by Arely Portillo January 19, 2021
Nobody wants to get busted for coming up dirty on a drug test. We all know the presence of marijuana is one culprit for a failed test. But what about our newly-popularized favoriteDelta-8 THC? It shares a lot of the same characteristics as Delta-9, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that will make you fail the drug test. Since they are so similar, is this bad news for Delta-8 users who are trying to come up clean for a new job? We will take an in-depth look at these cannabinoids and determine whether or not Delta-8 can put your career path at risk. Let’s explore.
Delta-8 THC is one of 100 different chemical compounds of cannabinoids coming from the cannabis plant. It has had a lot of positive effects on users like help with anxiety, pain relief, alleviation of nausea and vomiting, stimulation of appetite, and has exhibited neuroprotective properties. D8 can be found in tinctures,vape cartridges,gummies, dabs, and more. Delta-8 is extracted into concentrates and has been gaining popularity in the healthcare community as well as recreational users who feel that Delta-9 is too strong. This exciting compound is said to get you high but without the paranoia and anxiety side effects of Delta-9. Experiencing Delta-8 THC includes a 50 to 70% high of Delta-9. Though it does give off a high, it has a more mild and clear-headed feel to it. Sounds great, right?
Not to mention it is federally legal if derived from hemp (Cannabis sativa L.). This is thanks to the Farm Bill of 2018 passed in the United States, which legalized hemp and removed it as a Schedule I substance. Delta-8 THC is only present in less than 1% of hemp, however. If you’re consuming a full-spectrum hemp product or pure flower, you are already consuming naturally-occurring Delta-8. These extreme trace amounts are undetectable, making them extremely expensive and difficult to extract. Oftentimes it is instead directly extracted from cannabidiol (CBD) to simplify the process. Another hemp-derived cannabinoid, CBD is the most prevalent one found in hemp plant strains, amounting to about 15 to 20% CBD. Since CBD comes from hemp, this makes CBD products legal as well. Delta-8 goes through a safe chemical conversion process from CBD isolate. It can be combined with terpenes to enhance its effects and boost its powerful benefits. Because most Delta-8 comes from CBD, this means that it is from hemp, not from marijuana, making it federally legal.
Conversely, Delta-9 is most prevalent in marijuana, while available only in trace amounts in hemp. Delta-9 THC is the main form of THC in cannabis. Delta-9 THC is so prevalent in marijuana that the term THC is used to describe it interchangeably.
Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol, aka Delta-8, is an isomer of Delta-9, meaning it has similar molecular properties as Delta-9, but in a different order. Delta-9 has a double bond on the 9th carbon in the chain and Delta-8 has a double bond on the 8th. This seemingly minor structure change harbors a significant difference between the two. You can equate the two to siblings from the same family: they have similar genetic makeup, but display different qualities and have different effects on the body.
Cannabinoids are unique compared to other naturally occurring compounds in that they have profound effects on the body. This is due to their interaction with the endocannabinoid system. This system is present throughout our whole body and has different cannabinoid receptors that play a huge role in our physical and mental well-being. These cannabinoid receptors respond to stimuli in important physiological processes including appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory. When a person smokes marijuana, THC overwhelms the system and attaches to the CB1 receptors in the brain and body. Then the cannabinoids fine-tune communication between neurons, which throws off the whole system’s balance. This results in a slowed reaction time, memory, anxiety, and judgment.
Delta-8 is a degraded form of Delta-9. This results when Delta-9 ages in the plant, breaks down and then converts to Delta-8. Because of this, D8 is weaker than D9, which can explain why it has similar but milder effects. Since they are sosimilar, what does it mean when it comes to drug testing?
A typical drug test for work or sports play will test for amphetamines, cocaine, methamphetamines, opiates, nicotine, alcohol, and marijuana. Urine tests are the standard for workplace screening and the enzyme immunoassay (EIA), or dipstick test, is the most common way to measure urine. The EIA can pick up on THC usage. However, it doesn't pick up on the THC itself. It detects THC’s primary inactive metabolite that is produced once the body has been exposed to THC. The metabolite is 11-nor-delta-9-THC-COOH, aka THC-COOH or carboxy-THC. This metabolite is stored in the body’s fat cells for long periods, especially in urine. For this reason, marijuana can be detected days after the person consumed it.
Not only that, how often THC has been used also determines how long you must be clean to pass drug testing. THC’s effects last a few hours after inhaling or ingestion, but the metabolites can stay in your system for weeks. THC is metabolized in the body very quickly. It can be detected in the blood in as little as two hours after it has been used.
