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 precent 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.


How much poppy seeds eaten shows a positive drug test

Sorry, mary, but that's difficult to answer.  Everyone is different.  Your size, metabolism, and health all factor in to how you respond to different substances.  If you're worried, it's best to just avoid it 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.
U ould think they would ban them since they cause such a problem
a ban on poppy seeds just because of accidental consumption before a drug test would be a little extreme. maybe instead make a list of thing that you should not consume prior to a drug test would make more sense.
Hello. Putting a warning on anything that contains Poppy seed would really help a lot. I am very upset over what happened to me (story above) I feel like the floor has opened up under my feet and I am falling and falling but the fact is I did not take anything especially Herion I have always been against it and now I am been accused of taking it!!! This whole thing is making me feel like I am going crazy I was so happy with how great things were going in my life and now this I mean it was bad enough that I had t go once a week to that clinic but now after all of my hard work and having my weekly take home bottles was like a reward to me for my sobriety and that was such an important thing in my life besides my Family and now it that is gone my bottles have been taken from me and now I am back to going every day and even tho I know I did nothing wrong I still feel like a failure because that one thing that made me feel like I was being rewarded for my hard work has been taken from me and all they can say at the clinc is "Oh Kim just move on you know the truth and that is the important thing don't worry about this place" and when they say that I know they don't beleive me they beleive that [expletive deleted] urine test and not me. Oh my gosh I am so sorry for going on and on.
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.
Not so true hun I'm an recovering addict and this poppy seed thing just happened to me on Nov.11th !!!! I go to a clinic been goin for 2 yrs **on SUBOXONE**& MONTHLY TAKE HOMES!!!! I'M MOVING FORWARD not BACKWARDS... NO INTEREST IN GETTING HIGH...so this was surprising news to me...so now I'm back to daily which is a pain.....all b.c of a food.....who would have thought????? But its an addicts word v.s a urine test(false post)..AND YES SOME RUIN IT N LIE FOR THE ONES TELLING THE TRUTH!!!.. ""not like labcorp ppl cant mess up rite"".....pssshhhtt.....so main theory of mine is 1: I was suppose get my mthly Nov.4th. 2: I call daily for my color n plus I keep track so I knew I was due for one...usually evry 2wks!! 3: bought two bags bagels on Nov.6th... 4: urine test Nov .11th 2014.. 5: 3weeks later I get the call its dirty......soooooo now my urine is loonnnggg gone can't prove my case...it's sucks bc I worked so hard to get where I was!!!!!! #SO STAY AWAY FROM THEM DAMN THINGS...
Poppy seed does actual cause a positive test. BUT it depends on a lot of factors like how much of it you ate, size & weight, along with your age and metabolism. Lucky you that you never got hit with it, some of use were not so lucky... :/
I have to say!! I went for a home health aid job a few days ago. I tested positive on my drug test and I NEVER did drugs!!! Stupid me ate a poppy seed bagel for breakfast!! So yeah I'm pissed cause it Does happen and is the truth!!! I've only done drugs which is prescribed to me and what I'm on now would not cause a positive result. The bagel is the culprit!!
David...ur comment really helped me. After reading all these reports i was worried.. But i too am a recovering addict and know i HAD NOT used. I duno why i ate those belvita lemon poppy seeds things.. They taste good? buti reported to probation and after the fact it was brought to my attention poppy seeds cause positives..so i was worrued cuz probation tested me..anyhow ur comment helps i can be at ease.. Thank u
You can't even spell the word Heroin* correctly. LOL Sure kid, we all believe you. LOL wink wink
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 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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!
Well if poppy seeds test positive for hydrocodone, does it help with pain?

Yes, hydrocodone is a pain reliever.

