Lynn Koenig / Moment / Getty Images
The opiates that come from the poppy plant include morphine, opium, heroin, and codeine.
How Opiates Affect the Brain
The poppy plant, more specifically the opium poppy or Papaver somniferum, is used to produce opiates. Opiates have been used successfully to control pain, but they are also abused because of their mind-altering effects.
If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.
Research has shown it is possible to create a lethal dose of morphine in poppy seed tea brewed at home. Because it is almost impossible to tell what the concentration of the active drugs might be in any one crop of poppy pods or poppy seeds, it is impossible to control the amount of the drug enough to avoid overdose.
While poppy seeds aren’t going to get you high, there are concerns with drug testing because there is so much variance in the amount of morphine on the coating of a poppy seed. These distinctions can depend on factors like where the seeds come from and how they were washed. To be on the safe side, if you are going to be undergoing a drug test, be aware of your intake of poppy seeds.
A drug test will be able to determine that a person isn’t using heroin if they take a drug test after eating poppy seeds. However, the results won’t discern whether or not that person has used other opiates. As a result of false positives stemming from poppy seeds, the federal government raised the opiate threshold for employee drug tests. It was raised from 0.3 micrograms to 2 micrograms per milliliter. This adjustment reduces the chances of poppy seeds showing up on an opiate drug test.
If you’re someone who’s struggling with substance use disorder or have a loved one who is, reach out to the team at The Recovery Village. Whether you’re ready for opioid addiction treatment or you just want to learn more, we are happy to provide you with answers, information, and support.
Poppy Seeds and Opiates
People frequently wonder about the relationship between poppy seeds and opiates. Are poppy seeds opiates? Could eating poppy seeds show up on a drug test since they come from the same plant as this class of drugs?
The natural opiate alkaloids used as pain relievers include codeine and morphine. Synthetic opioid derivatives include heroin, fentanyl, methadone, and hydromorphone. Regardless of whether someone is actively using natural opiates or synthetic opioids, the risks are similar. Negative effects of administering these substances include psychological addiction, physical dependence, and fatal respiratory depression.
Opiates are a class of drugs derived from the poppy plant. Opiates are all-natural. Opioids are synthetic or semisynthetic drugs that have been man-made to replicate the structure of opiates. Opiates and opioids act on the brain in similar ways by binding to specific receptors that change how the person actively using the substance perceives pain. These drugs also affect areas of the brain responsible for controlling emotion. In this way, they create a euphoric high. That high can trigger the brain’s reward system, which is what leads to the psychological disease of opioid addiction.
According to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, research shows morphine and codeine can be detected in urine for up to 48 hours after eating poppy seeds. The organization does point out that most of the opium is removed from poppy seeds when they’re processed, but there is still residual opium on the outside of the seeds. The USADA also doesn’t offer guidelines as to how much poppy seeds someone can eat and remain below the opiate drug testing threshold. The recommendation is that athletes who will undergo testing avoid poppy seeds in the days leading up to and during competitions, to be safe.
According to the same source, this also applies to ripe fruit and fruit drinks. These can ferment and produce just enough alcohol for you to test positive.
“It is unlikely that a single poppy seed roll, or even a dozen rolls, would result in an individual ingesting enough morphine to have a pharmacological effect.”
But having a few G&Ts could also liven up your drug test results.
However, Professor Johnston makes it clear that eating poppy seeds will not get you high any time soon.
So, can eating poppy seeds really lead you to fail a drug test?
This is the claim of a 58-year-old pipe fitter, suspended from work for 11 weeks after testing positive for morphine – an extract from the opium produced by poppies.
“I thought to myself ‘I have something in my body that I have no idea where it has come from’ – it was very worrying.”