October 18, 2010

Can Poppy Seed Ingestion Affect Drug Tests?



     Is it possible for poppy seed ingestion to cause a positive drug test?

     The question arose when I read the news stories about the Elizabeth Mort’s three-day old baby being removed from her home because Mort had a positive drug test she attributed to eating poppy seeds. The baby was removed by Children and Youth Services in New Castle, Pennsylvania.

     After reading the stories, I did what I always do—went to the Internet, being cautious what sites I looked at. Even with this caution, I found little of what I consider authentic material, from respected medical resources. reported several cases.

  • In 1990, a St. Louis police officer was suspended after his drug test was positive for morphine. He was reinstated with back pay upon determination that the four poppy seeds and not drug use caused the results. “…in an experiment where another officer ate four poppy seed bagels and took a drug test, he too tested positive for morphine.”
  • In 1997 a Florida woman sued Bankers Insurance Group when it withdrew a lucrative job offer because she tested positive to drugs. Because her ingestion of poppy seeds, she was awarded $859,000 in her lawsuit against the company.
  • In 1999 a New Jersey prison guard tested positive for drugs and was fired. He’d eaten a poppy seed bagel, which produced these results. He was reinstated after seven months.

     The Federal Bureau of Prison’s Form BP-S291(52) used for prisoners furloughs states that a furloughed inmate must agree not to consume poppy seeds while on furlough due to their effect on drug tests.

     The drug screen for the presence of opiates is so sensitive that some agencies relying on it have raised the cut-off level for a positive to 2000 ng/ml. This eliminates many of the poppy seed false.*

     The second site I discovered offered information from an article on Med Review (since removed).

     Laboratories have demonstrated that poppy seeds contained in bakery products, such as bagels, can result in positive opiate (morphine) results at low levels )below 3000 ng/ml). Codeine may also be found after poppy seed ingestion, however morphine is predominant. Although morphine is an ordinary metabolite of codeine, the presence of codeine in poppy seeds probably comes from the poppy seeds themselves rather than as a metabolite. Generally high levels of codeine, above the morphine level, probably indicate codeine ingestion. However, terminal elimination of morphine following codeine use, long after the codeine was taken, may reveal only morphine. Interpretation of urinary opiate results is fairly complex. Med Review

     Mythbusters, a Discovery channel program, tested the claim that poppy seeds can produce a positive drug test. Mythbuster Adam ingested an entire loaf of poppy seed cake, and Jamie ate three poppy seed bagels. Tests were administered every half hour.

     Adam tested positive after the first test.

     Jamie tested positive two hours after eating the bagels.

     Both tested positive the remainder of the day.

     Both tested clean the next morning, eighteen hours later.**

     Other sites seemed to confirm the effects of poppy seeds on drug tests.

     I must admit that previous to the Mort situation with the Children and Youth Services I had heard rumors that poppy seeds could produce positive drug tests. The New Castle agency staff, with all their continuing education trainings, certainly should have considered that a positive drug test should not have been the only indication that an infant should be removed from a home. Perhaps they should have investigated further.

     But then again, that’s only my opinion.









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1 Comment »

  1. Carolyn,
    I agree that they should definately have investigated further, before trying to remove the child from the home!
    Also, shining flashlights in and around someone’s home, at night or any other time; should be considered invasion of one’s privacy! Unless, they are looking for a convicted muderer or felon; it that case, and in that case alone and only then, should in even be considered and/or allowed!

    Comment by Julia — October 19, 2010 @ 5:36 pm | Reply

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