Those who use THC rarely should only need a few days to clear the metabolites, though the byproducts may stay in the urine 4 to 8 days after just one use. However, heavy users may have detectable metabolites weeks after their last use. If you use cannabis products between 2 to 4 times a week, it can be detected in urine 1 to 3 weeks after the last time it was consumed. Although we can’t definitively say how long Delta-8’s byproducts stay in the urine, people who use cannabis daily may come up dirty for 30 to 60 days after their last use.
Additionally, urine tests can detect other cannabinoid metabolites in urine. This is known as “cross-reactivity,” which tells us that the tests are sensitive to compounds that are structurally similar to compounds used to detect marijuana. This is called a “false positive” cannabis drug test. But the question goes, does this false positive apply to Delta-8
The short answer, yes. Delta-8 THC can pick up on a drug test, just as Delta-9 does. This is because it is still THC. It is important to realize that drug tests are not as finely-tuned as we’d like them to be. THC products, whether Delta-9, Delta-8, or any others, all get broken down by your metabolism into THC metabolites. However, it is important to note here that there has not been a lot of research done on Delta-8’s drug test effects. This is because it is too new on the scene, and hasn’t been widespread to the extent that Delta-9 has. But be aware that your chances of coming up dirty because of Delta-8 are highly probable.
Unfortunately, there are no drug tests that are just for Delta-8 or Delta-9 THC. These tests don’t look for what you consumed, but what came out. If your metabolites show that you have consumed more than .03% THC, it doesn’t matter whether it was federally legal or not.
Though there is a lack of anecdotal evidence, there are still plausible reasons why Delta-8 will have similar drug test effects to Delta-9. Because of the sheer commonalities in their molecular makeup, it is a safe bet that the same metabolites created due to Delta-9 exposure will be similarly affected by Delta-8 exposure.
Let’s take a look at the available research that is out there.The Journal for Applied Laboratory Medicine published a report in 2020 that studied cross-reactivity in Emit II Cannabinoid Assay, one of the most common urine tests. Four cannabinoids were studied: cannabidiol (CBD), cannabinol (CBN), cannabichromene (CBC), and cannabigerol (CBG). The most cross-reactive cannabinoid wasCBN, which is produced through the degradation of THC, much like delta-8. When CBN and THC were tested together, there was a larger positive result than when the THC sample was tested alone.
Though Delta-8 was not involved in the study, it can be strongly inferred that delta-8 would cross-react with urine tests due to its structural similarity to delta-9. The report listed metabolites that can produce approximately equivalent results to the THC-COOH cutoff levels. One was Delta-8 THC’s metabolite11-hydroxy-delta-8-THC.
Other standard urine tests do detect delta-8’s presence. The 6 panel DOA-264 is a multi-line urine drug test that can detect marijuana metabolites, such as the 11-nor-delta-9-THC-COOH with a cutoff level of 50ng/mL. Additionally, it can detect delta-8’s metabolite at a lower cutoff level of 30ng/mL. Cutoff level refers to the necessary level for a positive result of cannabis present and is measured by nanograms per milliliter. Having a negative sample doesn’t mean the testee is drug-free, but that the concentration of the drug is lower than the official cutoff. Since the cutoff levels for D9’s metabolites are higher than that of D8’s, this indicates that the test can detect lower levels of the D8 metabolites.
These tests are used to detect total cannabinoids, not just THC-COOH. However, there is hope that every “false positive” THC test allows for further testing. If this happens, a gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer (GC/MS) test will be performed to diagnose further. Typically a GC/MS test will only search for and detect THC-COOH, Delta-9’s metabolite. The only way Delta-8’s metabolite will be found is if it is specifically looked for.
With all this in mind, we urge you to pay attention to your Delta-8 THC products. Make sure they are pure of Delta-9 THC so they will not trigger these tests.
The THC of D8 may not react the same as D9 in the body, but it will show up the same on a drug test. So now that we know that such an occurrence is likely, let's look at what factors will most likely cause this to happen. Here are some factors that may trigger a positive Delta-8 THC drug test:
Now that you know Delta-8 is susceptible to coming up dirty and some possible conditions that can trigger this, you may start to panic. Don’t worry, however, we have a few tips and tricks that may save the day! Here they are:
Arming yourself with a little more knowledge on the subject of drug testing can help put your mind at ease. Yes, Delta-8 THC can show up on a drug test. However, taking care to monitor your use of it, as well as taking care of yourself in the process, can minimize coming up dirty on a test. Whether it be through vaping or other forms of consumption, we urge you to use Delta-8 responsibly.
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