A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Accidental THC ingestion: A drug test surprise

If your new employer asks you to take a drug test and you’re surprised to hear that it came back positive for marijuana use, you may have accidental THC or marijuana ingestion. Unfortunately, whether it’s accidental or not, a positive is a positive and could impact your potential hire.

Woman with her head in a fog, possibly suffering from accidental marijuana ingestion.

If you’re experiencing symptoms like impaired memory or concentration, you may have accidentally ingested marijuana.

Accidental THC or marijuana ingestion symptoms

A person could accidentally ingest THC or marijuana several ways. Often, it’s a case of visiting someone’s home and not knowing that the food being served has marijuana baked into it, or an edible could be mistaken for a snack such as a gummy bear.

According to Dr. Corey Cronrath, occupational health medical director at Marshfield Clinic Health System, you may have ingested marijuana if you’re noticing symptoms such as:

  1. Euphoria and relaxation: Marijuana can create a sense of happiness and relaxation. It might make you feel more at ease and content.
  2. Altered perception: Marijuana can change the way you experience things. Colors might appear brighter, sounds might be more vivid and you might notice details that you have not noticed before.
  3. Increased appetite: Commonly referred to as the “munchies,” marijuana can make you feel hungry or increase your craving for food. You might find yourself wanting to snack or enjoy a meal.
  4. Dry mouth and red eyes: One of the side effects of marijuana is dry mouth, often referred to as “cottonmouth.”  It can make your mouth feel dry and increase your thirst. Additionally, marijuana can cause blood vessels in the eyes to expand, leading to red and bloodshot eyes.
  5. Impaired coordination and reaction time: Marijuana can affect your motor skills and coordination. It may make it harder to perform tasks that require precise movements. Your reaction time might also be slower than usual.
  6. Impaired memory and concentration: Marijuana can temporarily affect your memory and ability to concentrate. You might find it more challenging to remember things or stay focused on a specific task.

Following accidental ingestion, water and waiting are the only ways to cure the symptoms, which may last several hours depending on the level of THC contained within the substance.

“Accidentally overdosing on marijuana is not a concern as it is with alcohol and opiates,” Dr. Cronrath said. “The treatment is increased hydration to flush the system and time.”

Drug testing

If you’re undergoing a drug test, it doesn’t matter whether ingestion was accidental or purposeful.

“You are still positive for a drug test, so for example, if you’re a truck driver, no matter the reason, marijuana is still in your system,” Dr. Cronrath said. “You are then no longer a truck driver and have to go through a substance abuse program in order to be able to drive again.”

The best advice if you’re expecting an upcoming drug test is to be sure you know what’s in your food and drink before you ingest it.

Learn more about workplace health and prevention with Marshfield Clinic Health System Occupational HealthWORKS.

Learn more about Occupational HealthWORKS

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