Poppy Seeds and Opiates

What Are Opiates?

Opiates are a class of drugs derived from the poppy plant. Opiates in the strictest terms are all-natural, but the term is used interchangeably with opioid. Opioids are synthetic or semisynthetic drugs that have been manmade to replicate the structure of opiates. Opiates and opioids act on the brain in similar ways. Both opiates and opioids bind to specific receptors, which changes 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 addiction.

Poppy Seeds and Opiates

Opioids, while they are synthetic, are structurally related to the alkaloids found in opium. Opium comes from the resin of the opium poppy plant. 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 and opioids can also show up on substance tests for employment and other scenarios. With all that in mind, 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?

Poppy seeds, which are used in various recipes and are often found on bagels and baked items, come from the opium poppy. That is the same plant used to make heroin. The seeds contain very minimal trace amounts of opiates; however, poppy seeds aren’t used to make opium. Opium is made from the resin that comes from the seed pod of the plant. The seed has a significantly lower amount of opiate than this resin. However, when you purchase poppy seeds at a grocery store, for example, they contain anywhere from 0.5 to 10 micrograms of morphine per gram. 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 reduces the chances of poppy seeds showing up on an opiate drug test. 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 err on the side of caution.
Also relevant to the conversation of poppy seeds and opiates is whether or not these seeds can make a person feel high. The answer is no. Poppy seeds don’t affect people who consume them. A poppy seed will only have about 0.5 to 10 micrograms of morphine per gram. On the other hand, medical morphine is prescribed at doses ranging from 5,000 to 30,000 micrograms. While poppy seeds aren’t going to get you high, there are concerns with drug testing. 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. 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 treatment or you just want to learn more, we are happy to provide you with answers, information and support.
Poppy Seeds and Opiates
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