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Drugs & Health Blog

Drug Testing for…Poppy Seeds?

Jack Maypole, M.D., Director of Pediatrics, South End Community Health Center

Did you know that morphine, codeine, and heroin are produced from the seeds of certain kinds of poppy flowers? Morphine and codeine are often used as medications for treating pain, and all three—known as opiates—can be abused. 

Poppy seeds are also used as a flavorful ingredient in many popular foods, including muffins and bagels. Although poppy seeds used in food are produced legally, they can contain high enough levels of the opioid to trigger a positive result on some types of drug urine tests.

So, you may wonder, if you ate a poppy seed bagel for breakfast, could results of a drug test come out positive for these opiates?

Once poppy seeds are eaten, the body develops detectable levels of opiates almost immediately. As a 2003 “MythBusters” episode notes, someone can test positive for opiates as soon as 2 hours after eating a poppy seed-loaded item. Other studies have shown that the levels remain elevated for up to 3 days.

School athletes may want to pay attention to this. Across the country, about one in seven school districts perform some sort of drug testing on their students. Students in middle school, high school, or college may be asked to take a drug test in order to participate in athletic activities or other programs.

False positives (when the test wrongly reports someone used drugs) can and do happen. For example, Federal prisoners, who undergo drug tests with some frequency, are forbidden to eat foods that contain poppy seeds.

Over the past 20 years, legal cases by law enforcement officials, workers, athletes, or students “caught” or penalized for positive urine tests for opiates have made famous the “poppy seed bagel defense.” A series of lawsuits and evolving research have proven that an individual’s urine can indeed produce a positive test result for opiates after the person eats poppy seed-containing cakes, muffins, or bagels. In one large study, up to 87% of tests considered positive for opiate use were due in part to poppy seeds in foods as well as prescription medications.

When positive test results are proven to have been due to eating poppy seeds, they are overturned. More accurate measurement of opiate levels can be done by analyzing a blood or hair sample. These tests cost more and may be used to double-check a positive urine result. 

To all you poppy seed lovers out there: They can be a tasty treat in favorite foods, but may be one to avoid before undergoing drug testing. Keep things simple: Try an onion bagel instead.

Jack Maypole, M.D., is the Director of Pediatrics at the South End Community Health Center as well as the Comprehensive Care Program at Boston Medical Center. He is also an assistant professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine. Cartooning has been a lifelong fascination and hobby.

Comic of coach warning athlete not to eat poppy seeds

Comments

I'm a medical assisting student. I'm taking my 10 finals this week and my certification exam will probably be in August. I have been assigned to a cardiologists office for my externship which will start in two weeks. I appreciate reading about your experience. It sounds like this will be challenging but also very rewarding for the patients and for myself. I look forward to getting out there and gaining my own experience.
I have been on probation for the past 2 years I am also a recovering addict. About 8 weeks ago my probation officer drug testes me and my urine came up for opiots. She sent it to the lab and it came up for morphine. I was totally baffled and told her I have never used morphine and wouldn't even know when to get it. Well last week once again my urine came up for morphine after being sent to the lab. That's when I started reading about the poppy seed thing and realized that I have been eating the poppy seed bagels a few mornings but last week I was put on a sleeping pill that made me feel like I was starving to death and ate 3 bagels between 11pm and 7 am. I told my probation officer this and she told me that I would have to eat a truck load for my lab results to come back as morphine. I have to go and see her tomorrow and I think she is going to put me in jail for a violation. I don't know for sure what the cut off levels are at the lab they send the urine samples to; I am assuming there 2000 since that's what most labs (since I have investigated this quite a bit) but I assure you whatever my levels are I have never used any morphine. I have my a wonderful 6 year old little boy, I am engaged to be married, I own my own business now, have 5 employees that work for me, just bought a new car and feel like my life is just getting good and now this. I wish I would have known about these poppy seeds, they should tell you things like this when you get on probation and/or have to take drug tests so you can avoid them completely.
I wish you the best of luck!!!!
I am going through this with my son, he has eaten a bag of poppy seed bagels, & tested posative for opiates .. I am so upset , they judge is not hearing this , he may be going into detention center over all this, I am so angry ,
I came up positive on my drug test and did not do any opiates when my test is sent to the lab will they b able to prove I did not use
I pray all is well with the people in the above comments. Lord help us all and thanks 4 the informative article!
Praise God! Jesus is Lord! Nothing is impossible with Jesus, His Love Endures Forever!
wow LU wants as to make a project about this
I'll never touch another poppy seed bagel again.... sucks cause I love them. And my mom gets them all the time. I get tested 3 times a month.
Interesting site, keep up the good work, my colleagues would love this. I read many blogs every day, and for the most part the authors lack substance, but not in this case. I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog, I'm gonna bookmark this teens.drugabuse.gov web site. Thanks
Yup. Same thing happenned to me at probation in Truckee Ca. Probation officer reccommends 45 days in jail and tells me its not her job to tell me what to eat and that the seeds will not produce positive results. I do the research and boy is she wrong. Fact is a hair sample test in needed to prove accurate results which she also does not know. So i go to private testing place in Reno and for $80 and 3 big bald spots on my head the results are negative. Invasion of my freedom, my serenity, big waste of tax payer dollars and what is one of the most common cause of relapse in addicts? Reseentments. And boy do i have a big one. Right when i was doing good. Great system we have.
How long do the poppy seeds stay in your system?

@Anonymous, the opiates from the poppy seeds can be detected in your urine for up to 3 days.

