With the many new cannabis products available to the average consumer comes a steady stream of questions into how these products affect and interact with the body. The market for topical products, specifically, has been increasing rapidly due to the effectiveness of these products alongside the ease at which they can be used. Topical products are typically applied directly to the skin and have shown promise in aiding relief of various ailments, from pain and inflammation to chronic skin conditions.
Topical products are appealing for a variety of reasons, with many in favor of them due to any psychoactive effects of the cannabinoids in topicals unable to pass directly into the bloodstream; therefore the user gets targeted relief without any euphoric or ‘high’ feelings. Regardless of intended effect, topical users seem to generally have a few main questions when using any lotion, salve, or cream designed for application directly to the skin. The question we will look at here is:
Will using topical cannabis products lead to a failed drug test?
The answer, in short, is no. For the same reasons that topical products will not produce a euphoric effect, they will also not lead to a failed drug test for THC and other cannabinoids that an individual may be tested for. Most topical products interact with the cannabinoid receptors found in the skin and muscle tissue of a consumer and are absorbed before reaching the bloodstream. A 2017 study found that the use of topical products containing THC, even in substantial amounts, will not produce evidence of cannabinoids in the blood or urine .
Some topical products, however, may be able to cross this skin/muscle barrier and enter into the bloodstream. Transdermal patches may be able to produce enough of a dose of THC to permeate the skin on deeper layers than other topical products, leading to the cannabinoids entering the bloodstream and potentially producing a failed drug test.
Although most topical products will not lead to a failed drug test, it is recommended to err on the side of caution if a consumer finds themselves in circumstances that may require a drug test and to avoid the use of topical products high in THC or any other cannabinoid as these could negatively impact test results.
- Hess, C, et al. Topical application of THC containing products is not able to cause positive cannabinoid finding in blood or urine. Forensic Sci Int. 2017. 272:68-71.