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Cannabis Topicals

What are cannabis topicals?

Cannabis topicals are designed to target pain and reduce inflammation and are often made with high CBD content and less than 0.3% THC if they are to be legal in every US state. In recent years, there has been a massive rise in the number of available cannabis-derived products that are available on the market. This, along with widespread changes in perception of cannabis’s medicinal value, has led to a concomitant rise in cannabis topical use even outside of those groups who usually use cannabis.

The term ‘topical’ is used to define products that can be applied to the body’s surface and includes cannabis lotions, ointments, balms, creams, and salves. These treatments are unique in that they are applied directly to the area of the body experiencing pain or inflammation rather than being taken orally. Topicals are not for recreational use and exist solely for medicinal and therapeutic purposes.

The localized application of topicals means they can rapidly target areas experiencing pain and inflammation and are effective whether the pain is mild, chronic, or acute. However, the fact that they are absorbed through the skin has led some people to ask questions about their safety. Being derived from cannabis also inevitably leads some to feel concerned that they might get high by accident and worry that topicals may make you fail a drugs test.

Do Cannabis Topicals get you high?

Although this is a common concern amongst many and hoped for by others, the reality of topicals is that they cannot get you high because they are applied by applying them to your skin. In addition, the majority of lotions contain only Cannabidiol, or CBD, which is the non-psychoactive cannabinoid form within cannabis. As such pure CBD creams, lotions, and balms will not get you high because they do not contain the chemical that makes this experience happen.

Even those topicals that do contain THC, such as Rick Simpson Oil (RSO), will not get users high so long as they are applied to the skin. This is because THC only makes users high when it reaches the brain which it cannot do through being applied to the skin. The skin is our body’s protective barrier and is particularly efficient. Just as rubbing pure alcohol into an open wound does not lead to the risk of being over the limit, applying cannabis topicals to the skin will lead to them to enter the bloodstream.

The cannabinoids in topicals work by binding to our skin receptors, nerves, and muscle tissue and will be fully absorbed before they can permeate through our skin and into our bloodstream. With no way to reach our brain, the THC has no way to get us a high.

Can CBD lotion make you fail a drug test?

Despite the fact that most cannabis topicals have little to zero THC, many users do still worry that using these creams may see them test positive on a drugs test as they will often only guarantee that there is ‘’less than 0.3%’ THC content. However, the key thing to remember is that topicals cannot enter your bloodstream through your skin and it is only through entering your bloodstream that you will be testing positive on a blood test, whether that’s through a blood test or a urine test.

Nevertheless, it is important to be aware of some ways in which topicals could accidentally enter into your bloodstream and cause you to test positive on a drugs test. For example, transdermal patches have been shown to reach the bloodstream through the skin as they provide a strong enough dose to reach the capillary vessel. Hair follicle tests can retain trace elements of THC for three months, but these tests often show false positives so are not commonly used.

If you get topical cream in your eyes or mouth, trace amounts of THC could enter your bloodstream inadvertently and lead to a positive reading. This means it is a good idea to use gloves when applying the cream if you are somebody working in an industry where drugs testing is possible or likely as it is easy for cross-contamination to occur otherwise through biting your nails or rubbing your eyes, for example.

So can THC be absorbed through the skin?

Although applying topicals with a low THC content to the skin cannot cause a positive drugs test, transdermal patches or accidental cross-contamination mean it is possible through both accident and design. Therefore, it is always a good idea to practice caution if you do know that you will be coming up against in a drugs test.

What type of tests can be used for cannabis?

Another important thing to understand if you are going to know if you could fail a drugs test is what type of test you will be facing. Different tests target different areas of the body so if you know what sort of test you will be facing you may also be able to put your mind further at rest.

#1 Blood Tests

These tests are one of the most common you might face whether in screening for a job or in a random drugs test. Blood tests measure the amount of cannabis in your blood at the exact time that your blood sample was taken. As topicals cannot enter your blood stream except through cross–contamination (e.g. biting your nails/rubbing your eyes after you have applied your THC lotion or cannabis cream) this sort of test should be of little concern. Even if cannabis is in your bloodstream it can only stay there for 2-7 days and will be at the low end anyway if it is accidentally consumed.

#2 Hair Tests

If you are a cannabis smoke then these tests are one of the most likely to catch you out as marijuana use is detectable in your hair going back as far as 90 days. However, although you rub topicals on to your skin, these tests will not be likely to show positive as they will use hair from your head (or failing that your armpit). Moreover, hair follicle tests detect THC metabolites that have been passively disseminated through the bloodstream and absorbed through the base of hair follicles.

#3 Mouth Swab Tests

This type of cannabis drugs test can only detect recent drug use of no more than 2 days prior. You are most likely to come against this sort of test as an applicant for a job so if you know you will face this type of test and are concerned about using your THC cream, then if you hold off from using it in the days running up to your test, you should be fine.

#4 Urine Tests

This is the drugs test most people will think of and is again most frequently used for pre-employment drug testing. However, it can also be used in random drug tests if you work in such an industry where these are used. Urine tests are able to detect illegal drug use for 3 to 30 days with the length of time dependent on the level of drug use. This means any cross-contamination from topicals is highly unlikely to show up in a urine test and that which is applied to the skin cannot reach as far as your wee!

What are the benefits of cannabis topicals and what is CBD?

CBD stands for cannabidiol and is one of the chemical compounds found in cannabis and hemp plants with a range of medicinal benefits including: stress relief; assistance dealing with PTSD; improved cardiovascular health; pain relief; improved mood, and; having anti-inflammatory properties. CBD is non-psychoactive and is a perfect topical for people suffering from skin complaints as well as aches and pains.

Cannabis topicals also contain fatty acids, including the omega oils 3,6, and 9, which also gives them excellent healing properties if you have scarring, dry skin, or a painful rash. With topicals able to provide almost instantaneous relief when applied to the skin, CBD products are fast becoming a common treatment for a wide variety of skin conditions as well as aches and pains of the muscles and joints.


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