The liver will breakdown the exogenous opioids produced from the poppy seed just as it does the pharmaceutical form. About three days is the general rule for detection. some people such as those with liver or kidney disorders or severely obese individuals it can take more time for the body to process it out.
What is the half-life of the seeds so a person could enjoy apoppy seed bagel?

@john s, the opiates from poppy seeds can be detected in your urine for up to 3 days.  However, if tesiting positive is a concern, we recommend avoiding poppy seed bagels altogether.

I too was on probation for 18 months once for a crime not involving drugs. but the one time they drug tested me, I tested positive for Codeine. I was blown away because during my 18 months I refused to even take a sedative for my headaches. I wanted to be totally clean from ANY thing because I would be let go early for good behavior. I asked what Codeine was and my probation officer stated its a heroin thing and he said to sit tight while he checked it our further with a more advanced lab. I looked back at all my medical records, dental infact. my dentist said they used Codeine in the shot they used to numb my mouth to extract my tooth. but that the Codeine levels would have depleted because it had been months since i got the shot. But it was my only lead on the Codeine. Until I looked up Codeine some more and found that Codeine was also in some chap sticks to sooth ruff cracked lips. and I use chap stick all the time and didnt even know that it could have put me in jail for 5 years! I didnt even think to check on Poppy Seeds as the culpret. Thank you guys I hope my comment shines new light on Codeine in Chap stick as well. be careful. some Probation officers dont care about you, and dont WANT to help you, they just want to make a name for themselves and put you away. Thank God I had an officer that cared and understood.
Does eating 2 slices of poppy seed bread loaf make you positive for a urine test or will that not cut into the threshold level for positive?

It's difficult to say because everyone is different.  It may or may not.  If you're concerned, it is best to stay away from poppy seeds.  If you do test positive due to poppy seeds, explain the situation and ask to test again.

I am on probation and I eat poppy seed bagels all the time never once had a positive urine and I get them 3 times a week. The person who is taking the test is most likely lying, opiates are an epidemic right now so it's probable they are using it trying to use this as an excuse. Sorry if I offend anyone I'm a recovering herein addict and have been clean for 3.5 years I see it from an honest addicts perspective meaning I admit I'm a recovering addict and if I use I will definitely lie to get myself out of trouble.
pobation officer stated you would need to eat a hole bowl of nothing but seed to fail a u.a. I didn't think about it till at treatment were they give out free bread like a food bank had them there I ate the whole loaf 7 sandwiches in 3 days and it was 750 ng/ml of opiates from 5 grain bread I'll find out if I get jailed for this but how can thy say don't worry, then give it to you and still jail you??? I think that jailing use for diluted samples and not eating 1 hr. before testing is going to fall are they testing for alcohol and drugs or food and water??? I see a lawsuit coming !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
ONION BAGELS ALSO CONTAIN POPPY SEEDS
I am on probation and recently found out that I tested positive for morphine and codeine. The ONLY possible explanation for this is that I ate a poppy seed bagel. Absolutely everybody I talk to insists that I would have had to eat a ton of poppy seeds to test positive for opiates. I am going through an independent lab to try to prove that this indeed could be the culprit before meeting with my case manager. I am trying to figure out if a controlled before and after UA is better or actually having the bagel itself tested is best and/or if there is a better way to prove that it's the poppy seeds. It's a matter of principle now, because the general consensus is that "the tests don't lie, the results speak for themselves" and the burden of prove is on me! I've exhausted my resources and would really love to find the best options from people who may have been there/done that.
I am on probation, have been for about 2 years now, a couple weeks ago I tested positive for opiates.... Keep in mind I am a recovering addict and just got my 9 month keytag before this incident... I am very proud of where I'm at in my life and my recovery. I just happened to have eaten lemon poppy seed muffins that morning for breakfast. I of course denied that I used any drugs (because I haven't) and they sent it out to a lab. It came back last week positive for morphine. I have never used morpphine in my life. Luckily I have been showing great improvement lately and after talking to my p.o., she believed me when I said I have not used and it had to have been the muffins. She told me that poppy seeds CAN cause a test to come back for morphine. So my advise is to just stay away from any food w poppy seeds in or on it. Its not that big of a sacrifice for your freedom.
This is great information. Thanks for posting!
My cousin has just started home visits and stated on their paper work is NO poppy seeds to be consumed. so the system is advising now the concern for opiate readings. The advice from LauraB July 4 2014 comment is very wise. IF there is a chance for positive testing then just don't eat them and don't listen to anyone that says it is ok to THEY are NOT the ones that are risking their lives and returning to jail. Congratulations to all of you that have stayed clean
well guys and girls I just came home from jail I'm in a halfway house in Hartford CT well I got a job and just had an interview today for my second one I've been clean since 2011 well they drug tested me about a week ago and well today they called me for a meeting and said if I knew what I was here for I said no and they said because my drug test from last week said that I was dirty it showed dirty for opiates and it said morphine the levels were 175 at that moment I could not speak it was like I had this big knot in my throat I said that I was not dirty that the test was wrong I work in burger king and now I'm starting my second job in sears I'm getting my life str8 and plus I discharge in December of this year so u think that I'm going to risk my freedom and the chance of me making money trust me guys this is crazy then they said if it comes dirty again that im going back to jail because the drug tested me again after the meeting. well people who read this I just want to let you know that this is nutz
Drug tests are so sensitive that it will detect the opiates from poppy seed ingestion 61 days after you ate it so just avoid poppy seeds, period. poppy seeds are used in cakes, cookies, pastries and breads as well, especially those multi grain breads, so always read the label twice to make sure.
Well I have just ate two rolls that were covered in poppy seeds and I have only jiust read this so I am quite shocked..as they were from sainsburys.....should come with a warning.....

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