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Can You Fail a Drug Test from Secondhand Smoke?

Ashley Priest

by Ashley Priest

September 27, 2022 08:00 am ET Estimated Read Time: 4 Minutes
Can You Fail a Drug Test from Secondhand Smoke?

Can you fail a drug test from secondhand smoke? Many will say it is unlikely for you to fail a drug test because of secondhand cannabis smoke, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t happen.

There are a few factors that could contribute to someone failing a drug test due to secondhand cannabis smoke including:

  • Low tolerance to cannabinoids or cannabis exposure
  • Small body weight/size
  • Inhaling secondhand smoke in a small, enclosed space

What Happens When We Consume Cannabis

When we consume cannabis, phytocannabinoids like cannabidiol (CBD), CBN, and delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) interact with our body’s endocannabinoid receptors in the endocannabinoid system (ECS) — a complex cell signaling network found throughout the body and the brain.

THC stores itself in the body’s fatty tissues because it is fat-soluble. The more body fat you have, the more places THC can be stored. For people that are small in size, THC is stored in tissues and organs. If this occurs, THC then begins to be stored in a concentrated secretion around the brain. Like other organs throughout our body, the brain has cannabinoid receptors too. More specifically, an abundance of CB1 receptors is located in the hippocampus, cerebellum, and basal ganglia.

If you have excess body fat, and THC is stored in the fat cells of the body, then THC will be stored there. If you are short on body fat, THC will store itself in fatty tissues and organs, including the brain. To better understand why it is unlikely to fail a drug test because of secondhand cannabis smoke, let’s look at drug tests and how they work.

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How Does A THC Drug Test Work?

There are different types of drug tests. Hair, saliva, blood, and urine tests are all types of drug tests. Urine tests are are low cost, so they are most often used for work and probation situations.

Depending on the type of job or legal situation you’re in, other drug tests are available that provide accurate results over a wide spectrum of points versus compared to a urine test. Hair, blood, and saliva tests are much more precise than urine tests, but are also more expensive.

A urine test doesn’t test for THC itself. Instead, it tests for THC metabolites that remain in the body long after THC has degraded. One of these metabolites, the most commonly tested for in a urine test for cannabis, is THC-COOH. This particular type of THC does not produce intoxicating effects. It is simply a byproduct that remains in the body for weeks or months at a time. You could say it’s the tattletale cannabinoid.

When urine is exposed to the testing strip on a urine test, a reaction occurs that is typically a line that shows up under the category of C and T. A positive line on both indicates THC in the body. Most urine tests are four-panel or five-panel drug tests. They are designed to test a person’s urine for traces of methamphetamine, cocaine, opiates, THC, and phencyclidine.

How To Prepare for A Drug Test

The best way to prepare for a drug test is to stay away from drugs entirely. If you have a drug test for cannabis coming up and you are still smoking the day before, then the chances of you failing that test are just about as high as you are.

To remove all traces of cannabis from the body, it’s necessary to stop consuming it several days if not weeks prior. While it is technically possible to fail a drug test solely due to secondhand smoke, it is unlikely. So, don’t bother using this excuse if you’re faced with a failed drug test. It may end up working against you.

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