Last updated: March 20, 2023
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) recently sounded the alarm issuing a memorandum advising all military personnel to refrain from consuming poppy seeds found in baked goods and other food sources. The reason is that poppy seeds can become contaminated with morphine and codeine during the harvesting process. Both drugs form naturally in the poppy plant. That doesn’t bode well for anyone who takes a drug test soon after ingesting them.
This information isn’t breaking news though. The “poppy seed vs positive drug test” debate has been going on for a long time now. In fact, the DOD has already made adjustments to its drug testing levels to eliminate the possibility of poppy seed contamination causing someone to pop positive on the military drug test.
Do you sense the word “but” hovering in the air?
Data obtained by the DOD over the past few years suggests some varieties of poppy seeds may have higher levels of codeine contamination than previously thought. This caused the Pentagon’s top official for personnel, Gilbert Cisneros, to issue the warning in which he stated, “Recent data suggests certain poppy seed varieties may have higher codeine contamination than previously reported.”
Unwashed poppy seeds are the culprit
Poppy seeds harvested to use in the food supply are washed prior to shipping. However, it has been discovered that some poppy seed distributors—most of which are found in Afghanistan—aren’t washing their seeds. Therefore, any opiate contaminants naturally present remain on the seeds.
Consuming these seeds could cause someone to test positive on a urine drug test. It’s interesting to note that there’s no way that poppy seeds could cause a positive test result using the hair follicle drug test. The opioid in poppy seeds doesn’t remain in the bloodstream long enough to be trapped inside hair follicles in measurable quantities.
Drug addicts and some people who self-medicate for pain relief are seeking out unwashed poppy seeds for the purpose of getting high. While it’s not likely that these people are enlisted military personnel, you can’t totally rule out the possibility—just saying.
The unwashed poppy seeds are brewed to make a very potent tea but there’s no way to determine how potent. That poses a problem because there have been reported cases of people overdosing on the beverage. The American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System (NPDA) reported that over an eighteen-year period, a total of nineteen people died after overdosing on poppy seed tea. Nearly 600 cases of opioid exposure after drinking poppy seed tea were reported as well.
A study posted on the National Library of Medicine’s (NLM) website noted that 46% of the patients at an opioid rehabilitation center admitted to trying poppy seed tea at least once. Five of the patients in the center had made poppy seed tea their main source of opioids. Moreover, they became addicted by drinking it.
Where do they buy the seeds?
The internet is a primary source of supply. Big online stores, such as Amazon, eBay, Etsy—and even Walmart—sell poppy seeds in bulk. Consumers can readily purchase 10 to 15-pound bags of them. However, after the unwashed seed controversy came to light, some large vendors changed the wording of poppy seed listings. Amazon and Walmart were among them. The item descriptions no longer list whether or not seeds are unwashed.
The change has caused a decrease in sales. Theoretically, it’s because only unwashed seeds can be used for making poppy seed tea that packs a punch. It seems consumers aren’t willing to take a chance on purchasing the wrong type.
Eating poppy seeds causes no known side effects, however, brewing up some tea can cause any or all of the following:
- Urinary retention
- Stomach ache
Moreover, the tea is said to provide remedies for the following ailments:
- Opioid withdrawal
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is cracking down on vendors claiming their poppy seeds bring pain relief or take away the symptoms of heroin withdrawal.
Better safe than sorry
Rather than compromising their good standing within the military, enlisted personnel would best be served by not eating goods containing poppy seeds. It wouldn’t be worth the trouble caused should their name be dropped for a random drug test. Both codeine and morphine can be detected in the urine for up to 48 hours after eating poppy seeds contained in a muffin, bagel, or some other food source.
It’s unknown exactly how many poppy seeds one must ingest to cause a positive drug test result. Try treats baked with sesame seeds instead! They’re just as delicious. More importantly, though, you won’t ever have cause for alarm if you are employed by a company—or a government—that drug tests and your name comes up in the random draw.