Hi there. This is Sean Mangan. I’m a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel and former military judge. I’m now in private practice with the Law Office of Jocelyn Stewart, and sharing a little bit of legal information that might be interesting to you if you like bagels. So there’s long been held sort of a urban legend that there is some sort of opioid drug inside poppy seeds that show up on poppy seed bagels, and that will cause you to return a positive result on a urinalysis drug test. And the answer to that question is there’s actually some truth to that. But what’s really interesting is that on the 7th of February, 2023, the Department of Defense took the added step of announcing that it was concerned about that and is halting for at least temporarily drug testing related to codeine. So what has it got to do with poppy seeds and what’s that all about?
So some basics. First of all, poppy seeds come from the opium poppy plant. Now opium, if you recognize the word linked to the opioid crisis, is also the source of a couple of other things like some productive drugs called codeine and morphine and some really destructive drugs called heroin. And here’s the trick. There actually is no chemical drug substance inside poppy seeds, the cells. But if you were to blow up a poppy seed in a microscope, you would see that it looks essentially like a raisin with sort of a hex pattern like honeycombs. And it’s bumpy and it has spots in there. And the stuff that actually is used to make codeine and morphine or heroine is what’s called the latex of the poppy. That’s the goo that comes out of the poppy plant. And what happens is, is that in the processing of poppy seeds, there’s possibility of little bits of that latex getting stuck to the exterior of the seat.
So why would we allow, or why does America allow those seeds to be put on food at all? Well, it all comes down to some FDA regulations which talk about whether something is an original substance inherently bad and therefore banned like heroin and the, and the latex from the poppy plant or something that has an added foreign substance on it. So it’s sort of not the fault of the seed. And as far as the rules and laws are concerned, those delicious little poppy seeds, which you can find in poppy seed muffins or on poppy seed bagels are considered to be not inherently bad. But they are sometimes violated by the added substance of the latex, which actually is from the exact same plant that the seeds are from. So here’s what’s happened in the past. There’s a ratio of the substances that are found stuck to seeds that generally allow drug testing to sort out whether someone is fibbing or not. If they say, oh, I tested positive for codeine because I was eating a poppy seed muffin or a poppy seed bagel. It all has to do with ratios. Usually there’s a two to one ratio when it comes to morphine and codeine. And if you do the result on a test, they can look at it and say, this is consistent with what we see on the gunk that gets stuck on these seats.
And so therefore it makes sense that you may have accidentally, inadvertently gotten some poppy seed that’s contaminated and therefore you get a positive result. It’s a false positive, in other words, not because you abuse codeine without a prescription. Unfortunately, the data that’s been studied is wrong. It turns out that there is no magic ratio that automatically lets a drug testing laboratory say that one is from deliberate misuse of codeine and that one’s from eating a poppy seed bagel. There have been a lot of results recently where people have popping hot in military drug tests for codeine, which is a controlled substance, and usually you can have it only with a valid prescription. And instead it is showing up as positive results. And these people are saying, but I never used codeine.
I never used drugs. And then upon some interviewing and some checking, we find out that they may have had a bagel or a muffin. And of course the commands in the past have looked at their drug test results and said, no, the ratio’s not right. You’re fibbing, you’re lying. So we’re going to prosecute you. We’re going to give you an Article 15, we’re going to chapter you out. So what happens to someone in the military when they do come up hot for codeine? Well, it depends on your service. Some services are very harsh and will prosecute drug cases – look at you Air Force. Other services are more lenient and tend to deal with it sometimes as rehabilitative nature and issue Article 15 punishment or sometimes no punishment at all, go Army. But the reality is, is that by DOD standard, all the services are required to initiate the administrative separation process for a hot illegal urinalysis drug result.
And that can include codeine if you don’t have a prescription for codeine. We have a client with our firm who’s going through this right now, not a drug user pop hot for codeine, didn’t know why, and the command was ready to take adverse action against him. Now, before this lab introduction came out, we had taken steps to prove to the command through independent testing and affidavits and stuff. They also said this guy’s not a drug user, but it is certainly nice to see that the Department of Defense has also figured this out. So in a memorandum that was sent out to the services from the centralized Department of Defense drug Testing Lab, they realize now that there’s some studies that show that it’s very possible for you to return a positive test result for codeine without breaking the law. And without having a codeine prescription and without taking codeine at all simply because you’ve ingested poppy seeds. So what does this mean for you? If you are someone who has recently had a positive test result for codeine and you need to take a look at, and whether you’ve had adverse action or not doing something about it, it may be that you wrongfully were discharged from the military or that you received some sort of adverse action, and that’s not your fault. So I would encourage you to contact qualified military counsel. We do free consultations here at the Law Office of Jocelyn Stewart. You can check us out at www.ucmj-defender.com
And we can help you out maybe solve your problem. But the important thing to remember is it also helps to be smart. I would advise everyone in the short term to just simply avoid eating anything with a poppy seed on it because it’s a contamination. And by the way, this is not a long-term thing. This is a recent problem as just when we have salmonella outbreaks or we have other issues with food, and you hear about hundreds of thousands of gallons of orange juice or tons of meat that need to be thrown out, it appears that some distributor or importer of poppy seeds may have had a bad batch come through. And obviously that’s a thing that because of our massive distribution system nationwide in the US can mean that those products are shipped everywhere and could be consumed by everybody including you. So if you’ve had a positive test result for codeine and you’re not a codeine user and you have some concerns about what’s happened to you, highly encourage you to contact qualified counsel and see what we can do to help you out. Thanks
Sean Mangan is a UCMJ court-martial attorney who specializes in defense of allegations of sexual assault for all branches of the military worldwide.
Contact the Law Office of Jocelyn C. Stewart at 253-212-958
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