People frequently wonder about the relationship between poppy seeds and opiates. Are poppy seeds opiates? Could eating poppy seeds show up on a drug test since they come from the same plant as this class of drugs?
The natural opiate alkaloids used as pain relievers include codeine and morphine. Synthetic opioid derivatives include heroin, fentanyl, methadone, and hydromorphone. Regardless of whether someone is actively using natural opiates or synthetic opioids, the risks are similar. Negative effects of administering these substances include psychological addiction, physical dependence, and fatal respiratory depression.
Poppy Seeds and Opiates
While poppy seeds aren’t going to get you high, there are concerns with drug testing because there is so much variance in the amount of morphine on the coating of a poppy seed. These distinctions can depend on factors like where the seeds come from and how they were washed. To be on the safe side, if you are going to be undergoing a drug test, be aware of your intake of poppy seeds.
A drug test will be able to determine that a person isn’t using heroin if they take a drug test after eating poppy seeds. However, the results won’t discern whether or not that person has used other opiates. As a result of false positives stemming from poppy seeds, the federal government raised the opiate threshold for employee drug tests. It was raised from 0.3 micrograms to 2 micrograms per milliliter. This adjustment reduces the chances of poppy seeds showing up on an opiate drug test.
According to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, research shows morphine and codeine can be detected in urine for up to 48 hours after eating poppy seeds. The organization does point out that most of the opium is removed from poppy seeds when they’re processed, but there is still residual opium on the outside of the seeds. The USADA also doesn’t offer guidelines as to how much poppy seeds someone can eat and remain below the opiate drug testing threshold. The recommendation is that athletes who will undergo testing avoid poppy seeds in the days leading up to and during competitions, to be safe.
Research shows that morphine and codeine can sometimes be detected in the urine up to 48 hours after ingestion of poppy seeds from some pastries, such as bagels, muffins, and cakes (see reference one for a free article on this topic).
The opium is composed of roughly 12 percent morphine, which is a narcotic that is prohibited in-competition. According to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List, morphine is a threshold substance, meaning that WADA-accredited laboratories determine if a sample is positive for morphine when the level of morphine in the urine is greater than *1.3 micrograms/mL.
Can the morphine from poppy seeds be detected in a sample?
USADA cannot predict the amount of poppy seeds you can eat and remain below the testing threshold set by WADA. **In most cases, consumption of poppy seeds in foods will not cause a positive doping test.
However, it may be possible to exceed the morphine threshold by eating foods with poppy seeds and USADA can’t predict how long morphine or morphine metabolites from poppy seeds will stay in your system. The most conservative approach would be to avoid poppy seeds a few days before and during competitions.
If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.
Eating poppy seeds has, in fact, caused individuals to fail urine drug screenings. In the past, even modest amounts of poppy seeds have caused people to test positive for morphine, one of the opioids contained in the poppy.
Additionally, people metabolize the poppy seed differently. One study gave poppy seeds to volunteers, and there was a big variation in how much codeine and morphine were excreted in their urine.
Addiction and Withdrawal
Barbara Poncelet, CRNP, is a certified pediatric nurse practitioner specializing in teen health.
After they enter the body, opiates stimulate specific receptors in the brain. When these opiate receptors are activated, it causes a rush of pleasure and then hours of feeling content, relaxed, or high. Some of these receptors are in the reward center of the brain. The brain starts to want to repeat the positive stimulation and this can lead to addiction.
For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.
Although the DEA classified “poppy straw,” or all parts of the poppy plant other than the seeds, as a Schedule II controlled substance, and the importation of contaminated poppy seeds is illegal, it’s still possible to purchased unwashed poppy seeds online.