Old Wives' Tales
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Claim: The consumption of poppy seeds used on bagels and muffins can produce positive results on drug screening tests.
Origins: Drug testing has become more and more prevalent in our society, and while urine or blood analysis is one of the best ways to do that, the tests themselves are not always infallible and can sometimes produce skewed results. Indeed, something as innocuous as the poppy seeds on a bagel or muffin or in a slice of cake can make the drug-free look like heroin users.
Opiates (morphine and codeine) can be detected in urine for at least
In 1990, a veteran St. Louis police officer was suspended for four months because his drug test showed positive for morphine after he'd eaten four poppy seed bagels the day before the urine sample was taken. He was reinstated with back pay after it was determined that poppy seeds and not drug use had produced those results. His case was especially puzzling to the department because the officer in question had a steady work record and demonstrated no indications of any problems before this incident was flagged during a random drug screen. The department performed an experiment by having another officer eat four poppy seed bagels and take a drug test. He, too, tested positive for morphine, confirming the poppy seed effect
In 1999, a New Jersey prison guard was fired for the same reason: a poppy seed bagel he'd had produced a positive drug test. His case was subjected to further examination, and he was reinstated seven months later.
In 1997, a woman in Florida was awarded $859,000 in her lawsuit against Bankers Insurance Group because it had withdrawn a lucrative job offer to her on the basis of her poppy seed-influenced drug screen results.
In 1994, a Baltimore woman lost her chance for a job with an inner-city community health center because of her failed drug test, which was once again the result of the nefarious poppy seeds. In this case, the woman's fondness for lean corned beef and provolone on a poppy seed bagel cost her the job she wanted, because this prospective employer would not allow her a second urinalysis nor believe that her morning nosh had caused those suspicious test results.
Because of the possibility of poppy seeds' skewing drug test results, federal prison rules prohibit inmates from eating this ingestible. Moreover, inmates on furlough are enjoined from eating baked goods that incorporate poppy seeds because of the effect it has on their drug tests. (Without the poppy seed prohibition, anyone using opium derivatives recreationally could attribute his positive drug test results to a fondness for these seeds. The prohibition removes that possibility.)
The Federal Bureau of Prison's Form BP-S291(52) contains, as one of the conditions a furloughed inmate must agree to:
It has been determined that consumption of poppy seeds may cause a positive drug test which may result in disciplinary action. As a condition of my participation in community programs, I will not consume any poppy seeds or items containing poppy seeds.As to how seriously the "no poppy seeds" injunction is taken, inmates in halfway houses have been returned to prison because they violated it and consequently failed their urine tests.
Because the drug screen for the presence of opiates is so sensitive, some agencies that rely on it have since raised the
Barbara "beware of the bagel" Mikkelson
Last updated: 31 December 2005
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