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.....
I am a retired flight attendant. I, too, tested positive for morphine after being tested after coming into base on a red eye. I ate poppy seed muffins before we landed. I was totally unaware of the false readings on a drug test. I was fortunate that the look of horror on my face (when asked if I had a drug problem) was correctly perceived as innocence.
I currently have a CPS case open, in which my 5mo old Daughter is placed in foster care. She was removed from my care for untreated substance abuse issues. So in an effort to regain custody of my baby girl, I sought out treatment for Opiate dependency. I have been COMPLETELY clean of Opiates for about 6mo now with the help of a legal prescription of Suboxone. Ive never felt so good in my life and am truly proud of myself! However... last night, for an uncles Birthday, my family made some Lemon Poppy Seed muffins! Boy were they delicious! I consumed two with a spread of butter on top! About 3hrs after I ate them, I went into my Doctors for a random drug screen and count of my medication. Today, to my damn surprise, I receive a telephone call from the Nurse at my Doctors office, whom relays to me that I had tested positive for Opiates on last nights test. WHAT?!?! Frantically, I start questioning these results, being that mt innocent Daughter is at stake. I demanded they send my urinalisys out to the lab for confromation!! I explained to them about the Poppy Seed muffines I ate. She didnt believe me! I started to cry and get very upset for I have been genuinly clean and working to better myself for my childs sake. She told me not to worry, and that if what I am saying is infact true, the lab would be able to tell and would add a note to my results saying that the cause of my positive drug screen was directly related to the muffins and that Id be ok. Is this true?? I NEED for CPS to know that this was a true mistake and that my test was false. My Daughters future is at serious risk right now.
Good luck to u hun dfs..cps can be a pain....but I kno.know my doctor put in his comp. Notens what happened with me eating poppy bagels but doesn't mean Medicaid or ins...whoever is goin to believe u....it's.not fair when u truly no u have.nt done something n can't prove it....craziness....I wonder if hair test will prove other wise....idk but subs work wonderfuwonders...two years I been on em n I worked too hard to move backwards in life...they need to figure something out not just have food possibility on a urine screen if they cant prove other otherwise why it's false post...so stupid....but I'd keep fighting if it's true some places will give u few chances but I' know u can't afford any mistakes...best wishes to u....
Federal levels should be testing at 2000ng/ml (nanograms per millileter). Some places test at 300ng/ml, some place test much lower...If your test was well below 2000ng/ml, and it was ONLY Morphine or Codeine, you should be OK but you might have to get a lawyer if things get nasty. Poppy seeds come up on tests as less than 2000ng/ml, usually much lower. Federal guidelines say that the test must be above 2000ng/ml. A woman had her child taken away by CPS but sued and got her back and also won $175,000. She proved that it was due to a poppy seed bagel the morning of the test. The sad fact is that parole/probation officers treat everyone the same and have heard it all, therefore they lump EVERYONE into the same category. LOSERS. They should not be doing that but they do. You have to get the EXACT ng/ml amount to prove them wrong.
I feel the need to comment here, poppy seeds have ruined my life. I was seeing a pain management specialist in conjunction with treatment for sarcoidosis. I tested positive on a routine urine screen for morphine. The test results showed 38 ng/ml. I have never taken morphine. I had never believed that poppy seeds could show up in a drug screen. My doctor called me a drug addict and is now refusing to prescribe anything. I am desperately searching for alternate/natural remedies to help with my condition. I googled poppy seeds and false positives, and I found multiple reports confirming this phenomenon. I had been regularly eating "everything" bagels fro Costco that listed poppy seeds ahead of yeast on the ingredients. My heart goes out to all of those who have been falsely accused, more so for those facing legal prosecution. To those that do not believe, you're wrong. I know that I am just some random person on the Internet here, and I have nothing to back up my claims. I do hope that my comment can perhaps help to educate someone and keep them from ending up in this unimaginable situation.
That is such a low amount, that should be nothing. Federal employees are allowed 2000ng/ml and even mthadone patients are allowed up to 300ng/ml. That amount your doctor found is truly NOTHING. Your doctor sounds like a judgmental mean person. You need to bring up the facts I stated above and tell him that a poppy seed bagel will produce those levels and in some cases, even higher. Bring up the federal guidelines and then threaten him that you will contact the board of doctors or whoever is his over seeing agency and file a complaint of malpractice against him. He should know better as a doctor.
I am still on Fed probation (w/o drug testing), but while I was in the 1/2 way house, I was tested about 1-2x/week. It very clearly said in the paperwork that poppy seed containing foods CAN cause a positive/false positive, so they recommended that no one consume them. It was pretty easy to avoid the muffins that occasionally showed up in my office (I work in a pain clinic). And even though I love them and my wife makes a kick-ass salad dressing with them, the fact that I could come up dirty w/o actually taking drugs meant that avoiding them was totally worth it. Short version: Don't eat them if you may be tested. And figure out what foods you regularly eat that MAY contain them. Keep in contact with your PO, they want you to succeed. Even If it's only so you're less of a pain in the ass to them!
I am prescribed vicodin/ norco every month and recently drank poppy seed tea as an alternative. Will the urinalysis detect the poppy seeds under same category ad vicodin/ hydrocodone/ norco or are they detected under a desperate category?

It's difficult to say, and not something we can answer.  Vicodin and Hydrocodone are synthetic opioids, while poppy seeds are contain natural opioids.  

Will vomiting help. I ate some poppyseed dressing on accident. I got about half way through the salad before I noticed. I immediately made my self vomit until all I had coming up was water. Any idea if this can help?
Once sent to a lab can they tell the difference between poppyseed and opiates
My lab nanogram came back at 162 and probation cut off is 150..... Their equipment is not able to tell
if you smoke marijuana and drink water like... ALOT of water will your drug test come out positive still?

