Can Eating Poppy Seeds Make You Fail a Drug Test?

If you're starting a new job or you could encounter a drug test soon for any reason, you could face some alarming results — even if your most potent drugs of choice are Advil and vitamin C supplements. Think twice about that "everything" bagel at your local deli and that slice of lemon-poppy seed cake. Sure, we want it all on our bagels, including poppy seeds, but at what price?

Poppy seeds, those innocuous-looking little black dots, come from the plant Papaver somniferum, the same one that produces opiate drugs like morphine and heroin. The notion that eating a poppy-seed bagel might get you branded as a smack addict seems like urban legend. But "it's not a myth at all," explains Cynthia Whiteman, a senior analyst at Norchem, a forensic drug-testing laboratory in Arizona. "Every part of the plant does have morphine. The seeds have a very small amount but still will get positive results [on a drug test]."

In fact, poppy-seed-related positives are such a legitimate concern that the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration actually increased the positive reading threshold for opiate drug tests from 300 nanograms (ng) per milliliter of urine to 2,000 nanograms per milliliter in 1998 (for government workplace drug tests) to lessen the risk of false positives.

It's hard to say exactly how many poppy seeds you would have to eat to test positive, since factors like body weight vary from person to person. But according to a 1998 study published in the Forensic Science International journal, eating two poppy-seed rolls with an average of about .76 grams of seeds each caused positive test results for up to six hours in one individual, ranging from 47.9 ng/ml to 832 ng/ml, depending on how long it had been since ingestion. And poppy-seed cake? The same study found that eating a slice (which contained an average of 4.69 grams of seeds) caused all four subjects to screen positive for up to 24 hours—four times as long as the rolls—citing one individual's results ranging between 83.8 ng/ml and 302.1 ng/ml.

So don't relax and binge on poppy-seed muffins: "Different testing agencies require different levels of certification," says Whiteman, noting that some even have zero-tolerance policies. The choice of cutoff is the client's, she says, and many choose the lower government option of 300 ng/ml, such as all of Norchem's clients that test people on probation in Texas. So, to be safe, if you need to take a drug test—in Texas or elsewhere—skip the poppy seeds.

If you don't plan on taking any drug tests in the near future, or you don't care either way, or you just plain love poppy seeds, go for these recipes:

1. Kale-Apple Coleslaw with Poppy Seed Dressing


Kale needs some serious sweet, tangy, or savory additions to make it work as a raw salad, which is what coleslaw is, essentially. The poppy seeds in  the dressing here mingle with honey, Dijon mustard, cider vinegar, and red onions, a combination of all those flavors, accented by the apples for a good balance. Get our Kale-Apple Coleslaw with Poppy Seed Dressing recipe.

2. Citrus-Poppy Seed Muffins


Lemon and orange just go with vanilla and poppy seeds. You'll use both the zest and juice of those yellow and orange tropical fruits. The seeds offer a contrasting crunch. Get our Lemon-Poppy Seed Muffins recipe.

3. Pigs in a Blanket


You can make this party nibble more grown-up with flaky, buttery pastry dough and by sprinkling some poppy and sesame seeds on top. It adds a nuttier flavor with a more complex texture to this simple snack that kids (and you, admit it!) love. Get our Pigs in a Blanket recipe.

4. Smoked Salmon Bagel Breakfast Casserole


Many of us adore the classic smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels they make at delis and bagel shops. Capers, red onions, and using specifically "everything" bagels, makes it even more crazy delicious. Toss it all in a casserole dish and ladle it out for a buzz-worthy breakfast on a special occasion or for brunch. Get our Smoked Salmon Bagel Breakfast Casserole recipe.

5. Parmesan Kaiser Rolls


These are hamburger-sized rolls that you'll find make your mounds of meat much better. Nutty and slightly cheesy, the rolls are ideal for other sandwiches too. Get our Parmesan Kaiser Rolls recipe.

6. Chowhound Bagels


We couldn't create a poppy seed recipe list without including the most basic, popular item for those nutty black seeds. When you feel frustrated over the state of bagels in local shops, make your own. Get our Chowhound Bagel recipe.

7. Glazed Poppy Seed Turnips


Use turnips if you have them around or see them at the market, but you can use this recipe for any root vegetable, from carrots to potatoes. Get our Glazed Poppy Seed Turnips recipe.

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Article originally published by Roxanne Webber on October 28, 2010; updated by Amy Sowder on June 14, 2016.

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