I have been hearing a lot about using cannabis lotions and balms for pain relief and I am interested in trying it for my arthritis. Will using a marijuana topical make me fail a drug test? Will they make me high? I'm curious about what to expect.
Excellent questions Chuck. The short answers are no, and no, with one important exception. Now on the longer answers!
Topical cannabis preparations like lotions, balms, salves and other products that are rubbed on the skin or added into baths can be quite effective for inflammation and pain relief as they bind to the cannabinoid receptors in the skin, but they won’t make you high.
Generally speaking topicals have far less cannabis in them than what you smoke, vape or eat., but even if they didn’t, you wouldn’t feel high with this application method.
Dr. Amanda Reiman of the Drug Policy Alliance made an excellent comparison between cannabis topicals and rubbing alcohol. Despite its high alcohol content, you are not going to feel drunk by using rubbing alcohol. The same is true to of cannabis topicals and feeling high.
You also don’t have to worry about failing a drug test with topicals, as the cannabis is absorbed through the skin and never enters the bloodstream.
That said there is one type of topical that will both make you high and cause you to fail a drug test.
Transdermal Patches: The Exception to the Cannabis Topicals Rule
If you live in a recreationally or medicinally legal state, you may come across cannabis infused transdermal patches. While extremely effective, these patches do contain ingredients that allow THC to enter the bloodstream. Likewise they can make you feel high and they will cause you to fail a drug test.
However, if drug testing is not an issue, transdermal patches can be a great way to medicate as they are discreet and keep a steady dose in your system at all times. Mary’s Medicinals makes some great transdermal products. They even have a CBD-only product for those who want to avoid the high.