Does HHC Show Up on a Drug Test?
Wed, Aug 11, 2021 | Reading Time: 4 minutes
HHC is one of the newest cannabinoids available today.
While this makes it exciting, it also makes it more than a little mysterious!
One of the biggest unknowns about HHC is whether or not it’ll show up on a drug test. Will it? While early reports said no, newer info says maybe. Keep reading to learn more about HHC’s mechanism of action, metabolization, and interaction with drug test protocols.
- HHC 101
- Will HHC get me high?
- Will HHC make me fail a drug test?
- How long will HHC stay in my system?
Before diving into HHC and drug testing, we should probably take a quick look into what HHC is in the first place.
HHC is a semi-synthetic cannabinoid that’s usually derived from CBD. Because said CBD is usually derived from hemp, HHC also claims hemp-derived status.
And that makes it a legal alternative to ‘regular’ delta-9 THC. People who’ve tried both compounds — HHC and THC — say that HHC provides a more manageable, energizing high.
HHC’s chemical structure shows us why it feels different. While both compounds have the same chemical composition, HHC lacks one of the double bonds that THC has. This may lessen its binding affinity to some of the brain’s most psychotropic endocannabinoid receptors. In other words, THC binds to uplifting receptors like a key fits a lock…HHC, not quite so much.
Will HHC get me high?
The short answer is yes.
The long answer, as we mentioned above, is that HHC’s high is a little milder than delta-9’s. For most people its effects fall somewhere between delta-8 and delta-9. It’s: 
And don’t think that HHC’s effects are purely mental. Experts suspect that HHC may possess many of the same antioxidant, homeostatic benefits as more conventional cannabinoids. It’s not just fun to use — it’s also healthy!
Will HHC make me fail a drug test?
While there’s a possibility HHC can evade point-of-care drug tests, new reports are starting to suggest the opposite. These reports show that HHC may be just as likely to trigger a positive drug test as delta-8 or delta-9.
What’s the reason for this lack of consensus? In theory, HHC shouldn’t show up on a drug test. It doesn’t reliably convert to 11-hydroxy-THC, the cannabinoid metabolite that drug tests use to detect delta-9 THC. Key words being in theory.
In practice, however, HHC remains detectable by some types of drug testing. Point-of-care tests, blood tests, hair, and saliva tests may all be able to detect HHC consumption. It’s thought that HHC remains detectable in your system for up to 2 weeks…but more on that next.
How long will HHC stay in my system?
Disclaimer: HHC hasn’t been subjected to enough human research for us to be 100% certain how long it stays in your system for.
Since HHC is so chemically similar to delta-9 and delta-8, however, we can make an educated guess. Like these other cannabinoids, HHC may:
- Have a half-life of roughly 30 minutes
- Stay in your system for between 3 and 30 days
- Remain detectable on drug tests for between 3 and 30 days
Various factors can affect how long it takes your body to process and clear HHC, including your frequency of use, your age, your metabolic rate, and more.
Factor 1: how often you're using it
The more often you take HHC, the longer it’s likely to stay in your system for. Intuitive enough, right?
The relationship between these two variables exists because HHC is fat-soluble — it dissolves readily in fat. Once it’s been cleared out of the bloodstream, any excess HHC you’ve consumed gets sequestered away in your body’s fat cells. If you’ve been taking HHC daily, the odds are good your body has stored up a significant amount of it. This stored HHC can slowly leach back out into the bloodstream, even if you’ve stopped taking the cannabinoid entirely! Consider abstaining for 2-3 weeks prior to your next drug test if possible.
If you’re only been dabbling in HHC by taking it once or twice per week, on the other hand, your body will likely be HHC-free within just one week.
Factor 2: your age
Your body’s metabolism naturally slows down as you get older. Metabolic rate peaks in your 20s, slowly decline until your 60s, and declines slightly faster after that. The slower your metabolism, the slower you’ll process HHC. A dose that takes the 22-year-old three days to process may take the 67-year-old a full week to process and eliminate.
Factor 3: your enzymes
Your body’s general metabolic rate also plays a role in its enzymatic activity. People with naturally fast metabolisms may process HHC faster than those with slow metabolisms. Here’s a deeper look.
Specialized enzymes get to work breaking down HHC from the very moment it hits your bloodstream. Cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP3A4) enzymes break HHC down in your liver, converting it into even more active metabolites. Research shows that different people have slightly different baseline CYP3A4 levels, leading to slightly faster — or slightly slower — HHC breakdown. The higher one’s enzymatic activity, the faster HHC will be cleared from the system. It’s possible that this type of enzymatic activity upregulates in response to consistent THC or HHC use, but once again, more research is needed.
Factor 4: your delivery method
The way you take HHC plays a surprisingly large role in how long it stays in your system. Fast onset time usually equals fast elimination. The faster HHC gets into your liver, the faster it’ll leave. Once again, pretty intuitive.
- HHC vapes: instantaneous absorption, very fast elimination
- HHC topicals: fast absorption, ultra-fast elimination
- HHC tinctures/oils: fast absorption, fast elimination
- HHC edibles: slow absorption, slow elimination
HHC enthusiasts who want to make their lifestyle compatible with drug testing can possibly do so by prioritizing vapes and topics over other products. These products deliver HHC into the bloodstream quickly enough to afford your body plenty of time to clear it out.
Factor 5: your dose
Here’s one more painfully obvious factor affecting how long HHC stays in your system: your dose. Higher doses of HHC can take exponentially longer to leave your system than lower doses do. Your liver’s enzymes can only break down so much HHC at once!
Factor 6: the medications you’re taking
Are you taking any prescription medications? If so, you should know that these medications can affect HHC’s bioavailability, half-life, and overall nature.
Scientists call this concept metabolic competition. In other words, some prescription meds interact with the very same liver enzymes that HHC does. These enzymes can’t necessarily process both substances at the same time.
Metabolic competition can be problematic for several reasons. HHC that’s metabolically ‘blocked’ may last for much longer than you expected, leading to practical issues and problems with drug testing. Meanwhile, medications that are metabolically blocked can become stronger and more effective — possibly so effective that you overshoot your optimal dose and end up experiencing side effects.
CYP3A4 is one of the most ubiquitous liver enzymes, so the above possibilities aren’t especially rare. CYP3A4’s activity also means it’s difficult to project whether a substance will metabolically compete with HHC or not. Be sure to talk to your doctor before trying HHC if you’re currently taking prescription medication.
HHC and drug tests: summing things up
Does HHC show up on a drug test? While initial reports said no, new research seems to be saying yes. Feel free to use a little restraint if you have any upcoming drug tests. And be sure to prioritize faster-absorbing products over slower ones. While some aspects of HHC’s working are out of your control, others — like your dosing and product selection — are easy to adjust.
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