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Can Poppy Seeds Cause a Positive Drug Test?

poppy seed flower and plants

When you hear about poppy seeds causing a false positive on a drug test, you might think of it as a myth. However, research and anecdotal evidence show that poppy seeds can appear on a screening’s results. Eating food that contains poppy seeds can cause you to fail a drug test even if you don’t use opioids. Some questions to ask: How and why do poppy seeds cause drug test failure? What should you know if you need to get a screening? Discover the answers to these questions and more in this guide.

Do Poppy Seeds Cause Drug Test Failure?

Poppy seeds have been known to cause false positives in drug tests due to the way they are harvested and tested. A recent case in Maryland involved a mother who tested positive for drugs while giving birth, despite claiming innocence. The reason for her positive test result was attributed to the poppy seed bagel she had eaten earlier that day. Consequently, her baby was held at the hospital for five days while the mother had to prove her innocence by citing research on poppy seeds. Eventually, a case worker was convinced of her innocence and closed the file after reviewing the evidence presented in her letter to the hospital.

While eating poppy seeds doesn’t guarantee a positive result, it has a higher likelihood than many people expect. If you plan on getting a screening in the next few days, you may want to avoid food that contains poppy seeds.

Why Do Poppy Seeds Show up on Drug Screenings?

Most employment and athletic drug screenings check for morphine, an opioid drug. Morphine comes from the opium plant, which also contains the poppy seeds used in food. On their own, poppy seeds don’t contain any morphine. However, they can become contaminated with opium milk, a substance that does have morphine. Food manufacturers clean and process poppy seeds before shipping them to get rid of contaminants. During this process, small amounts of opium milk often remain on them, depending on:

  • Country of origin
  • Time harvested
  • Harvesting method

Processing tends to remove more than 90 percent of the opium in poppy seeds, but they can still have a significant amount.

How Many Poppy Seeds Does It Take to Get a Positive Result?

Opium milk can appear in a high enough concentration to show in tests even when it doesn’t cause drug-like effects. Laboratories screen on a threshold basis, meaning that a positive result appears at a specific concentration or higher. According to some research, one teaspoon of poppy seeds can produce results as high as 1,200 nanograms per millimeter. Tests can have different thresholds set for morphine. In the case mentioned in the previous section, the hospital tested for a threshold of 300 nanograms per millimeter.

Since testing thresholds and opium milk content vary, it takes different amounts of poppy seeds to create a positive result. In one situation, someone may eat a large number of poppy seeds. Meanwhile, other cases could involve a single bagel or pastry. Poppy seeds do not show up on drug tests in most cases, but there’s always a chance. When in doubt, avoid poppy seeds to keep risk as low as possible.

Can Athletes Eat Poppy Seeds Before Competitions?

Poppy seeds can result in a false positive on drug tests for sporting events, and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) includes morphine in its prohibited list. They count morphine as a threshold substance. When a urine sample reaches a level of 1.3 micrograms of morphine per milliliter, WADA considers it positive. In most cases, poppy seeds will not appear on a doping test. However, you may want to avoid them a few days before your competition if you worry about them producing results.

How Long Do Poppy Seeds Stay in Your System?

Morphine from poppy seeds can stay in your system anywhere from 12 to 48 hours. It can produce a positive test result on a drug screening as soon as two hours after consumption. The amount of time morphine from poppy seeds can show up on a test depends on factors such as:

  • Your metabolism
  • The amount of poppy seeds you ate
  • How often you eat food containing poppy seeds
  • The testing method used

Due to these differences, you may want to wait a few days before your test to eat poppy seeds.

Which Common Foods Have Poppy Seeds?

If you want to avoid eating poppy seeds before a drug screening, you have a variety of foods to consider. These seeds are used as an ingredient in:

  • Pastries, muffins, cake and breads: When you think of food that has poppy seeds, these items might come to mind. Desserts and breads such as bagels, muffins and rolls can include them as a garnish or ingredient.
  • Entrees: You might also discover poppy seeds in the main course. Some marinades, garnishes and sauces for entrees include poppy seeds for a nutty flavor.
  • Salads and dressing: As you may expect, poppy seed dressing can have enough of the ingredient to trigger drug test results. Some salads also have poppy seeds as a topping.

Due to their nutty flavor and crunchy texture, poppy seeds suit many foods. Remember to check if a food contains poppy seeds before eating it, even if it doesn’t seem like it would have them.

What Happens If I Receive a Positive Result?

When poppy seeds create a positive result on a drug test, you’ll need to provide proof of the morphine’s source. Many drug screening laboratories will ask if you had anything that could cause a false positive. However, they may still require further testing if morphine shows up in your results. You may have to complete a second drug screening or follicle test for more detailed data. Avoiding poppy seeds before your screening can prevent you from needing to provide this extra proof.

Learn More About Opioids and Addiction

Do you want to learn more about opioids and other medical topics? We encourage you to read our blog, which covers matters such as medication-assisted treatment (MAT), addiction, and more. You can visit our blog archive today for more information on these subjects.

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