An Addictions Specialist Reveals Under Which Circumstances Eating Poppy Seeds Can Cause Serious Problems.
On February 17, 2023, the US Department of Defense issued a memorandum warning military personnel to avoid eating poppy seeds as it could result in a positive urine test for the opioid codeine. Narcology and pain specialist Gary Reisfield explains what affects the opiate content of poppy seeds and how they can affect drug tests, reports Inverse.
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Poppy seeds come from a species of poppy plant called Papaver somniferum. “Somniferum” is Latin for “sleep-bringer,” hinting that it may contain opiates, powerful compounds that depress the central nervous system and can cause drowsiness and fatigue.
There are two main uses for the opium poppy. It is a source of opiates used in pain relievers, the most biologically active of which are morphine and codeine. Its seeds are also used for cooking and baking.
Poppy seeds themselves do not contain opiates. But during harvesting, the seeds can become contaminated with opiates contained in the milky latex of the pods that cover them.
What influences the content of opiates in poppy seeds?
Many factors determine the opiate concentration and poppy ratio. As with wine grapes, the opium profile of the poppy, and therefore of its seeds, depends on its terroir, a combination of soil-climatic factors and specific local characteristics such as climate, soil, amount of sunlight, topography, and harvest time.
Another factor is the variety or variety of the plant. For example, there is a genetically modified opium poppy that does not produce morphine or codeine, and another that does not produce opium latex at all.
Can you get high from eating poppy seeds?
As a practical matter, you can’t eat enough poppy seeds to get high. In addition, processing significantly reduces opiate levels, such as by washing, cooking, or roasting the seeds.
Do poppy seeds affect drug tests?
There are almost no opiates in poppy seeds to intoxicate you. But because drug tests are extremely sensitive, eating certain poppy foods can lead to positive urine drug test results for opiates, especially morphine, codeine, or both.
In most cases, the concentration of opiates in the urine is too low to give a positive test result. But some foods, which are usually impossible to detect because opiates are not listed on food labels, contain enough opiates to give a positive test result. Moreover, due to the overlap in opiate concentrations and morphine-to-codeine ratios, it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between test results from poppy seed use and those from opioid drug use.
In most cases, drug testing at the workplace is not a problem. Test results are checked by a specially trained doctor called a medical inspector. Unless a doctor finds evidence of unauthorized opiate use, such as needle marks or signs of opiate intoxication or withdrawal, even relatively high urinary concentrations of opiates that give positive test results are usually considered negative.
However, it turns out that drug testing is different in the military, and poppy seeds pose potential problems. One such issue, as highlighted in recent news reports, concerns military personnel who test positive for codeine and use “poppy seed exposure” as an excuse. They are still considered to have taken codeine, sometimes with serious consequences such as disciplinary action or dismissal from service.
Focus has previously written about the oldest use of opium. The find was made in a grave pit in Tel Yehud. Experts stumbled upon the remains of vessels from the 14th century BC, which contained a narcotic substance.
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