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Can Eating Poppy Seeds Give A Positive Drug Test?

How Do Poppy Seeds Affect The Result Of A Drug Test?

It is correct to say that poppy seeds, by themselves, don’t actually contain any morphine. However, during the harvesting process, the poppy seeds become coated with, or they absorb an opium extract. Opium is, in fact, the milky white substance that gets extracted along with poppy seeds from the same seed pop after the petals fall off.

This opium is made up of around 12 percent morphine. Morphine is an illicit substance that is prohibited and classified as a narcotic in many countries. According to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) Prohibited List, morphine is an illegal substance, and if any laboratory finds a urine sample containing more than 1.3 micrograms/mL of morphine, then the sample is classified as being tested positive for drugs.(1)

The opioid extract is also used to make other opioid drugs, including morphine, heroin, and codeine.(2)

Even though after harvesting the poppy seeds undergo a thorough cleaning process, but there may still be some trace amounts of opiate residue left in the processed poppy seeds.

While the concentration of opium is not sufficient to cause any of the side effects of opioids, but it can still be adequate enough to leads to a false positive on drug tests.

In many countries, the concentration of opioid residue is simply left as it is, while in other countries, this concentration varies. For example, in the United States, almost 90 percent of the residual morphine content is removed from the poppy seeds during the processing stage.(3)

Can Eating Poppy Seeds Give A Positive Drug Test?

Time-frame for Opiate Detection from Consumption of Poppy Seeds

Studies indicate that opiates can be detected on drug tests within just two hours of eating a poppy seed bagel or poppy seed cake.(4) There is some evidence to show that the amount of poppy seeds you consume has a role to play in this, but the exact mechanism is not clearly understood.(5)

Determining How Much Poppy Seeds Is Too Many

There are several factors that can determine exactly how much poppy seeds you need to consume in order to get a false positive on a drug test. The concentration of the opiate residue present on the poppy seeds, as well as the cutoff limit determined by the testing laboratory, has a role to play in how much poppy seeds are too much.

The fact is that the amount of codeine or morphine present in a urine sample that can be considered high enough to yield a positive result varies from lab to lab.

But it is easy to estimate that the more poppy seeds you eat, the higher is the amount of opiates present in your urine sample, thus higher the chances of having a positive result.

What Foods Contain Poppy Seeds?

Pastries and baked goods are not the only items that contain poppy seeds. Poppy seeds are also used in many desserts and traditional dishes in many countries. Some common foods that contain poppy seeds and should be avoided before taking a drug test include:

  • Salad dressing
  • Babka, a famous Jewish dessert
  • Granola
  • Bagels
  • Cake and Muffins, such as lemon poppy seed cake
  • Poppy seed filling is used to make many desserts

Apart from foods, poppy seeds can also be found in other products. Poppy seed teas, unwashed poppy seeds, and many other products are available on the market today that are being sold as pain relievers and natural sleeping aids.

While the use of poppy seeds for cooking and baking are strictly regulated and also undergo a thorough wash during processing, the other products are not regulated and intentionally not washed as well to maintain the opiate residue in its intact form.

These products are known to cause opiate overdoses and can even prove to be fatal. In fact, two young men were confirmed to have died from an overdose of poppy seed tea.(6)


It is very much possible that eating just one muffin or a bagel that is filled with poppy seeds can lead to a positive result in a urine drug test.

These days drug screening is a standard part of the recruitment process in many jobs, and many companies also regularly get drug testing done on their employees. You also need to undergo a drug test if you are trying to get a life or medical insurance.

So if you have plans to take a drug test, it is best to avoid having any food or product that contains poppy seeds for at least two to three days before you are supposed to take the test.


  1. U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). (2020). World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List | USADA. [online] Available at: https://www.usada.org/athletes/substances/prohibited-list/ [Accessed 21 Feb. 2020].
  2. Manchikanti, L., Fellows, B., Janata, J.W., Pampati, V., Grider, J.S. and Boswell, M.V., 2012. Opioid epidemic in the United States. Pain physician, 15(3 Suppl), pp.ES9-38.
  3. Lachenmeier, D.W., Sproll, C. and Musshoff, F., 2010. Poppy seed foods and opiate drug testing-where are we today?. Therapeutic drug monitoring, 32(1), pp.11-18.
  4. Winchesterhospital.org. (2020). True or False: Eating Poppy Seed Pastries Can Lead To a Positive Drug Test for Heroin | Winchester Hospital. [online] Available at: https://www.winchesterhospital.org/health-library/article?id=156998 [Accessed 21 Feb. 2020].
  5. U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). (2020). Can Poppy Seeds Cause a Positive Drug Test? | USADA. [online] Available at: https://www.usada.org/can-poppyseeds-cause-a-positive-drug-test/ [Accessed 21 Feb. 2020].
  6. Powers, D., Erickson, S. and Swortwood, M.J., 2018. Quantification of Morphine, Codeine, and Thebaine in Home‐Brewed Poppy Seed Tea by LC‐MS/MS. Journal of forensic sciences, 63(4), pp.1229-1235.
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:November 2, 2021

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