CBD And Firefighters – Is It Safe For Us To Use?
Most of us on the job have had to go through recovery of an injury and/or surgery. We’ve been prescribed opiates for our pain, benzodiazepines for our sleep or PTSD and it affects the way we function not only at home but on the job. In most of the fire service, we’re not seeking an alternative of any kind, let alone a better one.
If this question hasn’t been brought up around your firehouse yet, it will be soon:
Will our members fail a drug test?
Is it addictive?
Is it safe?
Is it even legal?
It’s not marijuana, it’s not mind-altering and it IS legal at the federal level.
Fire departments all over the country and their unions have been grappling with the concept and potential issues with allowing their members to use CBD.
I’m a firefighter in South Florida and my brothers and sisters ask me this all the time since I’ve earned the reputation as “the CBD guy” over the last couple of years after I started Omnia Naturals. We were recently invited to speak on Fire Engineering’s podcast The Chaplain’s Corner Where we covered everything in this article plus a whole lot more on this subject.
What Are The Benefits of CBD for Firefighters?
Look, this is definitely not a young person’s game. The longer we’re on the job, the more prone we are to back injuries, tears, cuts, bruises, etc. I think some of our retirees are held together with duct tape and stubbornness. We’re already loaded up with synthetic pre-workout stuff, we walk around in a constant state of sleep deprivation, we’re always at risk for PTSD. Cancer and cardiovascular disease are bigger threats than flashovers.
Why wouldn’t we start looking to natural alternatives to some of these things that reduce our longevity?
So, let’s talk about CBD
While we can’t make any claims about what CBD can do, there has been a mountain of research over several decades for it’s potential uses.
Currently, the only thing the FDA has approved CBD for is epilepsy, and that’s from a drug called Epidiolex (which is CBD and cherry flavoring).
CBD is the non-psychoactive compound found in the hemp plant. It’s been studied for a wide range of potential benefits, but the most prominent studies have been around inflammation, pain, anxiety, and seizures.(If you’d like a run-down on the basics of what CBD is see our article here)
There have also been case studies regarding CBD and PTSD, and one in particular was centered around 9/11 survivors at the World Trade Center.
You can see that article by clicking here
Is It Safe?
The World Health Organization (WHO) published an official stance on CBD. They stated that it has no risk of addiction and has a very good safety profile with no possibility of overdose. Up until recently there has been no established dangerous dose (LD50) but it has been found by the University of Arkansas to be 615mg per kilogram of body weight. This is an astronomical amount and would require you to drink several liters of CBD all at once.
The parts of your brain that cause you to stop breathing from an overdose on heroin or a benzo for example, are not stimulated by CBD. Your brainstem is left untouched, so the areas that are responsible for breathing and level of consciousness are not stimulated or depressed when taking CBD
Is It Legal? What About The IAFF?
Yes it is legal.
The picture below shows the 2018 farm bill legalizing all extracts of the hemp plant as long as they have less than 0.3% THC by weight.
The trickier questions come from your union contract (if you’re an IAFF member) which could specifically prohibit you from using CBD itself, if that’s the case then your hands are tied until your contract changes, obviously.
However, most contracts within the IAFF only prohibit the use of Marijuana and they test for it via a standard urinalysis drug screen. Included on this drug screen is THC (among opiates, amphetamines, benzos and cocaine, most commonly).
What About Random Drug Testing?
Here’s the MOST IMPORTANT factor to understand as a firefighter on the job interested in taking CBD:
They’re not testing for CBD, they’re testing for THC.
You will not fail a drug test from taking CBD isolate (with 0.000% THC), but you can fail a drug test from taking full spectrum CBD (0.3% THC).
And since CBD doesn’t make you feel intoxicated, high, buzzed, or any of the like, it’s safe to use for first responders in the field.
Urinalysis vs Confirmatory Test
A urinalysis is performed when you go in for drug testing, this is a cheap kit to look at your urine. This is a “dumb” kit because it can’t look at a molecular compound in detail. It’s simply triggered by metabolites.
If your CBD has 0.000% THC in it, you can’t test positive on a confirmatory drug screen. In theory you can trigger a false positive on a preliminary drug test, but when it’s tested with confirmatory tests, it will show NO THC.
A confirmatory test is automatically performed whenever a positive urinalysis is found.
This is where they use complex processes (like liquid chromatography or mass spectrometry) and they’ll soon see that this is not THC it’s in fact CBD.
There are CBD products out there that contain THC in them, they’re called Full Spectrum products, and they contain the naturally occurring amount of THC that’s found in the hemp plant which is 0.3% or less by weight. When all of the THC (and other compounds) are filtered out, it’s then referred to as CBD Isolate which can be in an oil, skin cream, patch, pill, etc. If you’re taking full spectrum CBD, there is absolutely a chance you can test positive for THC on a standard urinalysis drug test.
But, How Do I Really Know If There’s 0.000% THC In My CBD?
The answer is lab tests.
Any brand worth their salt will provide a readily-available lab analysis that’s been performed by a 3rd party. This most commonly uses Mass Spectrometry Gas Chromatography (My Hazmat members just got excited) to analyze the exact molecular makeup of these products. They can tell not only how much CBD and THC is in the sample but they can detect if any pesticides, heavy metals, solvents or other contaminants like bacteria are in the product. For a firefighter, verifying lab tests before you consume CBD products is mandatory.
I completely understand the apprehension behind taking something that you think might endanger your job.
We took it one step further and started including at-home THC test kits so that
you can see for yourself that you’re passing a drug test after taking our CBD.
Note the bar graph: the numbers just above the ppm are lowest detectable amounts. THC shows up in as little as 0.0001ppm.
We really do have ZERO THC
Where Are We Getting This Information?
CBD has been studied for decades, but we still don’t know much about it due to the fact that hemp was considered the same as marijuana (even though they’re two totally different plants) and illegal up until December of 2018. We’re reading and learning every day, here are some of the most prominent studies, and what we’re basing all of the info on this article from.
CBD and Firefighters: The Bottom Line
It is legal, it is safe to use and it won’t get you high, intoxicated or buzzed. If you ensure you’re taking CBD Isolate, you won’t fail a drug test and there is no possibility of addiction or even overdose. It’s a safe natural alternative to help with some of the issues we deal with being on the job!
Start feeling better.
Firefighters and CBD FAQs
No. CBD is not tested for in a standard urinalysis. THC, which is prevalent in marijuana, is what is tested for when screening for the fire department. CBD oil can be made firefighter friendly if it’s created with CBD isolate and tested to be shown to have 0.000% THC, making it safe to take regularly and still pass a standard urinalysis drug test.
Research has shown the possibility of CBD being a potent anti-inflammatory, a pain reliever and can possibly promote good sleep from conclusions drawn by these researchers. There have also been studies on CBD for PTSD, depression and anxiety that have shown a lot of promise.
Most departments don’t have a rule against CBD they simply require you to pass drug testing. The standard drug test looks for the THC from marijuana not the CBD compound. Unless your department, city/county or union prohibits it, you’re legally allowed to use CBD.
If you found this helpful, please tell the guys and girls at the firehouse about us. We have great discounts for all first responders and we love answering questions so leave a comment or contact us via live chat or email!
About The Author:
Jon Vought is a Firefighter/Paramedic in the South Florida area with over 10 years of experience in the fire department and 13 total in emergency services. He is the founder of Omnia Naturals and has a passion for educating. He’s an instructor in multiple disciplines and runs a non-profit youth program for the fire department.