In an article published in the October 2015 Society of Forensic Toxicologists (SOFT) Special Issue of the Journal of Analytical Toxicology, scientists from Quest Diagnostics compared the impact of the consumption of raw poppy seeds and a poppy containing food product on urine and oral fluid drug tests. For individuals performing safety-sensitive duties as well as other workers subject to routine drug testing for opiates, it is important to distinguish between dietary poppy seed ingestion and non-prescribed opiate or heroin abuse.
Download the full article from the Journal of Analytical Toxicology.
Study authors determined morphine and codeine concentrations using laboratory-based urine and oral fluid drug screening and confirmation methodologies after study participants ate a Ukrainian-style poppy seed roll and raw poppy seeds. By ingesting cooked and raw poppy seeds and then measuring drug concentrations over a series of intervals ranging from 15 minutes to 20 hours, the study showed a distinction between the source of poppy seeds ingested (i.e. raw or prepared) and the amount of time morphine and codeine were detected in both urine and oral fluid matrices.
Article in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology
The “poppy seed defense” or the claim that ingesting poppy seeds is the reason for a failed drug test has long been used to challenge drug test results. A Seinfeld episode brought it into the mainstream with a story line where Elaine Benes tests positive for opium on her company’s urine drug test and blames the result on her favorite breakfast, a poppy seed muffin.
“The research tells us that it is possible to test positive on a drug test for morphine – even less so for codeine – after eating poppy seed-containing products. A unique characteristic of this study is that it compared the consumption of approximately the same amount of poppy seeds in both a prepared food item and as raw seeds and included the collection of both urine and oral fluid specimens. Unlike urine, the likelihood is much lower in oral fluid. Not surprisingly, most of the positive test findings and longest detection window resulted from ingestion of the large quantity of raw poppy seeds in a very short period of time prior to specimen collection. In fact, many of the study participants found such an amount of raw seeds to be extremely unpalatable. The results from this study suggest that there is less of a ‘poppy seed defense’ from a donor who completes an oral fluid drug test after casual dietary poppy seed consumption rather than a urine test because of the shorter detection window of oral fluid,” said Dr. Kimberly Samano.
We know poppy seeds contain opiates – specifically morphine and codeine. Ultimately, what employers want to understand from drug testing experts is: Can eating poppy seeds produce a positive drug test for a job applicant or employee?
In 2011, MythBusters, a Discovery Channel television program, told viewers that the myth was “definitely true” as producers ate poppy seed bread and bagels and then generated a positive result on an instant urine drug test. To date, there is limited research published about the impact of poppy seed consumption and opiate drug test results in controlled studies in alternative matrices such as oral fluid.
And even poor, innocent, tonic water can help you to fail a drug test.
“If you eat a poppy seed roll, it could give rise to a positive result on a urine drug test for morphine,” says Atholl Johnston, Professor of Pharmacology at Queen Mary University.
This led to the invention of gin and tonics by a British official in 19th-century colonial India, who found a way to liven up the anti-malarial prescription.
Nevertheless, it’s advisable to wait up to three days after eating poppy seed products before taking a drug test.
These can lead you to test positive for THC, the principal psychoactive chemical in weed. After all, hemp is itself a type of cannabis.
And in case you’re wondering what other kinds of foods could lead you to fail a substance test, we’ve got the answer for you: the best kinds.
After receiving the positive results, the Liverpudlian paid £120 for a private hair-follicle test, which came back negative, and obtained a letter from his GP stating he had never been on any prescribed medication, such as morphine or painkillers – which contain opium.
Pick up that bagel and go wild. While eating too many poppy seeds can make a drug test give a false positive, most employment drug tests confirm the results using a gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC or MS) test. This test is specifically used to rule out interfering substances like poppy seeds.
After weighing the facts, poppy seeds are a safe food choice for anyone taking a drug test.
Unlike urine- or saliva-based drug tests, hair follicle tests don’t detect poppy seeds. This is because the seeds don’t stay in your system long enough and in high enough quantities to show up in your hair follicles. So, unless it’s a hair follicle test, poppy seeds can show up in a drug test.
Should You Eat Poppy Seeds Before a Drug Test?
These measures sound like reliable ways to distinguish drugs from poppy seeds. Does that mean it’s harmless to eat poppy seeds before a drug test?
Many employers also use a questionnaire before the drug test. This questionnaire usually checks for poppy seed ingestion and prescription drug use. The drug test technician can then adjust the test results to compensate.
The third measure is that drug tests can distinguish between poppy seeds and heroin. Heroin contains a distinct metabolite called 6-0-monoacetylmorphine. So, if a test comes back positive for heroin but doesn’t contain this metabolite, the test is a false positive.
As we’ve discovered, it is possible for poppy seeds to show up on drug tests. With drug tests being able to distinguish between poppy seeds and opiates though, the possibility of a false positive hurting your job prospects is pretty low. But, drug tests are only one part of the employee background check process. How can you ensure all your background checks come back clean?