Does Kava Show Up On A Drug Test? | Botanic Tonics

Does Kava Show Up On A Drug Test? | Botanic Tonics

Reviewed by Erin Berthold

Does Kava Show Up On A Drug Test?

Kava is increasingly perceived and celebrated as a terrific mood enhancer and social lift option. But does kava show up on a drug test?

Briefly: Yes, kava could show up on drug test results. But rarely will any types of kava be included in a drug test—and this post explains why.[3]

Read on as we explain the basics behind the ancient South Pacific herbal remedy and whether it’s something you must worry about surfacing during a drug screening.

What is Kava?

Kava is an herbal extract identified by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a dietary supplement derived from the roots of Piper methysticum—a leafy, tropical shrub native to islands throughout Polynesia.[4]

Known as ‘ava in Samoa and ‘awa in Hawaii—and consumed in Pacific Island nations ranging from Fiji to Vanuatu—kava has been used for centuries for medicinal, ceremonial, and cultural purposes.

Kava’s popularity in the South and North Pacific began spreading throughout the continental U.S. as a “social enhancer” and self-care practice roughly 10 years ago, in large part because it may promote feelings of calm and well-being.

Today, drinking kava is popular as it is a prevalent herbal tonic—to the tune that it’s expected to become a $3.41 billion global market in the next six years.[5]

Do Drug Tests Assess for Kava?

The quick answer: Probably not.

Given its ubiquity, with lively kava bars flourishing in metropolises like Honolulu and Brooklyn, it’s no wonder why anyone who may be screened for substances might ask Siri “does kava show up on drug test?” 

Whether you’ve been asked to take a drug test for employment purposes, medical reasons, or legal grounds, the last thing you want is for something to emerge that could place you at professional or legal risk—let alone put you in a position where your health and wellness could be compromised. 

Let’s go over a few facts about kava so you can confidently walk into a drug test after using kava.

Is Kava Legal in the United States?

You may be wondering, is kava legal? Yes, as of 2023, Kava is legal at the federal, state, and local levels. It’s not, nor has it ever been, listed as a controlled substance by the FDA or the Federal Controlled Substances Act.[6] In other words, it is not considered an illicit drug; it’s also not placed in the same category as alcohol. 

Indeed, as the DEA puts it, “Kava users do not exhibit generalized confusion and delirium that occurs with levels of alcohol intoxication.”[7]

What Do Drug Tests Usually Check For?

Drug tests typically examine for substances that are known for their intoxicating effects, namely alcohol and the following:[8]

  • Cocaine
  • Opiates
  • Amphetamines, both legal and illegal (such as meth)
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Marijuana

Depending on your geographical location and the reasons for a screening, you may also be tested for:

  • Benzodiazepines, such as Valium and Xanax[9]
  • MDMA
  • Methaqualone
  • Methadone 
  • Propoxyphene

Why Are Drug Tests Performed?

Here are a handful of the most common reasons drug tests are conducted in the first place:

  • Post-accident tests – If you’re involved in an auto accident and exhibit signs of intoxication, you may be asked to take a drug test to rule out—or ascertain—the possibility of a substance that has compromised your driving ability.
  • Employment – You might work or be a candidate for a position at a place where substances might pose a threat to the safety of yourself or others. School bus drivers, individuals who operate heavy machinery, pilots—all may be subjected to drug tests for perfectly understandable and necessary reasons. In other environments, drug tests may be part of a comprehensive drug-free corporate structure; to serve as a deterrent to employees or to rule out applicants who might be vulnerable to substance abuse.[10] Drug tests are also performed for insurance purposes. 
  • Sports – Drug testing is commonly performed in sports at the high school, collegiate,  and professional levels.[11] This ensures that players are safe to play and not involved in illegal activities. Drug testing is also employed to shield athletes’ health and guarantee that substances are not used to enhance physical performance.

Drug tests may also be performed at certain schools, in clinical settings such as the emergency room or substance abuse rehab centers.

Does Kava Show Up on a Drug Test?

Because kava is both a legal dietary supplement—that some might consider in the same class as St. John’s Wort or Valerian Root—very, very few (if any) drug tests will deliberately assess for its inclusion in a blood or urine sample, the most common forms of drug screenings. Additionally, in the United States, kava is not considered an addictive drug that might be abused. Nor is it believed that people should be penalized for using it.

To sum it up: Kava won’t lead to a “failed” drug test. Few, if any, organizations will be actively searching for it. For example, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) does not include kava on its list of prohibited substances.[12]

That said, a more sophisticated and in-depth drug test may reveal the presence of kavalactones—insoluble compounds found naturally in kava that are believed to be responsible for its calming effects.[13] 

A recent study published in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology found that the presence of kavain, one of the most abundant kavalactones in kava, created false-positive results for amphetamine in three patients.[14] So caution must be taken when consuming kava prior to a drug screen. If you have any doubts over your results, request a more sophisticated blood screening to rule out any false positives. 

