Last updated: September 25, 2023
There’s been an argument going back and forth for years, since the early days of drug testing, in fact, that eating poppy seeds before a drug test can cause someone to test positive for morphine. Over the last decade or so, reputable medical sites, such as Medical News Today and Healthline, have banded together in agreement on the matter.
The final verdict?
Yes, eating poppy seeds can, indeed, cause you to fail a drug test. That’s due in part, of course, to advances in drug testing technology and the increased sophistication of lab equipment.
How poppy seeds affect a drug test
Poppy seeds don’t contain any opium, but they can absorb or become coated by opium extract while in the seedpod of the plant. Manufacturers use the opiate extract from poppies to produce drugs, such as morphine, codeine, and heroin.
Even though poppy seeds go through a cleansing process before being used in baking and cooking, they can still contain trace amounts of opiate residue. While it’s never been reported that someone has actually gotten high after eating poppy seeds, they can eat enough to produce a false positive on a drug test.
The cleansing process used in the United States removes up to 90% of the opium residue. It’s doubtful that poppy seeds with a 90% reduction of residue would trigger the false positive. That isn’t the case in other countries though. Therefore, choosing to eat something coated with poppy seeds prior to a drug test is risky if you don’t know the country of origin. Should you ask where they came from, you’re likely to get an “I don’t know” type of shrug from the person behind the counter.
Rate of detection
The amount of time that elapses between eating poppy seeds and them showing up as morphine on a urine drug test is about two hours. The person can test positive for nearly three days after ingesting large quantities of poppy seeds. The amount of detection time is completely related to how many seeds you ate.
Codeine and morphine can remain detectable in a person’s urine for up to 48 hours after eating poppy seeds—and longer if you’re a poppy seed fanatic.
Hair follicle tests are incapable of registering a false positive on a drug test result. Why? It’s because there isn’t enough opioid in poppy seeds to remain in the bloodstream long enough—or in high enough concentrations—to get trapped inside the hair follicles in measurable quantities. However, employers don’t often choose hair follicle tests because they cost more than urine or oral fluids drug tests. In fact, hair follicle drug tests are chosen less often than any employee drug test on the market.
Good luck counting them
It’s crazy to imagine eating something as tiny as a poppy seed causing a false positive on a drug test. How many would it take to cause that to happen?
It would be hard to get an accurate count, wouldn’t it? Still, studies completed around the world show that the number of seeds contained on a bagel or muffin is enough to do the trick. A good rule of thumb for “guesstimating” is not to consume more than three teaspoons.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse raised the testing levels for morphine in December 1998 to lessen the chance of a false-positive result. The change was implemented specifically to put the “poppy seed defense” to rest but it doesn’t totally eliminate the risk. It depends on the concentration of opiate residue on the poppy seeds. And, as we stated above, other countries don’t set the same standards as the United States.
It’s a no-brainer that the more poppy seeds that you consume will increase the odds for a false-positive result.
Everyone’s seen mouthwatering loaves of bread and pastries that are traditionally covered with poppy seeds on display in the bakery shops. They aren’t the only products on the market though.
- salad dressing
- poppy seed filling used for making desserts
- babka, a common Jewish dessert
Non-food products include:
- Unwashed poppy seeds
- Poppyseed teas
- Some natural sleep aids contain poppy seeds
- Some natural pain relievers
These products are even less regulated and have lower standards than poppy seeds intended for baking and cooking. Actually, they go unwashed intentionally so the opiate contaminating the seeds remains. That makes it possible to overdose on them. There haven’t been any actual studies conducted but in 2017 two men, aged 21 and 24 years old, died after brewing and drinking poppy seed tea.
We are what we eat
So, it is possible to eat a bagel or muffin covered with poppy seeds and test positive for morphine. Remember that three teaspoon rule of thumb when making your selection—especially if you’re brave enough to risk it on the day of your drug test! It would probably be best to avoid eating poppy seeds for a couple of days prior—just in case.
Take charge over that immediate gratification thought. It’s just not worth risking your job or insurance coverage for a moment of enjoyment. Force yourself to choose another delicacy this time—you might discover a new favorite.