Will a topical (Salve) show up on drug test?

People of all walks of life have started finding topicals to be effective for them, drastically increasing the popularity of these products in the last couple years and naturally increasing the need for more information about them. And this has to be one of the most frequently asked questions about cannabis in this day and age.

Unfortunately, we are still living in a world where there is a strange gray zone for state-legal cannabis. The state of Colorado may have legalized the sale and use of cannabis for adults, but the federal government still sees it as an illegal substance. And many employers base their drug policies on federal law; these employers continue to include THC and other active compounds in cannabis in their drug testing. That means many people living in legal states still have to worry about testing positive for cannabis despite residing in a place where the substance is completely legal.

For those who find cannabis topicals to be a nice help to get them through what would be otherwise painful and uncomfortable days, it’s important to wade through some misconceptions about topicals. The question of whether cannabis topicals will trigger a positive drug test comes with a multi-part answer. First, let’s start with some basics on THC and drug testing.

It is true that THC, an active component in cannabis, can be a stubborn thing to work out of our system unlike harder and more dangerous drugs that can cycle through in 24 hours. The common conception that it takes 30 days to get rid of THC in the system is not exactly accurate; this figure varies for every person and different type of drug test, of which there are a few (hair, urine, and blood).

When it comes to hair follicle drug tests, THC can be detected within three months. Urine-based tests are by far the most common because they are relatively inexpensive compared to the others. These examine substances found within lipids (fat cells) and THC can live cozily in fat cells for four weeks or even more depending on the person. THC sticks around in blood for significantly less time, cycling out in about 48 hours usually.

Now here is the good news! When it comes to topicals, the level of THC in the product usually falls way below the detectable level for drug tests. And since you’re rubbing the product onto the surface, they’re only going to seep into your skin and muscles, not your bloodstream. If you need an analogy to help wrap your head around this, the most commonly used one is rubbing alcohol. When you use rubbing alcohol, your blood alcohol content isn’t increasing and you don’t feel drunk. The same idea can be applied to cannabis topicals! That means you can rest easy knowing cannabis salves, lotions, creams, and oils are drug-test safe.

If your employer drug tests for THC, the only topical product you need to think twice about are transdermal cannabis patches. These patches are amazingly effective, but that is because of how they are made to be processed by our bodies. Just like a nicotine patch, these are made with ingredients specifically designed to get the active ingredients into the bloodstream. Using THC-infused transdermal patches are the only type of topical that may not be drug-test friendly.

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