Poppy seeds are small, black, and tend to get stuck in your teeth. They can also change your drug test results. In some cases, they can make the testing company believe you’re using an illicit substance, like heroin or OxyContin.
If you know you have a urine screening soon, don’t eat anything with poppy seeds. Inspect your food carefully, and know that they’re sometimes omitted from ingredient lists. And if you fail a test due to seeds, talk to your provider and schedule a recheck.
Why Do Poppy Seeds Affect a Drug Screen?
Opioids like heroin, morphine, and oxycodone come from seed pods of poppy plants grown in Asia, Mexico, and Columbia. These same seed pods produce small, black, nut-flavored seeds used in cooking. If you eat something with seeds, you could fail your test.
Opioids come from the milky substance inside the seed pods, and seeds can get coated with this fluid during processing. The seeds themselves aren’t drugs, but they can get contaminated by drug-like liquids.
Poppy seeds are washed and thermally processed before they enter the food chain, and that procedure can reduce contamination levels. Even so, most seeds have some tiny bits of coating left, and that’s allowed per safety authorities.
In Europe, for example, 10μg of morphine per kilogram of body weight is considered a safe level of morphine in food products. That could be enough for you to fail a urine screening for illicit drugs.
How Soon Are Opiates Detected After Eating Poppy Seeds?
Any poppy seeds you eat must move through your digestive tract before they enter your bloodstream. Typically, that takes an hour or two.
In studies, researchers found peak morphine concentrations about three to eight hours after their testing subjects ate poppy seeds.
These chemicals can last as long as regular opioid byproducts in the urine, usually a few days.
How Many Poppy Seeds Do You Need to Eat to Fail Your Test?
Experts say more than 90% of opium is removed during seed processing. But the amount left behind can vary quite a bit.
Your opium levels could be higher due to the following:
- How well the seeds were cleaned
- Where they were harvested
- When they were harvested
- How they were processed
Food testing authorities can’t predict how many poppy seeds you can eat to produce a clear urine test. Instead, they recommend that people with test dates avoid eating potentially troublesome foods.
Poppy seeds are easy to spot in foods like bagels, bread, and other pastries. If you can see dark, black specs in anything you’re about to eat, stop and think. Your meal could impact your test results.
A single teaspoon of poppy seeds can produce an opiate concentration of 1,200 ng/ml, which is large enough for you to fail some tests. But other organizations, including the National Institute on Drug Abuse, look for concentrations of 2,000 or higher.
Foods That Contain Poppy Seeds
All poppy-seed-containing foods can lead to false positive test results. And the seeds could be included in more foods than you thought possible.
You’ll typically find the seeds in or on foods like these:
- Salad dressings
You may also find poppy seeds in foods and products like these:
- Sleep aids
- Pain relievers
Don’t rely on your eyes or the ingredient list alone. People have failed drug tests due to eating bread with inaccurate ingredient lists. Be careful about everything you consume before a urine drug screening.
What Should I Do if I Ate Poppy Seeds & Need to Take a Drug Test?
If you eat poppy seeds regularly, the best thing to do is stop. Eradicate these foods from your diet for several days — and up to a week — before your urine drug test.
If you receive what you think is a false positive result due to poppy seeds, talk to your doctor, the lab that ordered the test, or your employer. Explain the situation and ask to retake the test.
- Heroin. National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://nida.nih.gov/research-topics/heroin. Accessed January 2023.
- Opium Alkaloids in Harvested and Thermally Processed Poppy Seeds. Frontiers in Chemistry. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fchem.2020.00737/full. August 2020. Accessed January 2023.
- Poppy Seed Ingestion and Opiate Urinalysis: A Closer Look. Journal of Analytical Toxicology. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2263066/. September 1990. Accessed January 2023.
- Can Poppyseeds Cause a Positive Test? USADA. https://www.usada.org/spirit-of-sport/education/can-poppyseeds-cause-a-positive-drug-test/. Accessed January 2023.
- Finally, an Opiate Test That Doesn’t Confuse Seeds With Heroin. Smithsonian Magazine. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/finally-an-opiate-test-that-doesnt-confuse-poppy-seeds-with-heroin-180949294/. January 2014. Accessed January 2023.
- Poppy Seed Ingestion as a Contributing Factor to Opiate-Positive Urinalysis Results: The Pacific Perspective. Journal of Forensic Sciences. https://www.ojp.gov/ncjrs/virtual-library/abstracts/poppy-seed-ingestion-contributing-factor-opiate-positive-urinalysis. 1991. Accessed January 2023.
- Poppy Seed and Prohibited Drug Testing. JMVH. https://jmvh.org/article/poppy-seed-and-prohibited-drug-testing/. March 2021. Accessed January 2023.
Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD
Peter Manza, PhD received his BA in Psychology and Biology from the University of Rochester and his PhD in Integrative Neuroscience at Stony Brook University. He is currently working as a research scientist in Washington, DC. His research focuses on the role ... Read More