The US Defense Department Just Confirmed That Poppy Seed Bagel Drug Rumor

While it may sound like a silly urban legend along the lines of "two aspirins in your Coke will get you high" (which it won't, according to Snopes), it turns out there is actually some truth behind the rumor that eating a poppy seed bagel, or any other food product containing a significant amount of poppy seeds, can cause you to fail a drug test. As Winchester Hospital explains, the reason for this is that the raw ingredient used to make heroin, codeine, and other morphine derivatives is opium, something that comes from the opium poppy. 

The opium poppy, however, does have another (legal) use –- it is also the plant that supplies most of the poppy seeds sold for culinary use. The seeds are typically processed before being packaged and sold, with results in most of the opium being removed, but "most" does not mean "all." Trace amounts remain, which may be enough poppy seed to mess with your head, and even trigger a false positive on a test for opiates. Now that such drug testing is widespread, the potential for poppy seed-skewed results has become such a concern that even the Under Secretary of Defense in Washington D.C. has issued a memorandum addressing the problem.

The DoD doesn't want to take any risks when it comes to drug testing

As the memorandum states, recent information has come to light indicating that today's poppy seeds may well contain sufficient opiate levels to register on a drug test. The Defense Department, citing "an abundance of caution," has issued a directive that military personnel are to refrain from eating anything containing poppy seeds, period. No everything bagels, no lemon poppy seed cake, not even poppy seed hamantaschen for Purim. Oy!

So what of us non-military types, though? Should we, too, abstain from all things poppy seed, at least until the experts come up with a better drug test? The United States Anti-Doping Agency suggests a less hardline policy for athletes or anyone else who may be subjected to regular testing. While there's not much you can do to counteract the effects of that poppy seed muffin you just ate, you really only need to avoid poppy products for a few days before you expect to be tested since the small number of opiates that might be in them won't stay in your system indefinitely.