My whole life I’ve always loved poppy seed bagels. It used to be the only kind of bagel I would eat, and I remember my mom would always tell me that if I were to have a drug test right after eating, I would fail. She claimed she had a friend who failed a drug test for her new job because she had eaten a poppy seed bagel before it. While I’m not completely sure that’s a true story, I thought it was pretty funny. I never really thought anymore of it, but if I were to ever get drug tested I would stay far away from poppy seed bagels based on my mom’s word. Even though I should probably listen to my mom no matter what, I decided to do some research to find out the truth, and I found that there is a lot of information on the idea.
I came across an article by USADA explaining how exactly poppy seed could transport drugs into your body. The article explains that the opium poppy plants contains seed pods filled with morphine as well as poppy seeds. When the morphine and poppy seeds are separated, the seeds are undoubtedly going to have minor traces of morphine. However, when the seeds are not cleaned properly, they can sometimes be covered in larger amounts of morphine, possibly leading to a positive drug test. According to the article, a morphine measurement of 1.3 micrograms/mL or more could result in a positive test result. With enough poppy seeds and enough morphine cover, I could easily see how someone could accidentally test positive. However, I wanted to see how often this really occurs so I looked for some experiments.
Another article I found, by Emily Upton, outlines some experiments that actually test out this phenomenon. She goes on to explain a German study by the Institute of Biochemistry in 2003. For the experiment, a group of people (unspecified sample size) consumed different amounts of poppy seed cake. Then, they were tested for morphine levels at the 24 hour mark and the 48 hour mark. For both time marks, all people tested positive and some reached levels as high as 10 micrograms/mL. While there is still technically room for 3rd variables as well as chance, this experiment, even if it is a small experiment, shows some serious correlation between poppy seed bagels and positive drug tests 48 hours later. According to the article, Myth Busters conducted an almost identical experiment and got nearly the exact same results. Although there is a very slight chance that 3rd variables could be causing this, it is very hard to believe that this is not a causal relationship with the evidence we have already collected.
This epidemic of positive drug results due to poppy seeds has caused a shocking amount of trouble. From police officers to white collar workers, numerous people have failed drug tests due to, what is believed to be, morphine from poppy seeds. Plus, of course, there have even been lawsuits surrounding the issue, like one you can read about here. A mother had her newborn child taken from her when she failed a hospital drug test due to poppy seeds. The mother was paid a settlement of more than $143,000 after her child was taken from her home without any prior warning. With so many cases like this, it’s very important that we prove causation between poppy seed consumption and positive drug test results. At this point, I believe that we have a solid foundation for proof of causation as several detailed experiments have shown serious correlation with little to no room for 3rd variables and chance. One way to improve our certainty would be to take significantly larger sample sizes. However, for now, I’d recommend that anyone with a drug test in the future just stick to plain bagels.