Science!

Stand-Back

A couple weeks ago some coworkers and I were discussing poppy seeds and drug tests. If you eat food with poppy seeds will you really test positive for opiates? I was skeptical, despite being told of a Myth Busters episode that confirmed it. As it turns out, however, at-home drug test kits can be purchased on Amazon for a reasonable price. And thus an experiment was born.

Tools for test:

1. A box of drug test kits. I only needed ones that tested for opiates, but I couldn’t find single drug ones for that, so I got multi-drug ones. Actually turned out to be interesting as a control variation to see just the one change.

2. A poppy seed muffin. The store only had lemon poppy seed, so I snagged one of those. It was an average-sized muffin. Not a mini muffin, nor one of the huge Costco muffins. Just… a muffin.

Procedure:

1. Before eating muffin, create the control. Collect urine. Say, “Ew, this is so gross.” Dip drug test strips in urine according to package directions. Start phone timer app and settle to wait the appointed 5 minutes. Make mental note that it doesn’t take anywhere near that long.

2. Eat muffin. It was yummy. Didn’t look like it had a lot of poppy seeds in it, and I was already making plans to try again with two muffins next weekend.

3. Wait a few hours. Go about life. Remember to drink water. Hydration is our friend.

4. Collect urine again after four hours. (The time wasn’t important to me. That was just the convenient next time.) Say, “Ew, this is still so gross.” Dip drug test strips in urine according to package directions. Start phone timer app even though it’s clearly unnecessary.

5. Stare agog at the glaringly obvious positive.

The middle one is the drug in question.

Conclusion: If you eat food with poppy seeds will you really test positive for opiates? Yes. Yes, you will. Might want to avoid them if you’ve got a pre-employment drug screening coming up, or something like that.

Next question: How long will it last?

Tested again Sunday night (after eating muffin Saturday for lunch): still positive.

Tested again Monday night: back to negative.

So it only lasts a couple days days. Not long, really.

I repeated the experiment a few days later with an “everything” bagel (nuked with cream cheese; it was delicious) because the conversation at work led to question as to whether a poppy seed muffin just had a lot more poppy seeds in it than an “everything” bagel does, and thus an “everything” bagel would still be fine to eat. (I mean, it’s always fine to eat. Just no promises on passing a drug screen.) I don’t know the answer to what has more poppy seeds, but I can now tell you that you will indeed test positive for opiates if you eat an “everything” bagel. Got the exact same results as the muffin.

Science is fun. And sometimes tasty.


4 Comments

  1. Interesting. As I was reading your muffin experiment on Facebook I was eating an everything bagel with cream cheese (I taught you well) and wondering if it would have the same result. Now I know.

  2. Yes, but clinical level drug tests can differentiate between the amount of opiate (and breakdown products) present and what types*, so if they’re being responsible with secondary testing, I wouldn’t expect any problems from it.

    *If your patient who is a heroin addict in recovery is taking prescribed methadone, it’s important to make sure they’re blood levels for methadone show that they’re taking all/most of those doses and NOT taking any heroin or other non-prescribed to them opiates. Of course they’d test positive for opiates, but which ones and how much are the all-important questions.

    • Absolutely. In a clinical setting, I would hope they would use something with greater differentiation. But for many companies, I know they just use these types of tests for quick and cheap pre-employment screening, and use the same things for random employee screening. Now, I hope that a positive would be followed up with something better. But unfortunately I don’t trust that to be the case at all times.

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