Friday February 24, 2017View our Editorial Policy
Facing an impending drug test from an employer (and effectively the USADA) can be scary, especially if you’ve smoked recently. Since cannabis can stay in your system for as long as a few months for heavy users, it's important to understand drug testing facts before the big day. Before running to the store to stock up on cranberry juice and in an effort to dispel some of the more common misconceptions about marijuana drug tests, we’ve outlined a few of the most common myths to help calm your nerves.
Myth #1: You’ll Have to Pass a Marijuana Urine Test
A urine analysis (or UA) used to be the most common method for drug testing because it is affordable and relatively easy to conduct. Having said that, remember these drug testing facts! Urine tests only measure THC metabolites which tend to stick around a lot longer than other substances. In cases in which cannabis consumption frequency and intoxication are tested, a more accurate method is the mouth-swab test that's becoming increasingly more popular with employers. Depending on the reason for the drug test, either method may be used so it's best to be prepared. Don't forget to offer disclosures for any current medications that you may be taking.
Myth #2: You Can Pass a Piss Test by Consuming Copious Amounts of Water
While water will help flush the system of cannabinoids and other substances, a great drug testing fact is that it could also deplete the system of creatine, or the by product created by converting food into energy. If creatine levels are too low, you may be asked to come in for more extensive testing and to ensure you haven’t tampered with the results. The same can be said for diuretics, like coffee or cranberry juice, so be careful quickly consuming too many liquids before your test.
Myth #3: You Could Fail a Drug Test from Second-Hand Smoke
In very rare cases, second-hand smoke can lead to a failed drug test, but this is very unlikely. According to a 2015 study that includes many drug testing facts and expert testimony, non-consumers would need to be “hot boxed” in a room with no ventilation for at least 60 minutes to test positive for THC metabolites within 24 hours. But even after inhaling excessive amounts of cannabis smoke in a “hot box” for 60 minutes or more, test results (though possibly positive) tend to come in well under the 50 nanogram per milliliter limit imposed by most employers. In other words, the admissibility of trace amounts of cannabis in one’s system is probably and will not be sufficient grounds for termination or employment denial.
Myth #4: Bleaching and Cosmetic Treatments Will Help You Pass a Hair Follicle Test
Although this could be considered a myth, it's more of a warning. Yes, bleaching or stripping your hair will help reduce the amount of drugs detected in a sample, but it will also leave the hair more porous and thus more susceptible to narcotic residue for the next time. If hair follicle tests are common among your work place, we suggest keeping cosmetic treatments to a minimum unless you plan on ceasing use (or shaving your head) after the test is complete.
Myth #5: Nanogram-Based Tests are an Accurate Way to Measure Toxicity
While nanogram-based drug tests do accurately measure the concentration of THC metabolites in the system, drug testing facts state that it's not a clear indication of toxicity as trace amounts of cannabinoids can remain in the system for many weeks or more depending on the user. Because of the large number of variables that come into play when determining how many nanograms are “toxic” (like BMI, age, frequency and amount of use, or exercise level), simply detecting THC-COOH is not enough to determine impairment. If drug use if strictly prohibited, nanogram tests can still be used to justify termination from a job, although this test often faces strict scrutiny.
Myth #6: You Can’t Find a Good Job if You Consume Weed
A few drug testing facts can be positive too! Thanks to the spread of marijuana legalization, there are currently thousands of jobs that not only allow cannabis consumption, but actually encourage it. Cannabis industry jobs like trimmers, bud tenders, product reviewers or other industry professionals want cannabis consumers because of their intimate knowledge of the product and disregard for full disclosure as it relates to marijuana consumption. Consumers can better relate to cannabis business clients and answer questions more thoroughly than non-consumers.
Even companies outside of the industry are changing their stance on cannabis consumption outside of the workplace. For example, Oregon’s Bill # 301 aims to prohibit employers from firing employees who consume cannabis off the clock by lumping it into the same category as tobacco. Other states including Arizona, Massachusetts, Nevada and California have proposed similar policies. Such drug testing facts not only give hope to cannabis consumers, but continue to pave the way for the legalization movement.
Adulting can be hard; you need to work to pay bills so you can survive and (if anything is left) have a little fun afterward. But when your place of employment doesn’t look kindly on your choice of recreational activities (which may break federal laws) – specifically drug/cannabis use – a very unfortunate hitch in the “adulting” cycle can occur: quit cannabis or lose your job. Of course, this is especially challenging for those who use cannabis for medical purposes as only a few states prohibit employers from firing medical marijuana patients solely based on their cannabis use. If you're hit with a drug test in the near future, remember these drug testing facts and myths to help you remain calm.
Photo Credit: jaytaix