Poppy. Photo by: Chris Kilham © 2009

Foods and Failed Drug Tests

Life is just plain bizarre. It’s hard enough earning a living and making our way in the world, without failing mandatory drug tests when you haven’t done any drugs to warrant the result. I’m talking about eating poppy seeds and hemp foods. Yes, they can indeed cause you to fail a drug test. This does not happen often, but it does in fact occur from time to time.

A recent Pennsylvania case involves new mother Elizabeth Mort, who failed a drug test administered by the hospital where she gave birth. Apparently hospitals in that state are allowed to conduct drug tests on new mothers. Mort claims that she had eaten a Dunkin Donuts bagel with poppy seeds on the morning she gave birth last month, and that this resulted in the failed drug test.

So is this a ridiculous claim, or does it have merit? While I can’t say one way or another about the case of Elizabeth Mort, I can say that eating poppy seeds can indeed cause you to fail a drug test for opiates. So bagel eaters beware if your employer likes to surprise you with random drug testing.

Poppy seeds contain minute traces of opiates. Both opium and codeine occur in poppy seeds, albeit in tiny quantities. You cannot get high on poppy seeds. Even if you ate a bucket-load of poppy seeds, you would not get high, though you’d probably wind up with a terrific case of gas. But the sensitivity of drug tests (parts per billion) is such that you can indeed fail a drug test after eating a poppy seed bagel. Apparently the minuscule amounts of opiates in poppy seeds can persist in the blood for about 48 hours.

Over time numerous cases of poppy seed drug failures have hit the news. Two involve individuals in law enforcement. In 1990 a veteran police officer in St. Louis was suspended for four months after failing a drug test. Subsequent investigation traced the failure to poppy seeds in bagels, and the officer was eventually reinstated. The same thing occurred in 1999 when a New jersey prison guard was fired for failing a drug test. Once again the culprit was a poppy seed bagel, and the guard got his job back.

What we can conclude from this mess is that poppy seed bagels maybe the road to ruin. If you work in a company where drug tests take place, know that you could get sacked for eating a bagel. Of course, any other food containing poppy seeds will do the same thing. Caveat emptor.

Recently a friend of mine failed marijuana tests three times, even though she had consumed no cannabis at all. She came to me distressed about this, and I asked if she was eating any hemp foods or using any hemp cosmetics. Hemp is fiber-type cannabis that contains miniscule amounts of THC, the psychoactive agent in pot. The seeds of hemp are rich in protein, and are made into energy bars, snacks of various kinds, hemp milk and other tasty foods. Some companies also sell hemp oil for its nutritional value. And no, you can’t get high on hemp seeds. For even though there are microscopic traces of THC in hemp seeds, the amounts are too tiny to produce a high.

Digging into all available research, I discovered several instances in which consumption of hemp products resulted in failed drug tests. Even more, I found a few instances in which the use of hemp-based cosmetic products including creams and conditioners had also resulted in failed drug tests.

After learning about this, I advised my friend to stop eating hemp seeds and hemp seed snacks, stop using hemp milk, and avoid her hemp-containing cosmetics. She did so to the letter, and passed a marijuana urine test a couple of weeks later.

Most people who eat poppy seed bagels will not fail opiate tests. And most people who eat hemp foods will not fail marijuana tests. This is due to the incredibly low volume of psychoactive compounds fond in these foods. But occasionally somebody will fail a drug tests when they have done no drugs at all, and this can be due to eating commonly available foods, like a poppy seed bagel or a hemp seed energy bar.

I personally believe that we live in an alarmist time when drug testing is way out of hand. But that is not the issue here. If you eat poppy seeds or hemp snacks, you may possibly fail a drug tests. If this happens, you may lose your job. This is unfair in any case, but you will have to do some fighting to rectify things.

By Chris Kilham, for FOX News, October 19, 2010

October 2010