It seems like the stuff of urban legends, but there has been much discussion in recent years about whether or not it’s really possible to get a false-positive on a drug test after having eaten poppy seeds. What is the basis of this myth? And it is it a myth at all? What’s the connection between poppy seeds and morphine? Let’s look at this a little more closely.
Opium, the thick milky substance that is extracted from the opium poppy, is made up of about 12-13 percent morphine, which is a prohibited substance in the United States and Canada. The seed pod also contains, as one might expect, the seeds of the poppy, those tiny blue-black seeds that may have been sprinkled atop your morning bagel. Although these seeds don’t contain morphine per se, they can have a residue or coating of opium extract (morphine) still on them when they are sold for use in food. This residue is the result of the seeds coming in contact with the opium extract of the poppy during harvesting. The amount of morphine residue remaining on the seeds when they reach the market for sale depends largely upon how well the seeds are cleaned and processed. This, in turn, is greatly dependant upon the country in which the processing has occurred.
The question then remains: Can consumption of poppy seeds negatively impact the samples in those drug test cups? The short answer is yes. Morphine is what is known as a “threshold drug.” That means that a laboratory would return a positive result on a test for morphine if it is determine that the level of the drug in the urine sample is great than 1.3 micrograms per ml. Morphine and codeine can be detected in the urine for up to two days after consuming pastries such as bagels with poppy seeds on them. That being said, however, this does not mean that if you have a poppy seed bagel for breakfast and have to undergo a urine test at work that day that a false-positive will be found. In the vast majority of cases eating poppy seeds will not cause the consumer to exceed the morphine threshold, but it is possible to exceed that threshold simply by eating poppy seeds, without actually taking the drug.
So, there’s the bottom line. If you know you are going to have to undergo a drug test at work or elsewhere, you may want to steer clear of that poppy seed bagel you usually have for breakfast for a couple of days. Even if you’ve never taken drugs in your life, you don’t want to run the risk that those tiny little seeds could cause a result you don’t want on the test. It’s not likely that you will tip the scales against you simply by enjoying a poppy seed bagel, but it’s not worth the chance.