Delta 8 THC is now in the spotlight in the cannabis world. If you’re an avid cannabis user — whether you take CBD or THC (or both) — you’ve probably heard about this newcomer by now.
It’s milder, more stable, and less trippy than delta 9 THC.
It’s also (theoretically) legal on a federal level.
The above features have quickly given rise to the surge of weed users switching from delta 9 THC to delta 8. But, what about delta 8 THC and drug testing`?
Can delta 8 THC cause you to fail a drug test? After all, it’s a type of THC molecule.
In this article, we dive into the chemistry of delta 8 THC and its effects on workplace drug tests.
DELTA 8 VS DELTA 9: THE TWO VERSIONS OF THE THC MOLECULE
Delta 8 THC is a minor cannabinoid found in hemp and marijuana plants. There are no specific high-delta 8 THC cannabis plants; instead, delta 8 begins to form when delta 9 THC starts to degrade over time.
This analog of delta 9 is more stable and milder in terms of the psychoactive effects. It gets you high, but not as high as delta 9 THC.
The cognitive effects of delta 8 THC can be mildly stimulating (in lower doses) or sedating (in higher amounts). The incidence of anxiety and paranoia after taking delta 8 products is very low, which is why many people choose it over the standard version of THC.
As an analog substance, delta 8 THC is almost identical chemically to delta 9 THC, with a minor difference between the arrangement of their atomic bonds. Delta 8 THC has a double bond at the 8th carbon chain, while for delta 9 THC, this bond is located at the 9th chain.
This subtle difference makes delta 8 THC about half as potent as delta 9, meaning you’d need to use twice the amount to experience a similar intensity of effects.
Scientists, and people who’ve tried delta 8, claim this compound has many similar benefits in terms of easing stress, relieving physical discomfort, boosting productivity, elevating mood, and protecting the brain cells against damage. It can also reduce nausea and vomiting, and stimulate appetite.
HOW DO DRUG TESTS WORK?
When you take any substance, be it for recreational or medical purposes, your body needs to metabolize it in order to register the effects of these substances. As your liver processes them, their residual metabolites circulate in your urine, blood, sweat, saliva, hair, and lungs.
Even after all noticeable effects of the substance you’ve taken disappear, its ‘track’ remains in these locations and can be detected using a drug test.
Workplace drug tests look for the metabolites of illicit drugs. Whether you’re a public service officer, professional driver, or corporate employee, these tests can give you sleepless nights — especially if you medicate with cannabis.
These tests can easily find delta 9 THC.
However, when you’re tested for drugs, you’re not actually having your THC levels checked. What these tests look for is the metabolites produced by your body when you’re done processing THC. In the case of any type of THC, this metabolite is usually THC-COOH, which can linger in your system days after the actual date of consumption — and even longer if you’re a heavy user.
Since THC is fat-soluble, it doesn’t get flushed out of the body as easily as water-soluble molecules.
So, long story short, drug tests are designed to prove that you’ve been using drugs, but they don’t look for the actual amount consumed.
WHAT SUBSTANCES DOES DRUG TEST LOOK FOR?
In most cases, drug tests detect the following substances:
- Marijuana (Delta 9 THC)
WHAT TYPES OF DRUG TESTS ARE THERE?
Illicit drugs in the body can be detected with two varieties of urine tests:
- The Immunoassay (IA) Test – it’s a quick biochemical test to check for the presence of any macromolecule in a tested sample. However, it often yields inaccurate results.
- The Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) – is a combined analytical test that uses both gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. This ensures more accurate results but also requires more time and precision.
Besides the urine test, hair follicles may also be tested to look for the presence of THC in the system beyond a period of 90 days. Blood drug tests and saliva road tests are usually used among drivers after an accident or during road control.
DOES DELTA 8 THC SHOW UP ON A DRUG TEST?
Yes, it does.
Delta 9 and delta 8 are very similar when it comes to how they are processed by the human body. Delta 8 THC is simply a less potent isomer of delta 9. Both of them have psychotropic properties, and both can be detected on a drug test.
A urine test isn’t advanced enough to distinguish between delta 9 and delta 8 THC. Since both compounds break down to the same metabolites — THC-COOH — the test would indicate a drug use in both cases.
That means that delta 8 THC will most likely show up on a drug test if you’ve consumed it recently.
