New Year, New Job – But What About Drug Tests?
On New Year’s Eve, you decided no matter what to land this dream job in 2017. It is a fantastic goal, and we fully support your every step. We also want you to succeed; that’s why we gathered some useful info about mandatory cannabis drug tests.
Feeling crippling panic?
Don’t worry. You will almost likely pass it. There are some things to keep in mind, but generally, you have nothing to be afraid of. Let’s find out why:
A friend of a friend said you need to wait at least 30 days? It is not exactly accurate. First, there are plenty of available drug tests with the different sensitivity depending on the method, quality of collected sample, and time periods considered. Second, your biology is unique, and it hugely affects calculating of a detection window (or the number of days after the last use when the drug test returns a positive result).
According to Ryan Vandrey, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at John Hopkins University, “there is no typical window of detection.” He claims that timing depends on the frequency of use, amounts consumed, and lifestyle. So, there is virtually no chance to be 100% sure how long someone would be tested positive.
Sample Matters, Too
Each year, employers order about 50 million of drug tests. Collected biological material includes:
THC levels rise in the body right after consumption of cannabis and are detected by blood tests. A single usage will keep these levels up for several hours or a day, but even after a subsequent drop, labs can identify traces of cannabis in your body. How?
THC, CBD, and their metabolites (or metabolic byproducts) accumulate in fat reserves throughout the body. As we know, fat dissolves slowly, which leads to a prolongated release of the molecules containing metabolites. Compared to other recreational drugs, cannabis takes significant time to leave the body, especially for heavy users. Hair tests can detect traces of THC-COOH (non-psychoactive THC-metabolite) up to 90 days after the last hit.
It isn’t as scary as it seems
Labs don’t test hairs often. Each drug test has its perks, but Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (or, for short, SAMHSA, which is a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services responsible for standardization of drug testing of government employees) recommends urine tests. Most private employers adhere the recommendation and collect urine to measure the levels of THC-COOH.
Labs choose a particular test, as well as its sensitivity. In the case of cannabis testing, it is a cutoff concentration of THC-COOH, above which a test is considered positive. The most common cutoff for urine tests is 50 ng/mL. Keep in mind that different labs and organizations can set is as low as 15 ng/mL and as high as 100 ng/mL. These frames lead to different detection windows.
According to Vandrey, testing is a two-step process:
- getting a qualitative yes/no answer with a typical cutoff of 50 ng/mL;
- a positive result is typically sent off to confirmation with more sensitive quantitative assessment based on the cutoff of 15 ng/mL.
Having established standards helps, but remember that test results depend on detection windows, which will vary based on different ways of consumption and individual biology.
Each of us has a unique metabolism. We also have different lifestyles (eating habits, exercise routines, sleeping patterns) that can affect the amount of time required to come clean for testing. People of the same age and gender, living different lives, will likely get different results for the same amount consumed. Folk with higher levels of body fat are more apt to store cannabis metabolites longer than people with leaner bodies. However, we still have rough estimates:
- A common baseline is 30 days. Detection times exceeding a month are rare;
- For a novice user, it takes 3-7 days to purge cannabinoids metabolites from the body (depending on the cutoff);
- For a chronic user, it takes 10-21 days to get rid of traces of marijuana (depending on the cutoff).
(Estimates are given based on research of Paul Cary, director of the Toxicology and Drug Monitoring Laboratory at University of Missouri)
Keep in mind that ‘novice’ and ‘chronic’ users represent opposite sides of the spectrum. You’re probably going to fall somewhere in between and, according to Ron Flegel, director of the division of workplace programs at SAMHSA, ‘it usually takes just about 72 hours’ for occasional users to get clean at the 50 ng/mL. Chronic users will need to wait for seven to ten days.
Cheating is Bad, Just Take Your Time
So, what can you do to pass the test or speed up ‘cleaning’?
Well, it is mostly what you should not do.
First, stay away from weed parties when you’re looking for a job. Even hanging out with smoking friends can cause a positive result. A 2015 study showed that participant, who sat in a non-ventilated room with someone who smoked, tested positive for THC-COOH. Why risk?
Switching to so-called ‘synthetic cannabinoids‘ known as ‘spice’ or ‘K2’ is a no-no. First, it’s simply dangerous. These drugs have a proven lethal record. Second, many companies now test for them, too.
Some people choose to tamper with their urine, adding chemical like peroxidase to eliminate THC-COOH. In this case, you just better be caught with cannabis than trying to cheat with the sample. Most labs screen for these compounds, and tampering with urine may lead to bad consequences.
Water is Your Friend (You Could Also Drop Some Weight)
The most efficient method is simple: drink a lot of water. Dehydration increases the concentration of THC-COOH in your urine, which leads to a positive result. Hydrate wisely: if your urine is too diluted, you will have to repeat the test.
In the long run, to be able quickly to prepare for tests, you may want to hit the gym and watch what you eat. Just don’t do this right before the test; according to Vandrey, “fasting is going to burn fat, which is going to release more cannabinoids.” Give your body some rest.
Don’t panic. With current standards and detection windows depending on your biology, you most likely will pass the test as long as you’re not an extremely heavy user and have been noticed in advance. But if your employer chooses to test their workers randomly and without notice, it’s probably time to change the place.
If your employer choose to test their staff randomly and without notice, it’s probably time to change your working place.