Drugs & Health Blog

Drug Testing for…Poppy Seeds?

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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 percent 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.

Update: To learn more about drug testing, read these posts on professional football, cycling, and video gaming, and this post on how alcohol breath tests work.         

Comic of coach warning athlete not to eat poppy seeds

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


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.
My doctor just dropped me after a false posotive from poppy seeds. I couldn't believe it but yes they will.
Same thing just happened to me today ! I am in shock! I could lose my kids over this! Please help! Any advice will help I will listen... I don't know what to do! Or how to prove to them I didn't do it!!!???
Ask your Doctor about the different levels of opiates between prescription drugs & Poppy seeds , & the time differentials.
offer a lie detecter,hair test ,and blood work.Do not back down and do not let them intimidate you,Also make sure you stay away from all cold medicines,energy drinks,and do not drink so much liquid before a test,because it come up deluted and then they will suspect.Good luck!I know this is scary but just stay away from all things that could come up positive.Also stay away from root beer.Do your research.
Offer to take a hair folical drug test. Its more accuracy
This just happened to me today
Did you fight it?
Did you fight your doctor's decision?
so bad this is
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 wonder of enough legal poppy seeds can be abused. If so how could it be legal? If it can show up as a positive for opiates then I bet it has enough opiates in it for a fix.
Hello, Hey I am so sorry that happened to you you sound like you have really turned your life around I am happy that you did that but sad about the Poppy seed thing and I wanted to say that the same thing happened to me I was on pain pills for a long time and then I wanted to get clean so the only thing I could think to do is go to a Methadone clinic so I did and I have to have a random urine once a Month and for 2 years I have had clean urine's until 2 weeks ago when I had my Urine test all was fine as I thought until last week they told me I was positve for opioids and I said there is no way I have not taken Anything so I paid extra money to have the same urine retested and another week later it came back saying I took Herion and I have never taken that in my life so after all the work that I have done and the week take home bottles I got them all taken from me because of that urine test and there is nothing I can do, well I thought about it and racked my brain and I too eat a Poppy seed Bagel the day before I had my urine test so I told my counslor that and she said that I would have had to take a whole whole lot of poppy seed for it to come up in my urine but I don't believe that because I did not take anything let alone Herion!!! Well I hope all works out for you as for myself but I too think someone should let us know that if you eat something with poppy seed in it that it will cause your drug screen to come up positive. I am so angry because I was planning a 25th Anniversary cruise with my husband and I worked hard to get to where I am so I could take this vacation and now we have to put it off for another year all because I love Poppy seed bagels but hey NOT ANY MORE!
Look up poppy tea, doesnt take much to get high on poppy
OMG!!! I swear this sounds JUST like MY STORY!!!!! This SAME exact thing happened to ME today!!!! Even earned all my takehomes!!! Except my children is weighing hard on this...is the ONLY different thing about our stories! Omg... I am racking my brain on this! I swear to GOD I am honest about this!!!!! Please please please write me back! I NEED to know what happened to YOU...and some advice. Thank u soo much for sharing you gave me hope!
The same exact thing happened to me. I'm so frustrated. I had two years clean, not one dirty urine. Then last Tuesday my urine came back positive for opiates. Further testing showed it was positive for codeine. I'm on a blocker, why waste time with codeine?? I earned four take homes a week and now they're gone. We're being punished for no reason. I'm begging them to take a hair sample and a blood test but they won't. I'll pay for it. No response
I too had the sAme issue I had poppy seed salad dressing on my salad and I was going to the clinic getting off opiates so I was tAking suboxone 8 mg 3 times a day because I hAve pain issues and it was working really well then they took a urine and they didn't tell me at the time but same day they did a swab and the doctor whom was normally nice got real hateful and cut my suboxone down to 2.9 twice a day never telling me why we'll within a week my pain level was thru the roof I go back in and he tells me the reason he dropped my meds is I tested positive for hero on and morphine with I've never taken ever so that's why he had tAken the cheek swab and it came back clean I found a new dr it's my body he should of told me they wAnt us to be honest but they are not I was pissed
That's crazy I am EXACTLY in the same place as you. I'm in the clinic and have had clean random u.a.'s for over 3 years I earned take home carries. I went in to my monthly counseling session and was in complete shock when he says so u know your last ua came back positive!! I freaked!! He called someone above him and explained that I don't get dirty ua's and that I was very strongly convincing that I havn t used anything in years! Not to mention that morphine and or haroin have never been my "thing" they said they themselves have had a positive from poppy seeds! So he asked me if I hadon't eaten any I told him YES literally everyday on our way to the clinic my husband and I stop and get 2 coffees and 2 poppy seeds muffins.. I have a meeting Thursday with him he's trying to get the lab to send him something saying that with trace amounts it could be poppy seed. I pray they have a way to prove the difference.
