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June 16, 2023
7 min to read

Will HHC Show Up on a Drug Test? What You Need to Know

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Hayley Heidelbaugh

The cannabis world is in a period of rapid change and growth, with new cannabinoids regularly entering the market. We recently saw delta 8 in the spotlight, as well as the rise and fall of THC-O. Now, we have an influx of hexahydrocannabinol (HHC) products. HHC vape carts are currently very popular.

Many weed vapers want to know what sets HHC edibles and carts apart from other cannabis products. Aside from the unique effects, a key distinction may be their presence in drug tests—or, in the case of HHC, whether drug tests show HHC use. This doesn’t necessarily mean consuming the substance before a drug test is wise, but it is an interesting topic.

We’ll be exploring whether or not HHC shows up on drug screenings.

What is HHC?

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HHC is a minor cannabinoid, only found in small quantities in hemp plants. Commercial HHC products are made by chemically converting legal CBD.

While the HHC trend didn’t take shape until the early 2020s, this is one of the oldest “semi-synthetic” cannabinoids known to science.

Like its cousin THC, HHC is intoxicating, and ingestion will cause someone to become high. This could make it seem like an obvious candidate for drug panels. However, screenings are typically searching for THC’s metabolites (the byproducts your body converts THC into) — and there’s evidence that HHC may have different byproducts.

Additional research is needed, but our current understanding is that HHC may not metabolize into 11-hydroxy-THC. This is one of the dominant metabolites produced by delta 9 and other forms of THC—and a target of many drug screens.

Is HHC a type of THC?

Employers and drug screeners test for THC or its metabolites. If you consume hemp-derived forms of the compound, such as a delta 8, you will also test positive. Delta 8 THC products produce the same metabolites as standard delta 9 THC.

HHC isn’t technically a form of THC. Instead, it’s a derivative of THC with an additional hydrogen double bond. The new compound is created through a process known as hydrogenation.

Even though HHC isn’t exactly the same as THC, it produces a similar outcome in your brain and body. Unlike CBD products, HHC carts and edibles are psychoactive. HHC will make you high, but the euphoria will be lighter and more clear-headed than delta 9 THC.

The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the production and sale of hemp products, as long as they don’t contain more than 0.3% delta 9 THC. HHC is not, strictly speaking, THC, nor do its products contain significant amounts of the delta 9 form.

How long does HHC stay in your system?

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The length of time any cannabinoid, including HHC, stays in your system is dependent on a range of variables:

  • Use frequency: More frequent HHC use means that more of the cannabinoid will build up in cells. Larger HHC stores will take longer to be metabolized and cleared out.
  • Metabolism: Some individuals are predisposed to metabolizing foreign substances faster. If you have a naturally faster metabolism, HHC won’t stay in your system for as long.
  • Health conditions: Issues with your health, including other medications, can slow down the processing of HHC. This is especially true of liver and kidney diseases.
  • Consumption method: Eating candy or other edibles may lead cannabinoids to staying in your system longer, compared to vaping. This was shown to have a slight difference in the results of saliva tests.
  • Body max index (BMI): Cannabinoids’ main storage location is in fat cells. If you have larger cells, additional space is available for HHC and other cannabinoids.
  • Age: Our bodies undergo changes as we age, and that includes a slowing metabolism. Expect the body to process HHC slower if you’re an older adult.
  • Stress levels: Either psychological or physical stress can hinder our metabolisms, resulting in slower processing of cannabinoids like HHC.
  • Current HHC research is limited, and we can’t say how long the compound lasts in the body. In general, cannabinoids tend to take four to six weeks to be fully metabolized. The exact speed depends on the factors described above.

    As an infrequent or one-time user, cannabinoids can be cleared from your system in two weeks or less. On the opposite end of the spectrum, long-term, daily use may cause metabolites to linger for a maximum of two or three months.


    Does HHC show up on a drug test?

    No specific cannabis product can be identified on a drug screening. Tests can detect the presence of THC or its metabolites, although panels can’t tell how they got into your body.

    A positive test could be the result of delta 9 THC, but it could also occur with delta 10 or delta 8 consumption. Even trace amounts of THC from nonintoxicating hemp byproducts (such as CBD or CBG) occasionally trigger drug tests.

    Cannabinoids are stored in the body’s fat cells, metabolized, and eventually released. While delta 9 THC is processed into 11-hydroxy-THC, HHC produces the metabolite 11-hydroxy-HHC. These compounds are extremely similar on a chemical level.

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    Will HHC make me fail a drug test?

    Although tests are searching for 11-hydroxy-THC, it’s still possible that 11-hydroxy-HHC will produce a positive result.

    Despite its age, HHC is under-researched, and we can’t say for sure whether its metabolites will trigger a failure. It’s best to remain cautious and avoid HHC if you have an upcoming drug screening.

    For extra security, avoid all hemp products before a drug test. You aren’t likely to test positive after consuming a nonintoxicating byproduct like CBD, but hemp carts and edibles can contain trace amounts of THC. The main legal restriction is that they have a delta 9 THC content of 0.3% or less—not that they’re completely free of it.

    Only consume HHC products from trusted vendors with transparent safety testing. Otherwise, the THC content could be even higher than expected.


    How long before a drug test should you stop HHC?

    For the best possible outcome, steer clear of cannabis products for at least three weeks before a drug screening. If you’re a long-term, chronic user, you may need even longer to completely clear out your system—up to two or three months, in some instances.

    The sooner you stop, the better. THC is stored in cells throughout our bodies, including hair and fat cells. Depending on your metabolic rate and other factors, it can take months for this compound to be completely filtered out.

    How to clear HHC from your system

    The only way to clear HHC or THC from your system is to give it time. The body will metabolize either of these compounds if you wait long enough, although the speed depends on your metabolic rate.

    Regular exercise and staying hydrated can keep your metabolism in better shape. Engaging in these behaviors might give you a leg-up when taking a drug test.

    That said, downing liters of water right before a test isn’t likely to change your result. Certain users claim that this may flush cannabinoids from your system faster, although it can be risky. Excessive water consumption over a short period can strain the kidneys.

    You should also stay away from so-called “detox” products, as there is little evidence to support their effectiveness.

    Conclusion: avoid HHC before a drug screening

    Whether you’re undergoing pre-employment testing or other kinds of drug screenings, it’s smart to avoid any hemp or marijuana-based products.

    Consuming hemp-derived cannabinoids like HHC might improve your chances, but we can’t be sure. It’s best to play it safe and stay away from any products that contain trace amounts of THC or related cannabinoids.

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    Hayley Heidelbaugh

    Vaping since: 3 years

    Favorite products:

    Favorite flavors: White Wedding, Northern Lights, Platinum Valley, OG Kush

    Expertise in: Oil carts, cannabis concentrates, cannabis flower

    Hayley Heidelbaugh

    I'm a Pennsylvania-based cannabis enthusiast and writer. As a part of the Vaping360 team, I'm eager to help cannabis consumers explore vaping and get the most out of their experience. You can also find me @faeberrystudios on Instagram.

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