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  • Can Poppy Seeds Cause a Positive Drug Test?

    It has long been speculated that ingestion of legally purchased foods containing poppy seeds could result in a positive urinalysis for morphine or codeine. In 2023, the Department of Defense finally confirmed these suspicions and suspended reporting of codeine results on all urinalyses processed by the DoD.

    MJA understands the significant adverse consequences that service members can face due to a positive urinalysis and that innocent ingestions do occur. MJA has fought and won drug abuse cases for service members throughout the world. Contact one of our military defense lawyers today to learn more.

    Article 112a, UCMJ (Drug Abuse)

    Article 112a, UCMJ, criminalizes the wrongful use, possession, manufacture, distribution, importation into and exportation from the United States, and introduction into a military installation, vessel, vehicle, or aircraft under the control of the armed forces.

    To be guilty of violating Article 112a for drug use, the Government must prove two elements:

    • That the service member used a controlled substance; and
    • The service member’s use was wrongful.

    The second element is particularly important. Service members who unknowingly or innocently ingest a controlled substance do not have the mens rea (i.e. criminal intent) to violate the law and are therefore not guilty of “wrongful” drug abuse. This would certainly be the case for service members who innocently ingest a legally purchased food product containing poppy seeds.

    Poppy Seed Products Can Cause a Positive Urinalysis

    In February 2023, the DoD’s Office of Drug Demand Reduction (ODDR) determined that ingestion of certain legally purchased foods could result in a positive urinalysis for codeine.

    While poppy seeds themselves do not produce opiates, the poppy seeds can be contaminated during harvest with morphine and codeine. This is particularly troublesome given that certain varieties of poppy seeds are now believed to have concentrations of codeine than previously reported.

    DoD drug testing traditionally excluded poppy seed consumption as a legitimate explanation for a positive urinalysis if the service member’s sample contained concentration of both codeine and morphine together. However, a recent scientific study suggests that ingestion of certain types of poppy seeds can result in a positive urinalysis for codeine only—a result that the DoD previously would have considered wrongful drug use and not the result of an innocent ingestion.

    In light of these findings, the ODDR temporarily suspended reporting of codeine results on all urinalyses processed at Department of Defense Forensic Toxicology Drug Testing Laboratories and suspended the destruction of urine specimens previously reported as a codeine positive. The DoD also released a memo warning service members to avoid consuming poppy seed products.

    Previously Discharged Service members

    Service members with a previously reported positive urinalysis for codeine, consistent with poppy seed ingestion, are supposed to be identified and contacted by their respective military branch. According to recent guidance, the services have been directed to take “appropriate remedial actions” in those cases—whatever that means.

    Service members who do not want to wait around, however, can always petition their Discharge Review Board or Board for Correction of Military/Naval Records for a discharge upgrade or other potential relief.

    Protect Your Freedom and Military Career

    When your career, freedom, and future are on the line, you need an experienced law firm in your corner. The skilled and assertive attorneys at Military Justice Attorneys will zealously fight for you. We have defended service members facing investigation, trial, and discipline for the most serious offenses under the UCMJ, including drug offenses. Call us today at (843) 473-3665 for a free consultation.


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