Can poppy seeds cause you to fail a drug test?

I always thought it was a myth that poppy seed bagels could cause someone to fail a drug test. Turns out, it’s actually true. Whether it’s bagels, muffins, or cake, it is wise to stay away from them if you know you are being drug tested for a job or athletic event, since poppy seeds have been proven to cause false positives on drug tests.

The reason why they can potentially cause a false positive is because poppy seeds, even though they don’t produce or contain it, can become contaminated with opium while in their seed pods. Opium is a liquid substance that contains drugs known to be abused in today’s society. Opium “is composed of roughly 12% morphine (a narcotic prohibited in-competition), codeine, and a number of other non-narcotic alkyloids.”(USADA) Most poppy seeds are at least partially contaminated with this substance. Even though they are cleaned, there is still a chance of leftover residue, which is enough to cause a false positive on a drug test.

In a study done by The Institute of Biochemistry in Germany, individuals were instructed to eat different amounts of poppy seed cake. “Their urine samples were tested 24 hours after the cake was eaten, and again at the 48-hour mark. For both tests, each participant tested positive for opium ranging as high as 10 microg/mL” (Upton) That amount of opium is extremely high considering the Olympic’s cut off for a drug test to be considered positive was 1 microg/mL. Not only were the levels high, but the opiates were also shown to stay in a person’s system for days.

Another study conducted by The Department of Health and Human Services “examined the results of 317,500 urine specimens that were tested for opiates and reviewed by three Medical Review Officer groups. The MRO’s reportedly reversed 87% of all the positive urinalysis test results due to false positives attributed to poppy seed ingestion, prescription medication, or other reasons.” (Snopes) Those numbers and percentages are too large for the claim “poppy seeds can cause a person to fail a drug test” not to be true.

Since the opiates from poppy seeds have the ability for someone to exceed the limits on a drug test, there have been countless situations in which people were fired from their job from eating foods containing them. This issue prompted the US federal government to raise “the threshold for what is considered a positive opiate test in workplace screening from 0.3 micrograms per milliliter to 2 micrograms per milliliter”(Upton) The new cutoff is supposed to protect people by allowing them to consume poppy seeds and still pass a drug test.

So, between all the studies and new regulations put in place, it is clear that it’ a good idea to just stay away from foods containing poppy seed, if you know you have a job interview or athletic event where you will be drug tested.


4 thoughts on “Can poppy seeds cause you to fail a drug test?

  1. Pingback: The Beginner’s Guide to Bengali Food This Durga Puja | Little Black Book, Delhi

  2. pxw5127

    This topic has been of interest to me for a while. I always used to hear that poppy seeds could cause you to fail a drug test. One of my friends failed a drug test in high school because he ate a poppy seed bagel that morning. I find it weird that poppy seeds are the only food that contain these substances. You would think that there would be more foods that presented this problem than just poppy seeds. I like that companies and businesses raised the amount allowed. It would be extremely unfair to employees if they were unaware about this problem and failed because of a stupid poppy seed. I’ve always seen poppy seeds as a way for people to blame their fail of the drug test. I feel like in today’s science and technology, we should be able to determine what the opium is coming from. We should be able to determine if it is a legitimate drug or if it is just the poppy seed. Thank you for sharing this blog, I have always been super curious about this topic!

  3. Hannah Samuels

    I actually have never heard of this happening until reading your post! That blows my mind that people can fail a drug test from eating a food that is 100% legal. This does make me wonder if there is a way to differentiate opium ingested through poppy seeds or using the actual drug. Let’s hope that science has a break through for the sake of lemon poppy seed muffin lovers everywhere!

  4. Sarah Rose Peterson

    I have heard that poppy seeds can cause people to fail drug tests, but I never knew why. I find it very interesting that although poppy seeds are not real drugs, they still stay in the system for multiple days and affect drug tests results. It would be horrible to be fired for something so innocent as eating a bagel with poppy seeds. I will definitely stay away poppy seed bagels and muffins before my next job interview just to be safe!

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