In 2016, a New York City corrections officer was fired after failing a random drug test. The test found traces of morphine and codeine in the guard’s system.
The guard was genuinely bewildered. He hadn’t taken any illicit substances or even prescription medication. So, how did those drugs get into his system? Why did the drug test turn up positive?
The culprit was a poppy seed bagel. The corrections officer had eaten a bagel sprinkled with poppy seeds for breakfast. Those poppy seeds caused his test result to show a false positive. Because of a handful of poppy seeds, he lost his job.
You’ve probably heard stories of people failing drug tests because of poppy seeds, but does this still happen? Thankfully, advancements in technology have improved drug testing in the past couple of years. So, can poppy seeds still show up on a drug test? Let’s discover the answer.
Yes. Unless it’s a hair follicle test, poppy seeds will show up. Why is this?
The plant that produces poppy seeds for those tasty bagels, muffins, and cakes also makes opium extract. Opium extract is the source of many controlled drugs, like codeine and morphine. If this liquid contaminates the poppy seeds during harvesting, they can test positive for morphine, codeine, or heroin. But, not all drug tests detect poppy seeds.
Unlike urine- or saliva-based drug tests, hair follicle tests don’t detect poppy seeds. This is because the seeds don’t stay in your system long enough and in high enough quantities to show up in your hair follicles. So, unless it’s a hair follicle test, poppy seeds can show up in a drug test.
Does that mean poppy seeds can make you fail a drug test?
Not usually, but it depends on the type of drug test. If the drug test is urine- or saliva-based and it reports a positive after a low level of the drug is found, poppy seeds can cause you to fail. However, most drug tests have measures in place that stop a false positive from poppy seeds. What are these measures?
One is that the amount needed for a positive reading is higher than the amount found in poppy seeds. In fact, the United States raised the limit for a positive employment-based drug test from 300 nanograms a milliliter to 2,000 nanograms. This means contaminated poppy seeds don’t contain enough opium extract to cause a positive result.
Many employers also use a questionnaire before the drug test. This questionnaire usually checks for poppy seed ingestion and prescription drug use. The drug test technician can then adjust the test results to compensate.
The third measure is that drug tests can distinguish between poppy seeds and heroin. Heroin contains a distinct metabolite called 6-0-monoacetylmorphine. So, if a test comes back positive for heroin but doesn’t contain this metabolite, the test is a false positive.
These measures sound like reliable ways to distinguish drugs from poppy seeds. Does that mean it’s harmless to eat poppy seeds before a drug test?
Pick up that bagel and go wild. While eating too many poppy seeds can make a drug test give a false positive, most employment drug tests confirm the results using a gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC or MS) test. This test is specifically used to rule out interfering substances like poppy seeds.
After weighing the facts, poppy seeds are a safe food choice for anyone taking a drug test.
The corrections officer fired over a bagel managed to get his job back after two years. But, he won’t be eating poppy seeds anytime soon.
As we’ve discovered, it is possible for poppy seeds to show up on drug tests. With drug tests being able to distinguish between poppy seeds and opiates though, the possibility of a false positive hurting your job prospects is pretty low. But, drug tests are only one part of the employee background check process. How can you ensure all your background checks come back clean?
At Trusted Employees, we can help you run a background check on yourself. We’ll help you dispute anything incorrect and show you what your potential employer will see. Contact us to learn more about running a background check on yourself.