Lovers of delicious poppy sprinkled bagels can finally relax. New research published in the American Chemical Society’s Journal indicates that there might finally be a solution to the drug test commotion poppy seeds commonly cause.

You might have heard of the urban legend that eating a poppy seed cake or bagel before a drug test might mess up your results. Well, there’s plenty truth and little myth to this legend. Multiple reports have confirmed that consuming poppy seed products within 12 to 24 hours of a drug test may lead to a positive result.

Poppies are grown for several reasons, one of the most common of which is the opium that is sourced from the plant. But the well-known medicinal and recreational drug tends to show up in trace quantities in poppy seeds as well.

Needless to say, this has led to multiple red faces and a tad bit of embarrassment over the years. But according to the new study, it may be possible to reduce the opiate levels in poppy seeds by heating them at up to 392 F.

The results mean that there may now be a more effective way to properly process poppy seeds and make them less of a risk for consumers.

Drug Tests and Poppy Seeds

Poppy seeds have been harvested for centuries, both for their analgesic properties and for how they go nicely with a tasty bagel. The seeds are extracted from the seed pod of the poppy plant.

But the poppy plant itself is more popular for the opium sourced from its seed pods. It is more accurately extracted from the sap-like substance surrounding the capsule containing the seeds.

While being harvested, the seeds can become coated with the opium extract, leading to trace quantities of opium alkaloids such as morphine, codeine and thebaine – all poster substances of a recreational drug.

Although the seeds are thoroughly cleaned before being processed for consumer use, they may still contain trace amounts of opiate residue. As a result, eating even a single bagel liberally coated with poppy seeds may lead to a positive result in a urine drug test.

In most situations, how many bagels or poppy seed goods you eat may have a direct correlation to how much of the opium alkaloids will be detected in a test.

Reports indicate that opiates can be detected in a drug test within as little as two hours after eating a poppy seed snack. The US Anti-Doping Agency further reports that morphine and codeine can remain detectable in the blood up to 48 hours afterward.  Depending on how much was consumed, this may even extend up to 60 hours.

Opiate Levels in Poppy Seeds Can Be Diminished

The new study, published in the ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, shows that heating may substantially degrade the opiate alkaloids in poppy seeds.

The researchers set out to measure the opiate levels in commercially available poppy seeds and what treatments may likely help diminish these. Using mass spectrometry to measure the levels of three out of the major opium alkaloids in the seeds, they applied various treatments.

The researchers found that heating the seeds at 392 F for at least 40 minutes provided the most significant results. This treatment resulted in the degrading of most of the alkaloids present in the seeds.

But it was found that baking the seeds at the same temperature, either on top of or within a muffin, failed to yield the same results. There was no significant change in the morphine, thebaine or codeine concentrations in the seeds. They also note this may have been because the internal temperature of the muffin was only 211 F while its external temperature did not exceed 277 F.

Perhaps this explains why poppy-sprinkled cakes, bagels, muffins and other baked goods still result in positive drug tests, despite the extensive pre-processing cleaning and additional baking.

The possibilities that this research uncover may now be an added consideration for producers of products that use poppy seeds. The researchers include a warning in their study though. Heating poppy seeds at such high temperatures may alter the quality of the seeds and may shorten their shelf life.

So, further studies may be necessary to determine what balance can be achieved between reducing the opiate levels in the seeds and maintaining their quality.

Considerations to Keep in Mind

While further studies continue to study the effects of poppy seeds, it makes sense to keep certain things in mind.

The effect of poppy seeds on drug results does not necessarily mean you have to give up your beloved snacks. For one, the trace amounts of opium alkaloids in the seeds are unlikely to affect you. Eating a poppy seed bagel definitely won’t get you high, even if it might lead to some funny looks after your workplace drug test.

Apart from this, most labs know the effect that may result from consuming poppy seeds. So, they will likely ask if you have had eaten any poppy seeds or taken medication that is codeine based, such as panadeine.

If a positive hit is recorded on your result, they’ll know it might be a false positive. Most labs have protocols that include conducting a further test to help distinguish between a heroin habit and a sweet tooth. This mostly includes further testing for a specific heroin metabolite called monoacetylmorphine.

Besides, the US federal government has raised the threshold for a positive drug test to 2 micrograms per milliliter, instead of the 0.3 micrograms per milliliter. This means it’s a lot less likely that your poppy seed-influenced results will be taken for a positive drug test.

The Bottom Line

If you want to avoid the complication of a flagged drug test, it might be safest to avoid eating a poppy seed snack between 1 to 2 days of a drug test.

Some of the foods that contain poppy seeds, which you might want to keep an eye on include:

  • Poppy seed bagels, buns and rolls
  • Poppy seed cake
  • Granola
  • Poppy seed filling in desserts
  • Babka – a popular Jewish treat
  • Salad dressing

At least in situations where you might likely anticipate a test (such as a job interview or insurance drug test), it may be best to stifle your cravings until you’re home clear.

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