Does HHC Show Up on a Drug Test?

Known as a THC analog, HHC has a close chemical structure to the main active compound in marijuana and other cannabis plants, but these similarities may make it impossible for some drug tests to tell the difference.

does hhc show up in a drug test

With a chemical structure that closely resembles THC, many are concerned that products containing notable amounts of the semi-synthetic cannabinoid Hexahydrocannabinol (HHC) could cause them to fail a drug test. So, does HHC show up on a drug test? Let’s explore. 

Will HHC Show Up on a Drug Test?

So let’s cut to the case, as I know you are all waiting for the answer. Point blank, there is no objective evidence as to whether drug tests can or cannot detect HHC metabolites, mistaking them for THC metabolites. 

Metabolites is the key term here, as the heavy majority of drug tests don’t look for the original THC cannabinoid to test for marijuana, but broken-down versions of it which include THC-COOH and 11-hydroxy-THC. When the body metabolizes HHC, it breaks down into metabolites such as 11-hydroxy-HHC and 8-OH-9α-HHC. While not identical to THC-COOH and 11-hydroxy-THC, drug tests may not be able to tell the difference. 

In fact, HHC and THC are so close in their appearance and effects that HHC is considered an analog of delta-9 THC — in fact, there is just a single difference in their structure. This further suggests it’s more likely than not that HHC will show up on a drug test, and in large enough amounts to trigger a positive result. 

Now, while drug tests, like hair and blood tests, primarily target THC cannabinoids and may better tell the difference between THC and HHC, they are much less common. Without a doubt, urine tests are the most common and they work by detecting metabolites like THC-COOH. However, urine tests mainly, if not entirely, focus on THC-COOH metabolites due to its longer half-life (detection window). All-in-all, sensitivity to less common cannabinoids like HHC depends on how the test was designed.

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Factors Influencing HHC Detection

There are many factors that influence how long a drug test may potentially detect traces of HHC and other cannabinoids. 

  • Frequency of Use — Cannabinoid metabolites, like cannabinoids, are fat-soluble, meaning the more you take HHC products, the longer its metabolites will stick around. As such, individuals with higher levels of body fat may retain cannabinoids for a longer period compared to those with less fat on their bodies.
  • Dosage — Due to the same reasons frequency of use will influence HHC detection, so will your dosages, with larger dosages taking longer to clear from the system. 
  • An Individual’s Metabolism — Different people have different metabolisms, and some will have a metabolism that can remove HHC from the body faster. As someone who metabolizes THC too quickly, making edibles largely ineffective, I can personally attest to this. 
  • Method of Consumption — If you want to avoid HHC sticking around in your body for as long as it can, you will most likely want to stick to vaping vs. consumption methods that involve digestion. 

Currently, HHC is federally legal in the U.S. thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill — which only places restrictions on THC. However, this opens a lot of confusing loopholes, causing some manufacturers to get away with selling items like delta-9 THCa flower that will cause a high when heat is applied to it and THC edibles filled with sugar to ‘dilute’ the overall concentration of THC. More and more lawmakers are becoming aware of these loopholes, and many want to revise the language in the Farm Bill, which is set to be renewed in 2023. This is the first big concern with HHC. 

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The second big concern with HHC is that in most states, employment is considered “at-will”. This allows employers to terminate employees for various reasons, including positive drug tests for marijuana.

The third and last big concern with HHC is its semi-synthetic nature, because cannabis produces way too little of it. There is no inherent reason to discount cannabinoids created synthetically by hydrogenation, which is how HHC is produced. However, the safety of the final product depends on the adherence to proper manufacturing practices and quality control standards. If there are errors or impurities introduced during the synthesis or if the final product is not properly purified, it could potentially pose risks to human health.

Conclusion: Making Informed Decisions About HHC Use

Until there is rigorous research that says otherwise, you should avoid using products that contain HHC if you’re concerned about testing positive for marijuana use. The same advice goes for other THC analogs, such as delta-8 and THC-O. In fact, I advise this for any cannabinoid product, even CBD, due to the lack of a regulatory system over these items. 

Due to limited research on products highly concentrated in HHC and the lack of a regulatory system, I highly recommend you only buy from reputable sources who provide COAs on their products. As such, out of an abundance of caution, currently, I advise that you consider sticking to more ‘natural’ cannabis items with research available that attests to their safety.

Nicholas McKenzie - Cannabis Research Specialist

Nicholas McKenzie - Cannabis Research Specialist

Nicholas has spent the last ten years teaching gardeners, businesses, and enthusiasts how to succeed in the exciting and ever-changing world of cannabis. Whether he’s in the field getting his hands dirty or in the lab studying cannabinoids and their uses, Nicholas is passionate about bringing well-researched, factual, and concise information to an industry that very much needs it.

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