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poppy seed bagels show up as weed on drug tests

Drugs and Medications: What Can Cause a False Positive Drug Test

If you hang out often with someone who puffs on pot, your urine could have traces of THC. That’s the chemical in the cannabis plant that gets you high. But chances are very low that you’ll have enough THC to trigger the positive result in the screens used by the federal government and many private employers. That’s most likely to happen right after you’re exposed to the smoke. A second test would need to confirm it.

Weight Loss Pills

Phentermine is a prescription medicine that helps curb your appetite. It’s chemically similar to amphetamines, a stimulant used to treat ADHD and as a study aid to stay awake. Phentermine could raise a false red flag in your drug screen if you don’t have a medical reason for taking amphetamines.

Poppy Seeds

These small black seeds naturally contain morphine and codeine. A poppy seed bagel, for example, might make you test positive for both of those opioids for up to a whole day after you eat it. That’s more likely to happen with labs that still follow the older, lower thresholds for detecting those substances.


Many liquid medications, vanilla extract, and breath-cleaning products often have ethanol, a form of simple grain alcohol. Today’s drug tests can detect even trace amounts of alcohol, and for longer after exposure. So if you use anything with ethyl alcohol, your breath, blood, or urine sample might get flagged for possible signs of drinking. The same thing could happen even with alcohol-based hand sanitizers if you use them regularly.


Sertraline (Zoloft) is prescribed for depression, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and more. Some drug screens may not be specific enough to tell apart sertraline and benzodiazepines. The latter is an older tranquilizer drug that’s often found in people who overdose on opioids. The faulty test result could happen for several days after you quit your antidepressant.


These medications usually won’t interfere with your drug screens. But in rare cases, a few antibiotics are known to trigger inaccurate test results. Rifampin, which treats tuberculosis, might show up as opiates in some rapid urine screens. What’s more, the false positive result may be possible even more than 18 hours after you’ve swallowed a single dose of the antibiotic.


Cannabidiol (CBD) comes from the hemp plant, a relative of the Cannabis sativa plant that produces marijuana. CBD, which doesn’t make you high, is used for medical marijuana to ease pain and other symptoms. Some states allow CBD oil, edibles, and other products to have up to 5% of the mind-altering chemical THC. Depending on when and how much you’ve taken CBD, it’s possible for your urine to show evidence of marijuana in your body.


Some popular over-the-counter allergy and sleep meds like Benadryl and Advil PM have diphenhydramine. It can relieve coughs and runny noses. But on drug screens, it can show up as methadone, which helps people quit heroin or other opiates and can be addictive. Diphenhydramine also may show up as PCP, an illegal hallucinogenic that is one of five types of drugs that applicants for all federal and many private-sector jobs are screened for.

HIV Medication

Efavirenz (Sustiva) is an antiretroviral drug that helps treat your HIV infection. But on a drug screen, it can make you seem to have used marijuana. A second, more sensitive test should be able to distinguish which of the two compounds is in your body. To avoid confusion, you may want to alert the lab or the clinic beforehand that you’re on efavirenz.

Coca Tea

This beverage is a popular folk remedy in Peru and elsewhere in South America. It’s made with the leaves of the same plant that cocaine comes from. If you drink it, you may want to stop a couple of days before your drug test. Coca tea could affect your screening for up to 36 hours after you’ve sipped it.

Antipsychotic Drugs

Several of these medications for mental disorders can lead to false positive tests. Quetiapine, which treats schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, can wrongly show that you have methadone in your urine. Two other antipsychotics — promethazine and chlorpromazine — can cause drug tests to come up positive for amphetamine, a stimulant.

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Drugs and Medications: What Can Cause a False Positive Drug Test