Generally, though, kava is not included in drug tests because, well, there’s not much of a valid reason to do so. 

Is Kava Safe for Consumption?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), kava is considered generally safe for consumption and poses “a low level of health risk.”[15] Nonetheless, you may want to consider the following before selecting a kava product online or convening with your crew at your local kava bar:

  • Obtain your physician’s approval – For personal use in the U.S., you don’t need a prescription to purchase kava or to enter a kava bar (that said, there is a kava bar age limit at some kava bars, or they might require that an adult accompanies anyone under the age of 18).

  • And yet, concerns about the connection between kava and its effect on the liver prompted the FDA to issue an advisory alert in 2002. This remains in effect today. It warns users to use precautions if they have a liver problem (such as liver disease) or take medications that impact the liver. So, it may be best to check in with your healthcare provider to ensure that kava is safe for you. 

    This is also true for those who have an underlying health condition, such as:

    • Parkinson’s disease
    • Depression
    • Bipolar disorder
    • Pulmonary hypertension
    • Alcoholism
    • Blood disorder(s)
    • Kidney disease

    Further, it’s recommended that breastfeeding or expectant mamas should eschew kava until more research has been conducted.

  • Keep possible drug interactions in mind – In addition to interacting with medications that are known to or could impact liver function, kava might exacerbate the effects of other substances. The DEA notes that kava may intensify the cognitive impairment that can occur with alcohol intoxication—this being one of several reasons why some kava bars are dedicated alcohol-free zones.[16](Kava might also have a negative effect on individuals whose livers have been harmed by alcohol use.) 

  • The Cleveland Clinic also advises holding off on kava if you take:

    • Anti-anxiety medications, like benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and medications with a sedative effect like Xanaz
    • Antidepressants, including SSRIs and MAOIs
    • Medication for Parkinson’s disease
    • Diuretics 
    • Blood thinners

  • Do not exceed the recommended dosage – Experts indicate that you shouldn’t consume more than 250 mg of kavalactones per day.

  • Opt for a reputable, quality product – One of the risks of dietary/herbal supplements is that you may not know what you are consuming exactly—or how much. The FDA regulates dietary supplements but places them in the same category as food and beverages, and doesn’t monitor them with the same vigor as, say, prescription medications.[17] To this end, be sure to purchase and/or consume kava products that have gone through third-party testing, are devoid of heavy metals and toxins, and have received a stamp of approval from Good Manufacturing Practices, which confirms that it’s a safe, consistent, and reliable product. Lastly, exercise caution with kava products that make outrageous medical claims. 

  • Savor Quality Kava with Botanic Tonics

    The question does kava show up on a drug test may increasingly become part of the kava conversation the more this South Pacific mainstay blooms in popularity. Fortunately, kava is not typically tested for, but it should still be consumed cautiously.

    When purchasing kava products you can trust, Botanic Tonics takes the guesswork out of the equation. We go to great lengths to ensure we deliver only the finest kava products to our customers. That’s why our feel free kava capsules and kava tonic are tested for over 64 possible contaminants and are produced only with vegan, non-GMO, and organic ingredients.

    When you’re ready to reap the potential rewards of kava, choose Botanic Tonics. 

    1, Cleveland Clinic. When it comes to kava, ‘natural’ doesn’t mean safe.
    2, Human Psychopharmacology. Neurocognitive effects of kava (Piper methysticum): a systematic review.
    3, The Law Office of Anne Thayer, PLLC. Can Virginia police charge you with a DUI for drinking kava tea?
    4, 7 Drug Enforcement Administration. Kava.
    5, Fortune Business Insights. Kava root extract market size.
    6, The New York Times. Stressed New Yorkers take to kava, nature’s Xanax.
    8, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Drug testing resources.
    9, Benzodiazepines vs. narcotics (opioids).
    10, Work Partners Occupational Health. Why do employers drug test?
    11, Tufts Medical Center. Drug testing in sports.
    12, WADA. The prohibited list.
    13, Neural Regeneration Research.  Neuroprotective properties of kavalactones.
    14, Journal of Analytical Toxicology. Kavain interference with amphetamine immunoassay.
    15, VeryWell Mind. The health benefits of kava.
    16, Town. Sober spirits.
    17, FDA. Dietary supplements.


    About The Author

    Erin Berthold Botanic Tonic

    Erin Berthold, PhD

    Erin Berthold is the R&D Director at Botanic Tonics. She holds her PhD in Pharmaceutics from the University of Florida. There she studied the interaction potential between mitragynine and cannabidiol, two compounds from complex natural products. She is passionate about developing creative and alternative options for individuals suffering from substance use disorders.

    Erin earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2011. Prior to going back to obtain her PhD, she worked in manufacturing, quality control, engineering, and quality assurance roles across regulated industry at pharmaceutical, medical device, and dietary supplement companies.

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