The Poppy Seed Effect: Urban Legend?

Hello, Anita,

Is it true that eating a poppy seed bagel can cause you to fail a drug test? It’s my favorite breakfast!

Poppyseed_Bagel_iStock_000020753418Dear, Positively Negative,

Rumor-busting website Snopes says TRUE! Back in 1998, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) that oversees federal workplace drug test regulations upped the threshhold for opiates (drugs produced from poppy plants) from 300ng/ml to 2000ng/ml. But not all drug testing companies that serve the private sector use this higher threshhold.

Employers use drug screening as a tool to maintain a safe workplace. I, for one, am glad drug testing is federally required in certain industries where safety is imperative. In addition to pre-employment drug screening, tests can be performed when there is reasonable suspicion of drug use by a supervisor, after an accident at work, before returning to work after substance abuse treatment, and when the company has a policy of random or periodic testing.

Most employers request the standard 5-panel urinalysis drug screen that detects street drugs such as cocaine, PCP, opiates (heroin, codeine, and morphine), amphetamines (including meth), and THC (found in marijuana, but also in lesser quantities in hemp foods and cosmetics). A 9- or 10-panel screen additionally tests for prescription drugs such as oxycodone, benzodiazepines (mood elevators like Valium, Librium, Xanax), barbiturates (downers), propoxyphene (Darvon), or methaqualone (quaaludes).

Many drugs stay in the system 2-4 days, though some drugs may linger longer. Chronic marijuana users may test positive up to 3-4 weeks after their last use. And for chronic bagel-eaters? MythBusters TV show hosts tested positive just half an hour after gorging on poppyseed pastries – all in the name of science.

What about that Medical Marijuana card? Even in states that allow marijuana use for medical purposes, the legal protection is generally construed to be from criminal prosecution, and is not considered a free pass for any positive employment drug test results. Recent court rulings seem to favor employers over employees, so you may want to switch to a cinnamon raisin bagel and avoid hemp milk for your morning meal.

Readers: Have you ever failed a drug test for non-drug use? Tell us about it.


Crimes and Misdemeanors
Disclosure of a DUI
Drug Testing – Necessity or Discrimination?

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Beth Weinstien
    Jul 14, 2015 @ 14:09:19

    Hemp milk shouldn’t be a problem since hemp milk does not contain any of the psychoactive molecules that would create a “high” like THC–right???


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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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