Dude I am totally in the same boat. I was sick and the only thing I could choke down was poppy seed muffins.
Get a lawyer and sue them the facts are all over the internet I hope the best for you it sounds like you made a lot of positive goals good luck
I hope that everything turned out well for you since this was in 2013. I am a pain managment patient and faithful follow my contract (I only take the meds that are mine legally) I had one UA come up positive for morphine (wich I am very allergic to). I had had an almond poppy seed muffin that am. The doctor and nurse said no way but there really is absolutely no other explication. Now I have to be the poppy seed police and make sure nothing with seeds passes my lips! Medical professionals need to be more informed and more proactive in helping people be compliant who are regularly tested for contracts, jobs, or who are in the system and want to follow the straight and narrow!
I am a drug counselor who just started this pilot study on myself at work, and thus far, my UDS results after eating a fairly large poppy seed muffin has come back positive for opiods 3x! I did a before UDS, nothing, I ate a muffin at work, did a second UDS and bang, positive for opiates. This needs to be better researched and have your officer eat one and do a UDS to prove it!
I am in a drug treatment program, ate lemon poppyseed scones ad tested positive for codeine and morphine. I am allergic to both. The director told me poppyseeds causing a positive UA is a wives tale. I am now going to have to do a hair follicle test at my own expense to prove that I didn't take 2 medications that I am allergic to. I have been in full compliance with their program for over a year. I am not happy!
Oh my god this is exactly what happen to me except I had a relapse 2 months ago and was open and told my group about it and now my counselor just told me I tested positive for heroin this morning and I swear on everything I love I didn't relapse again. I ate those dumb bagels and I'm positive those bagels I ate made me have a dirty u.a. so now I'm looking to get revoked and do 180 in jail and I just had my first born daughter 5 months ago
Yeah our country (if your american like i am) is full of things like this that approve of wrongful incarceration. Your P.O. more than likely lied when saying ud have to eat a truck load. Unless youve confirmed this yourself id literally bet my life that she lied not knowing anything about this. Any way i wish u luck in fighting this weather u are still involved with your po or not either way good luck i know what its like to be recovering from addiction
Beleave me i was in the same boat but i beat it with plenty and i mean plenty of water before you go for your test.it really works.hope this helps you my friend
So what happened, how did it end up?
You should have quit eating them when you first found out about false positive... Or quit morphine, whichever actually is the case..
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 ,
So sorry but iam going through the exact same thing rite now my 16 year old sons drug if choice is pot he's never came back positive for opiods ever. But he ate like 10 medium size muffins I told him not to just in case because we have bad luck well he tested positive gotta go back to court
Im fourteen, on probation for Pot and i just ate a poppy seed bagel, oh no.
I just had a positive urine for opiates after eating a works bagels from Market Basket it had poppyseed. The nurse at my clinic doesn't believe I didn't use. She said she looked it up and it isn't possible. From what I see here it is absolutely possible. I take suboxone and have been clean for quite some time and was blown away when my test came back positive. Sucks when people don't believe you.
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
It will come back morphine I go to suboxe clinic ate nature valley poppy seed snack it came back 250ng morphine so apparently their is no cut off on the test,its so wrong,so be prepared it sucks to be wrongfully accused
I go to the suboxone clinic. Clean for over a year and then the doctor tells me I treated positive on my u.a. I laughed, I wasn't worried about it. I figured when he sent it off it would prove I didn't take anything. Went to the doctor yesterday and he tells me that I tested positive, a really small amount of oxymorphone! I was adamant that I had not used! He said because I've done so good he's not going to do anything about it, but if anything shows up again then he will have to drop me. A few days before I ate a stupid poppy seed muffin that I was given at work. Never thought about it! Won't ever do that again!
It will come back as morphine. WHich this is unreal it shows up as a positive for it like you did morphine. I've been through this twice at my doctors the only bagels i eat are everything bagels which contain the poppy seeds. I'm am fighting this one this time there is no reason they can't send it for further testing or figure out it's from a food and not a pill. They dont like doing blood or hair tests but I'm going to court soon for my daughter against her father and i also need this cleared up. I'm two years sober I dont need a bagel ruining my sobriety at my doctors or with anyone else because of a food. There has too be a way to tell the difference so dont give up fight it. Im going to also.
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!
that has very little to do with the article
Seriously I hate that. Filter that.
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.


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