Hi jim, drinking water will dilute your urine somewhat, but it's no guarantee. Drug test results are influenced by a variety of factors, including a person's height, weight and frequency of use. 

Im a little worried. Im a minor that just took a drug test for a job position to work with kids. I ate a poppy seed bun about an hour ago and im worried that it will cause it to show up positive. Does any one know how soon it will make you test positive? Thanks!

Hi Kat, according to some of the sources linked in the article, poppy seeds can show up in drug tests a couple of hours after eating them. It's difficult to say whether you'll test positive, though, since drug tests are also influenced by a lot of other things, like the person's weight and the test itself. There's some more info at this link: http://www.bidmc.org/YourHealth/TherapeuticCenters/DrugAddiction.aspx?ChunkID=156998

Poppy seeds also make me eat more I might eat two regular muffins if poppy seed I keep eating more and more I figured best to stay away between drug testing and over eating. ate some bread yesturday and after eating several slices noticed some of the herbs on it looked like poppy seeds they were buried under other herbs i looked on rhe package sure enoigh poppy seeds and im lookimg for a job this week gonna have to stop till next week so not happy i wish foods work ld list it in big bold letters on the labels
Can eating poppy seeds show up as heroin in a blood test result tho... please someone who has been throught that exoerience or in knowledgable enough please tell me i cant have any guess here?

Hi John, you can read more about false-positive tests for heroin at this link: http://www.bidmc.org/YourHealth/TherapeuticCenters/DrugAddiction.aspx?Ch...

I think a small amount of poppy seeds in sweet vidala onion dressing at a popular sub sandwhich little restaurant.
Thank God I am not the only one experiencing this nightmare. If I go to jail over my everything bagel addiction I am sueing. My probation refuses to give me a copy of my lab results, refuses to test me again, and also refuses for me to get a hair test. I have a year sober tomorrow and instead of celebrating, I am stressed out doing research on this catastrophe I have gotten myself into.
Omg this happened to me a couple weeks ago,i too go to a methadone Clinic but I'm on subutex, I've been going there over a year and have had clean urine screens the whole time, well a couple weeks ago my screen came back for opiates,i told them this id's impossible but of course they're not going to believe me!i worked so hard for my week take homes and this has been the biggest inconvenience. Well i asked therm to send it in for further analysis because this is just not possible! Well it came back once again positive...for morphine! So of course i freaked out and was crying because like someone else said it sucks to be wrongfully accused and feel helpless! I couldn't think of what it possibly could be and then my boyfriend informed me that i basically live on salads with poppyseed dressing and i was like "omg! That's it!" . Well i informed the Clinic and no one would help me or do anything about it! I felt so helpless, finally a couple days ago they sent it off again for some other test that MIGHT just be able to tell if it was poppyseed but i don't this process at all considering the lab failed me the last two screens so idk we will see but I'm not getting hopes up because i just don't know how they'd be able to tell because morphine is morphine idk how they'd be able to tell the source. During thesr past few weeks I've had a lot of time to research and i found out this lab test art the 300 level instead of 2000 and mine came back at 461, so if they'd have used the 2000 level i would've been negative, this all doesn't seem fair and there should be something i could do. I've thought about taking it to court but who would i even sue, the lab or the Clinic? This whole situation has been the biggest inconvenience. Now I'm scared to eat my favorite poppyseed dressing because i don't want this happening again! But everyone please beware! I wouldn't wish this bs on anyone! It is VERY possible to come back positive because of poppyseed, don't risk it! I'm just lucky i wasn't on probation or anything where i could go to jail, this all just doesn't seem fair, they're ruining people's lives!
My sister in law just had a baby girl. The night before she was induced she had a poppy seed bagel. 24 hour hours after the delivery her and my brother were about to leave to go home with the baby.... NOPE! CPS took the baby saying she was a drug abuser and tested positive for drugs. My sister in law is an obsessive health nut, she doesn't even drink, she did not even consume fish, dye her hair or get a manicure the whole time she was pregnant! It has been 3 weeks and the baby has not been returned. Even after doing a hair test that proved she was not a drug user. She only gets supervised visits twice a week for a hour. She planned on breast feeding because it is best for the baby and their immunity! She is suing but CPS has more power than our federal government... they are allowed to assume your are automatically branded as guilty until proven innocent. Sad, isnt it... over a bagel. With all our medical technology out there... why cant we figure out a test to keep this from destroying peoples lives. My brother and sister in law will never get this time back and they will never trust again. I do not blame them!
I ate a bagel n came out dirty for opi cus of the poppy seeds in bagels...TRUE ....


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