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  • American Addiction Centers: “What’s An Amphetamine? Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment.”
  • American Association for Clinical Chemistry: “Rifampin Interference with Opiate Immunoassays.”
  • Drug Enforcement Administration: “Dextromethorphan.”
  • FDA: “Zoloft (sertraline hydrochloride) Label.”
  • Journal of Analytical Toxicology: “Non-Smoker Exposure to Secondhand Cannabis Smoke. I. Urine Screening and Confirmation Results.”
  • Massachusetts Medical Society: “Urine Abstinence Testing And Incidental Alcohol Exposure.”
  • Mayo Clinic: “Urine Drug Screening: Practical Guide for Clinicians.”
  • National Center for Biotechnology Information: “Investigation of interference by nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in urine tests for abused drugs,” “False positive urine drug screens from quinine in tonic water,” “Cardiac Complications of Unwitting Co-injection of Quinine/Quinidine with Heroin in an Intravenous Drug User,” “The dextromethorphan defense: dextromethorphan and the opioid screen,” “A positive cannabinoids workplace drug test following the ingestion of commercially available hemp seed oil,” “Efavirenz use may cause false positive result for marijuana,” “Urine opiate screening: false-positive result with levofloxacin,” “An Overview of Clinical Pharmacology of Ibuprofen.”
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens: “What is Hemp?”
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse: “Misuse of Prescription Drugs,” “Benzodiazepines and Opioids.”
  • Operation Supplement Safety: “Weight-Loss Prescription Drugs: Phentermine.”
  • Pharmacokinetics in Psychiatry and Neurology: “Urine drug screens: Considerations for the psychiatric pharmacist.”
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: “Clinical Drug Testing in Primary Care,” “Methadone.”
  • The Brookings Institution: “The Farm Bill, hemp legalization and the status of CBD: An explainer.”
  • U.S. National Library of Medicine: “Drug Testing,” “Quinine,” “Diphenhydramine,” “Dextromethorphan,” “Efavirenz,” “Amphetamine,” “Sertraline.”
  • University of Florida: “Germ-killing sanitizers could have effect on alcohol tests.”
  • American Alliance Drug Testing: “SAMSHA Guidelines — Mandatory Federal Workplace Drug Testing Guidelines.”
  • Quest Diagnostics Employer Solutions Blog: “Cannabidiol and drug tests.”

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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the RxList Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

Can These Foods Truly Mess Up a Drug Test?

You’ve probably heard a story of someone who ate a poppy seed bagel and failed a drug test. In fact, you may have even heard stories of people eating food with poppy seeds in them, and then they tested positive for heroin and opioids. But can poppy seeds truly create a false positive on your drug test? Are there certain foods you should stay away from before you get tested at a collection site

Where Did This Belief Begin?

People became concerned about the “poppy seed defense” when Seinfeld did an episode where Elaine failed a drug test after eating a poppy seed muffin. The Discovery Channel show Myth Busters also put this urban legend to the test, and after the hosts ate poppy seed bagels, a urine test did indeed turn up positive.

Just recently in the news, a pipe fitter in his late 50s was suspended from work for nearly three months when he tested positive for morphine. The man only ate breakfast rolls, and it took further drug testing to finally clear his name. As the man told the BBC, “I am a married dad and have two grown-up children. I have never taken drugs. I thought to myself, “I have something in my body that I have no idea where it has come from.’ It was very worrying.”

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Can You Actually Have a False Positive Drug Test From These Foods?

Poppy seeds do indeed contain opiates like morphine and codeine, and although you cannot get high from eating bagels or rolls, you don’t want something as trivial as a muffin to give you a positive drug test result.

As one expert told the BBC, “It is unlikely that a single poppy seed roll, or even a dozen rolls, would resulta in an individual ingesting enough morphine to have a pharmacological effect.”

You may also be surprised to learn that other foods can cause false positives, including pizza and pastries. Apparently, food that contains yeast can create the wrong result on a drug test.”

Some reports also recommend you stay away from fruit and fruit drinks before a drug test because again, “these can ferment and cause enough alcohol for you to test positive.”

How long should you stay away from poppy seeds, pizza and pastries, and fruit drinks before you provide a specimen for a drug test? Experts recommend you stay away from these foods and beverages for three days before getting a drug test.

Contact US Drug Test Centers today for drug testing, help to create your drug-free workplace policy, and more. We have more than 20,000 locations all across the United States, meaning quick and easy drug tests are never more than a few miles away. Order your test today.

Employee Drug Testing: Defending False Positive Allegations

Marijuana and opiate use are rising in the U.S. and so are the complications with drug testing for employers, says Ogletree Deakins employment attorney Michael Clarkson. He lays out pitfalls for employers, including disability and discrimination claims from false positive tests, and how to defend against such claims.

Drug testing is increasingly complicated for employers. Per the Quest Diagnostics drug testing index, the workforce drug testing positivity rate hit its highest rate in 16 years in 2019, with marijuana drug-test positivity showing double-digit increases. Employers are navigating this increase, disability and discrimination issues, as well as state-level job protections for some medical and recreational marijuana use.

Regardless of the complexity posed by these changes, one thing remains the same: People will fail drug tests and sue, claiming that they never used drugs and that the administered drug test was faulty and/or discriminatory.

