Cannabidiol (CBD) is a substance derived from cannabis plants like marijuana and hemp. Thousands of CBD products are now prevalent in the market due to the mounting evidence of CBD's purported health and therapeutic benefits. However, since it comes from cannabis plants (which also contain the psychoactive and illegal substance THC), concerns arise about whether it can affect drug test results, which may lead to drastic or legal consequences, especially in the military where the usage of CBD may be considered as a possession of illicit drug substances.
CBD is not specifically tested, but military drug tests target THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis. THC is primarily found in marijuana but can also be present in CBD products.
Illicit drug substances, such as methamphetamine, cannabinoids, and opioids, among others, are strictly prohibited in the military.
The military maintains a strict stance against the usage of illicit drugs, including CBD products. If a military service member tests positive for CBD use, they may face disciplinary action or even discharge from the military.
CBD may help treat military personnel health issues including stress and anxiety, neurological disorders, sleep/insomnia, PTSD, inflammation, and chronic pain.
In this article, we will discuss drug testing in the military, the drugs that are tested for the military and cutoff levels, whether CBD will show up in drug tests, and the regulation involved in the usage of CBD products.
Does the military test for drugs?
Drug testing is required for all military service personnel, including applicants and civilian military personnel, to ensure a high-quality military workforce.
There are many ways in which the military can conduct drug tests on service members:
- Random testing. The military commander can issue a request that all or some members of their unit submit urine samples for testing.
- Probable cause. The military commander can issue a drug test for a particular military service member if they have probable cause that they are using illegal drugs.
- Medical testing. This type of drug testing is mandatory for all new military service members and cannot be refused.
- Consent. The commander can ask a military service member to consent to a drug test.
- By order of your commander. A commander can simply order you to submit a sample for a drug test, however, the results of the ordered drug test (if there is no probable cause) will not be used in an administrative or a court-martial hearing.
What drugs are tested on military's drug test?
According to the technical procedures, all military service members must submit specimens for drug testing; they are tested using the Department of Defense (DOD)-authorized drug panel.
The following is a list of common substances that are routinely screened for in military drug tests:
- Amphetamines & methamphetamines.
- Designer amphetamines (like MDMA, MDA, MDEA).
- Benzodiazepines (like lorazepam, temazepam).
- Cannabinoids (particularly THC).
- Synthetic cannabinoids (such as SYCAN).
- Cocaine (includes benzoylecgonine).
- Opioids (like morphine, codeine, fentanyl).
There are specific cutoff levels for each drug type, which will be evaluated in an initial test and a confirmatory test if the initial screening is presumptively positive.
Will CBD show on a military drug test?
In the military, CBD is considered a prohibited drug substance. More specifically, the DoD prohibits the use of marijuana and its derivatives, including CBD, for all military service members (Active Duty, Reservist, and Guard members) and DoD civilian employees.
CBD typically does not show up on a standard drug test for the military or any other workplace. However, it's important to note that some CBD products may contain trace amounts of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive compound found in marijuana. The presence of THC in a CBD product can vary depending on the source and manufacturing process.
While the amount of THC in most CBD products is generally very low (0.3% or less), it is possible that using large amounts of CBD or using products with higher THC content could potentially result in a positive drug test for THC. In military drug tests, the focus is primarily on detecting THC, which is classified as a controlled substance.
Cutoff limit for military drug tests
Although not specifically detected, CBD is under the category of marijuana metabolites according to the Biochemical Testing Advisory Committee for the Department of Defense, which makes it prohibited for military personnel. Drug testing evaluates the level of drugs from the sample to report a positive result.
The following table shows the cut-off limit (ng/mL) for common drugs screened in military drug tests, particularly in drug urinalysis tests.
|Drug & drug metabolites
|Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)
|Amphetamines (MDMA, MDA, MDEA)
The test will come out as positive if the urine sample has a higher concentration of any of the listed drugs than the cutoff level. Confirmatory tests are done to ensure that any potential false-positive results from the initial drug test are eliminated.
What happens if military personnel tests positive on CBD use?
The military maintains a strict stance against the usage of illicit drugs, including CBD products. If a military service member tests positive for CBD use, they may face disciplinary action or even discharge from the military. The specific consequences will depend on a number of factors, including the service member's rank, their history of drug use, and the circumstances surrounding the positive test result.
In general, the first step will be an administrative investigation. The service member will be interviewed and will have the opportunity to provide evidence that they did not use CBD. If the investigation finds that the service member did use CBD, they will be given a chance to explain their actions. The service member may also be required to attend drug counseling or treatment.
If the service member is found to have violated the military's drug policy, they may be subject to a number of disciplinary actions, including:
- Reduction in rank
- Restriction to barracks
- Extra duty
- Loss of pay
In some cases, the service member may be able to avoid disciplinary action if they can prove that they had a legitimate medical reason for using CBD.
Can CBD be effective in treating military personnel health issues?
If the CBD product is derived from hemp (making it THC-free), it can be helpful for military personnel suffering from specific disorders.
Research has indicated that CBD may have various beneficial effects, especially for treating military personnel health issues, including:
- Stress and anxiety
- Mental/neurological disorders
- PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)
- Insomnia and sleep issues
- Neuropathic pain
- Chronic pain
It is important to be cautious about potential drug interactions. CBD may interact with medications, other illicit substances, and even alcohol, leading to adverse effects, including motor/psychomotor impairment, liver damage, hypertension, and tachycardia, among others. Therefore, it is crucial for individuals considering CBD use to consult with healthcare professionals and be aware of potential interactions to ensure safety.
Overall, while CBD itself is not the primary target of military drug tests, the presence of THC in CBD products can potentially lead to positive results. Military personnel are recommended to exercise caution and awareness when considering the use of CBD products and to stay informed about the regulations and policies in place to avoid any potential legal or professional consequences.
Are military personnel allowed to use CBD products?
The regulations regarding the use of CBD products by military personnel vary depending on the country and branch of service. US military personnel who are currently serving are not allowed to use CBD products since they may contain unregulated levels of THC, as per Article 112a, Uniform Code of Military Justice. Civilians on military bases are also not allowed to use CBD products.
Can CBD usage lead to disciplinary action in the military?
Yes, CBD usage can lead to disciplinary action in the military. While regulations vary, some military branches prohibit the use of CBD due to concerns about potential THC content or the overall legality of CBD products. Military personnel should consult their specific military regulations or legal advisors to understand the potential consequences of CBD usage.
Can CBD products be obtained through military medical facilities?
In general, CBD products are strictly prohibited by military personnel regulations and are not available in military medical facilities. However, the availability of CBD products through military medical facilities varies depending on the country and specific policies of each facility. In some cases, military medical facilities may offer CBD products as part of treatment options, but it is advisable to consult with the specific facility.
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