Since the two cannabinoids are sourced from the same plant, it’s fair to wonder whether both THC and CBD would show up on a drug test. Read on to learn more about how drug tests for cannabis work and what research says about CBD use potentially leading to a positive result.
You May Also Be Interested In CBD Oils From Our Featured Partner
Isolate CBD Oil
On Medterra’s Website
500mg,1000mg, 3000mg, 6000mg
True Full Spectrum™ CBD Oil
On Medterra’s Website
750mg,1500mg, 3000mg, 6000mg
Chocolate Mint, Citrus
Ultra Broad Spectrum™ CBD Oil
On Medterra’s Website
Citrus, Strawberry Mint, Unflavored
Immune Boost CBD Oil
On Medterra’s Website
On Medterra’s Website
(Note: Product details and price are accurate as of publication and are subject to change.)
How Drug Tests for Cannabis Work
Drug tests for cannabis aim to detect THC, not CBD. According to Kelly Johnson-Arbor, M.D., a triple-board certified medical toxicologist and co-medical director of National Capital Poison Center in Washington, D.C., there are a few types of drug tests that can detect the presence of cannabis in the human body.
One of the most common tests is the immunoassay. “In this test, a sample of a patient’s urine (or other bodily fluid like blood) is analyzed to look for chemicals that resemble the active metabolite, or breakdown product, of THC,” explains Dr. Johnson-Arbor. “The immunoassay does not test for the presence of THC itself, and the test does not provide information about the degree of impairment or amount of THC to which an individual was exposed.”
Immunoassays are inexpensive and accessible, and they provide fast results. However, because false positives and false negatives can occur, they’re considered presumptive screening tests. Dr. Johnson-Arbor says many organizations use confirmation drug testing as a next step.
“Confirmatory testing using mass spectrometry is often used for forensic or workplace drug testing and is considered the ‘gold standard’ for drug testing because it’s the most accurate way to detect the presence of a drug in a person’s urine or blood,” says Dr. Johnson-Arbor. Mass spectrometry is an advanced method of testing that detects compounds based on their unique chemical structures and, for confirmatory testing, is typically combined with other advanced testing methods. Mass spectrometry, however, is more expensive and time consuming than immunoassays, it requires highly trained staff, and results may not be available for days or even weeks.
Drug tests can detect THC for three days after a single use and more than 30 days after heavy use. “THC is fat soluble and can be stored in body fat for a long time,” says Dr. Johnson-Arbor. “Chronic THC use can lead to accumulation of THC in fatty tissues, and the THC can then slowly release into the bloodstream over time.”
What Level of THC Leads to a Positive Result on a Drug Test?
There’s no standard level of THC evaluated across all drug tests. “Different laboratory test manufacturers may have different cutoff levels for positive THC test results,” says Dr. Johnson-Arbor.
With that said, the cutoff level for THC on an initial immunoassay test is 50 nanograms per milliliter of urine. “This amount represents the concentration of THC metabolites in the urine but doesn’t reflect the actual amount of THC used by the patient being tested,” says Dr. Johnson-Arbor.
Pure, Premium, Powerful CBD
FAB CBD’s products are made from organically grown, lab tested, Colorado hemp. Their range of products include CBD oils, gummies, topical CBD cream, dog treats and more.
Can CBD Use Lead to a Positive Result on a Drug Test?
CBD use can lead to a positive drug test result if the CBD product consumed contains higher levels of THC than the label indicates—a discrepancy that’s not as uncommon as you might think.
“CBD products are largely unregulated and may contain unwanted contaminants, including THC or other illicit drugs,” says Dr. Johnson-Arbor. “In one study from 2017, an analysis of 48 CBD products revealed that less than one-third of the products had accurate labeling about their CBD concentration, and 21% contained THC  Bonn-Miller M, Loflin M, Thomas B, et al. Labeling Accuracy of Cannabidiol Extracts Sold Online. JAMA. 2017;318(17):1708-1709. .”
Another analysis in F100 Research of 67 CBD-containing food products in Germany found 25% of the samples contained THC above the lowest observable adverse effect level (LOAEL) of 2.5 milligrams per day.
If you use CBD products regularly, it’s important to keep in mind that they might contain potentially problematic ingredients. CBD itself may not get you high or yield a positive drug test result, but products containing higher amounts of THC than the manufacturer claims might.
Does the Type of CBD Matter?
CBD is derived either from hemp, a specific strain of the cannabis sativa plant, or from THC-containing cannabis. Hemp-derived CBD should contain no more than 0.3% THC, per the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), but product testing reveals it can sometimes exceed this federally legal limit.
A small 2021 study in JAMA Psychiatry evaluated urine samples of 15 participants who used full-spectrum, hemp-derived CBD and found detectable levels of THC in seven study participants four weeks after discontinuing use. The researchers concluded that using hemp-derived products specifically doesn’t always mean you’re in the clear when it comes to drug testing  Lachenmeier D, Habel St, Fischer B, Herbi F, et al. Are Adverse Effects of Cannabidiol (CBD) Products Caused by Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) Contamination?. F1000Res. 2019;8:1394. .