Often such a suit is brought after an employee or applicant fails one drug test and then passes a second drug test that they secured on their own. This article offers some helpful tips in defending against such claims.

First Steps

First, it is important to establish whether the employee or applicant is claiming that he or she was exposed to drugs in the environment. This is typically a claim of exposure to secondhand smoke, or living with a drug user, but it is also sometimes claimed by a law enforcement officer who interacts with drugs in the course of his or her employment.

Often, the plaintiff in false-positive drug testing cases will specifically disavow any exposure to drugs. That is a helpful fact, because then the presence of any drug in their system—particularly in the second test—is persuasive evidence of intentional illicit drug use.

Second, a second drug test often provides evidence that supports the results from the first drug test, even where the second drug test is legitimately interpreted as negative. Specifically, the second drug test often shows evidence of drugs below, sometimes just below, the laboratory cutoff and/or more than spiked control samples run through the drug testing laboratory process. (Such samples—with known drug levels—are tested to verify that the laboratory process is working correctly.)

In the absence of environmental contamination, there is no legitimate explanation for the presence of drugs in the second drug test, meaning that the second negative result supports the first positive result. As drug-testing laboratory directors love to say, “a negative test result does not necessarily mean that no drug was present in the sample.”

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Where the drug test at issue in the litigation was run as part of a batch of drug tests, a chart showing the cutoff used, the drug levels yielded by the testing of various laboratory control samples, and the results of all the drug tests run in the batch at issue can be a very helpful way of showing why the plaintiff’s second negative drug test is actually a confirmation of the first positive drug test. Typically, the plaintiff’s sample is near the cutoff and/or distinct from the bulk of “no-drug” samples depicted on the chart.

Third, even the absence of finding any drug in the second sample, there are often legitimate reasons why the second sample was negative—reasons that do not call into doubt the scientific validity of the first drug test. The time delay between the first and second drug test is often the explanation for why the sample donor failed the first test and passed the second drug test.

With a time delay, the negative second test ordered by the plaintiff is often merely the result of drugs dissipating out of the donor’s system. This is a particular risk in urine drug testing given the short half-life of drugs found in urine and given the ease with which a sample donor can flush his/her system with water.

Additionally, comparing one drug test modality to another drug test modality (hair to urine, oral fluid to urine, etc.) is typically an apples-to-oranges comparison–particularly because of different “look back” periods.

For example, hair drug testing typically identifies drugs used in the seven to 90 days prior to the test. Urine and oral fluid drug testing typically identify drugs used much more recently, but do not look back nearly as far as hair drug testing.

Even when the same modality is used (urine compared with urine, etc.) different laboratories use different technologies and methodologies in their testing process. The natural and legitimate variation in results caused using different technologies can often explain the “discordant” results between two drug tests.

Claims Another Substance Caused a Positive Result

Finally, employers routinely face claims in litigation that some other substance (prescription drugs and CBD, but also mentholated vapor inhalers and even poppy seed bagels) caused a “false positive” drug testing result.

Fortunately, here employers can rely on their drug testing medical review officer (MRO) to ferret out the legitimacy/illegitimacy of such claims by interviewing the donor, securing copies of prescriptions, evaluating the laboratory results, etc. Know that MROs have the skill and experience to undertake such an analysis; employers should rely on that and not try to make such decisions themselves.

Employers should also be aware that prescription drugs and CBD use often tee up disability discrimination issues that should be managed through an informal interactive dialogue between the employee and HR to discuss reasonable accommodation of an employee’s disability.

Similarly, medical and sometimes even recreational marijuana frequently carry job rights that require an Americans with Disabilities Act-like dialogue. Note that the ADA itself does not provide any protection for medical marijuana since marijuana is still illegal under federal law; the dialogue is required for state ADA analogs like the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, Massachusetts’ Chapter 151B, etc.

Drug testing is an area of rapid change in employment law. All kinds of drug testing-related lawsuits, including “false positive” claims, are being filed in ever-increasing numbers. Even in this brave new world, however, sophisticated employers can defend their drug-free workplace policies and defeat such claims.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. or its owners.

Author Information

Michael K. Clarkson, shareholder in Ogletree Deakins’ Boston office and co-chair of the firm’s Drug Testing Practice Group, works regularly with employers and is a leading voice on critical drug testing issues. He drafts compliant drug testing policies, advises on drug testing issues, and defends employers against “false positive” drug testing claims.