Interestingly, drug tests can also recognize metabolites of other cannabinoids, such as CBC, CBG, and CBN, which is why professional athletes can only use CBD isolate if they want to pass a drug test undetected.
The upper limit for the amount of THC-COOH in a person’s blood is 50 ng/ml. However, traces of metabolites from delta 8 THC have a lower cut-off mark — at 30 nG/mL.
If you only take the IA test, then you can easily fail it. Fortunately, you can easily save your job by asking your employer to conduct the gas chromatography test, as it recognizes only and the exact type of delta 9 metabolites, leaving out other types of THC adie.
HOW LONG DOES DELTA 8 THC STAY IN YOUR SYSTEM?
The body can show signs of substance use even after its effects dissipated long ago.
Although delta 8 THC is a less potent analog of delta 9 THC, the body can still store it for a considerable duration.
Depending on the type of test you’re taking, the drug’s record can stay with you from as little as 2 days to even 2 months or longer.
According to some experts, heavy use of delta 8 could leave its metabolites in the urine for 30-60 days.
But then again, this time span is not the same for everyone. Numerous variables, such as your age, weight, metabolism, level of hydration, the drug’s half-life, and frequency of use, can affect the time delta 8 THC stay in your system.
HOW TO PASS A DRUG TEST WHEN YOU’RE A DELTA 8 USER?
Regular consumption of large amounts of water could help you get rid of the THC metabolites faster, but if you know of an upcoming drug test, we suggest that you pass on that delta 8 until you know you’ll be in the clear.
The general rule of thumb is 3-4 weeks, but as we said, the actual time delta 8 THC will stay in your system will mostly depend on consumption habits and the speed of your metabolism.
You can obtain an independent lab test before the actual drug test at work to check for the presence of THC-COOH in your urine. Be aware though, at-home drug testing kits may provide inaccurate effects.
DELTA 8 THC & DRUG TESTING FAQ
HOW IS DELTA 8 THC DIFFERENT FROM DELTA 9 THC?
Delta 8 is an analog of delta 9 THC found in both hemp and marijuana. It is roughly half as potent as delta 9 THC, owing to it to a minor difference in its chemical makeup. In essence, it’s a mirror-like reflection of delta 9 THC, but with milder psychotropic properties.
WILL I PASS A DRUG TEST IF I USE DELTA 8 THC?
It’s quite likely that delta 8 THC will show up on a drug test, as it shares a lot of similar traits with delta 9 THC. However, if your employer allows for the second level of testing, you can ask them to run gas-chromatography and mass-spectrometry; they will provide more accurate results because they look specifically for the combination of metabolites created by delta 9 THC.
WHAT TYPES OF DRUG TESTS LOOK FOR THC?
Aside from the standard urine tests, THC may also be detected in your system by checking your saliva, hair, or blood, all of which have their specific testing procedure and equipment.
IS DELTA 8 THC LEGAL?
Theoretically speaking, delta 8 THC is legal on a federal level because it can be extracted from hemp plants. Hemp was legalized by the 2018 Farm Bill, which removed it from the list of controlled substances. As long as hemp-derived products contain 0.3% of delta 9 THC (or less), they can be legally purchased in the United States.
That being said, 13 states have banned the sale of delta 8 THC, considering it a legal grey area. Until the federal government clarifies the legal status of delta 8 THC, you won’t buy it in Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, New York, Rhode Island, and Utah.
FINAL THOUGHTS: DOES DELTA 8 THC SHOW UP ON A DRUG TEST?
Delta 8 THC has quickly earned a good reputation among cannabis users due to its mild psychoactive properties and a much lower likelihood of triggering anxiety and paranoia. It’s also legal on a federal level, which makes it an appealing alternative to weed for people who don’t live in states with a legal cannabis market.
However, if you have a job that involves taking regular drug tests, you should be aware that delta 8 THC can show up on a workplace drug test. That’s because these tests aren’t made to distinguish between different versions of THC — they simply look for its metabolites, which are almost the same for delta 8 and delta 9.
The only way to save your job after failing the first drug test is to ask for secondary testing with a method that can separate the delta 9-specific metabolites to those left by your delta 8 product.
But the best practice to save your position is to let your body cleanse from THC and enjoy your greens once you’ve passed the test.
Have you ever failed a drug test after taking delta 8 THC? Let us know in the comments!