Poppy seeds are the edible seeds of the opium poppy plant. It is possible to fail a drug test after ingesting these seeds or foods containing these seeds.
Many different factors can influence the effect of poppy seeds on drug test results. These factors include the number of seeds a person eats, the origin of the seeds, and the timing of ingestion.
Keep reading to learn more about why poppy seeds can cause someone to get a positive drug test result and which common foods may contain poppy seeds.
Poppy seeds can cause a person to fail a drug test by testing positive for morphine. Morphine is an opiate derived from opium in poppies.
Other drugs derived from opium include codeine and heroin.
Although poppy seeds are the seeds of the opium poppy plant, they do not contain any opium. During the harvesting process, however, the seeds can absorb opium or become coated by it.
Several factors influence how much morphine ends up in the poppy seeds. Food processing techniques, for example, can reduce the morphine content of the seeds by up to 90%, but this varies from country to country.
The method of food preparation also plays a role. Baked goods typically contain less morphine (and codeine) than unbaked products, because baking destroys these substances.
Typically, the more poppy seeds a person eats, the higher the likelihood of them failing a drug test.
However, some factors influence the number of seeds that a person can consume without testing positive. These include:
The concentration of opiates in the seeds
The amount of morphine in a person’s system will depend on how much morphine is in the seeds.
The country of origin of the seeds and the food processing techniques that they undergo both influence the amount of morphine in the seeds.
Baked goods containing poppy seeds probably do not contain high amounts of morphine. Poppy seed teas and other poppy seed products likely contain much higher quantities.
The type of drug test
The type of drug test that a person takes will also play a role in the result that they receive. Urine tests are the most common form of drug test, and people are more likely to test positive on one of these tests after consuming poppy seeds.
According to some sources, hair analysis is a more accurate method of testing for opiate misuse, but it is not in common use. A hair analysis test would not show a false-positive result after eating poppy seeds.
The cut-off threshold that the lab uses
The cut-off threshold of the test will also affect the outcome. Research has shown that eating a poppy seed roll can result in a person having urinary morphine concentrations of
In recognition of this issue, in 1998, the Department of Health and Human Services changed the cut-off concentration level for opiate urine tests from 300 ng/ml to 2,000 ng/ml.
The new cut-off level allows testers to differentiate between a positive urine test result that is due to poppy seed ingestion and one resulting from drug use.
However, some private employers may still use the former cut-off level, causing some people to test positive for morphine after eating something containing poppy seeds.
The timing of consumption
If a person consumes large doses of poppy seeds, traces of opiates may remain in their system for up to 60 hours.
Common foods that often contain poppy seeds include:
- other baked goods
- salad dressing
Individuals may wish to avoid these foods before taking a drug test in case the lab uses the lower cut-off level of 300 ng/ml.
The issue of poppy seed ingestion before a drug test is not a straightforward one. Several factors can determine whether a person will have a positive or negative drug test result, including:
- the quantities of opiates in the seeds
- the country of origin of the seeds
- the type of food that contains the seeds
- the number of seeds that a person eats
- the timing of ingestion
- the type of drug test
- the laboratory’s cut-off threshold for the test
In some cases, eating just one poppy seed bagel may cause someone to have a positive urine test result. In other cases, a person could eat several poppy seed muffins and pass the test.
To avoid a positive result for opiates, it is best to be cautious before taking a drug test. A person should avoid eating any foods that contain poppy seeds for at least 3 days before the test.