“Since the possession, growth and sale of cannabis remains illegal on a federal level, any positive drug test for THC can have serious legal consequences, regardless of whether it was caused by use of contaminated CBD products,” says Dr. Johnson-Arbor. warns. With that said, broad-spectrum CBD and CBD isolate products are less likely than full-spectrum CBD to be contaminated with detectable levels of THC due to the extraction methods used specifically to remove THC from the formulations, as well as other terpenes and cannabinoids in the case of CBD isolate.
How to Make Sure a CBD Product Doesn’t Contain THC
Unfortunately, it isn’t easy for the consumer to be sure how much THC is in a particular CBD product.
“Since the CBD industry is largely unregulated, there is no definitive way to know whether a particular CBD product does or does not contain THC,” says Dr. Johnson-Arbor. “While manufacturers may provide test results for their CBD products that claim that the product does not contain THC, the test results are often representative of only a sample batch of CBD manufactured or sold by the company at a single time. These results do not reflect the composition of every available CBD product sold by the company.”
That said, you should always look for a Certificate of Analysis (COA), which details the compounds found in a CBD product. You can usually find it on the company’s website, or you can request one from the company. If they don’t provide a COA, it should be considered a red flag as it may mean the company isn’t testing their products—or they are and don’t want to reveal the results of those tests to consumers.
Long story short, yes, CBD may yield a positive result on a drug test. There are certain actions you can take to determine whether the product you’re buying contains the lowest amount of THC possible, but there’s no guarantee that the labeling is accurate due to the lack of regulation of CBD products.
Topical application of THC containing products is not able to cause positive cannabinoid finding in blood or urine
A male driver was checked during a traffic stop. A blood sample was collected 35min later and contained 7.3ng/mL THC, 3.5ng/mL 11-hydroxy-THC and 44.6ng/mL 11-nor-9-carboxy-THC. The subject claimed to have used two commercially produced products topically that contained 1.7ng and 102ng THC per mg, respectively. In an experiment, three volunteers (25, 26 and 34 years) applied both types of salves over a period of 3days every 2-4h. The application was extensive (50-100cm 2 ). Each volunteer applied the products to different parts of the body (neck, arm/leg and trunk, respectively). After the first application blood and urine samples of the participants were taken every 2-4h until 15h after the last application (overall n=10 urine and n=10 blood samples, respectively, for each participant). All of these blood and urine samples were tested negative for THC, 11-hydroxy-THC and 11-nor-9-carboxy-THC by a GC-MS method (LoD (THC)=0.40ng/mL; LoD (11-hydroxy-THC)=0.28ng/mL; LoD (THC-COOH)=1.6ng/mL;. LoD (THC-COOH in urine)=1.2ng/mL). According to our studies and further literature research on in vitro testing of transdermal uptake of THC, the exclusive application of (these two) topically applied products did not produce cannabinoid findings in blood or urine.
Keywords: Cannabinoids; Gaschromatography mass spectrometry; Hemp oil containing cremes; Topic.
Copyright © 2017 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.
Mieczkowski T. Mieczkowski T. Forensic Sci Int. 1995 Jan 5;70(1-3):83-91. doi: 10.1016/0379-0738(94)01628-i. Forensic Sci Int. 1995. PMID: 7860039
Fraser AD, Worth D. Fraser AD, et al. Forensic Sci Int. 2004 Jul 16;143(2-3):147-52. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2004.02.034. Forensic Sci Int. 2004. PMID: 15240035
Meier U, Dussy F, Scheurer E, Mercer-Chalmers-Bender K, Hangartner S. Meier U, et al. Forensic Sci Int. 2018 Oct;291:62-67. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2018.08.009. Epub 2018 Aug 11. Forensic Sci Int. 2018. PMID: 30149280
Teixeira H, Verstraete A, Proença P, Corte-Real F, Monsanto P, Vieira DN. Teixeira H, et al. Forensic Sci Int. 2007 Aug 6;170(2-3):148-55. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2007.03.026. Epub 2007 Jul 5. Forensic Sci Int. 2007. PMID: 17614225
Uhl M, Sachs H. Uhl M, et al. Forensic Sci Int. 2004 Oct 29;145(2-3):143-7. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2004.04.029. Forensic Sci Int. 2004. PMID: 15451086
Mahmoudinoodezh H, Telukutla SR, Bhangu SK, Bachari A, Cavalieri F, Mantri N. Mahmoudinoodezh H, et al. Pharmaceutics. 2022 Feb 18;14(2):438. doi: 10.3390/pharmaceutics14020438. Pharmaceutics. 2022. PMID: 35214170 Free PMC article. Review.