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Poppy Seed Bagel Leads to ‘Traumatizing’ Drug Test Result for Expectant Mom

Elaine Benes could get behind this: A new mom is asking a Maryland hospital to revamp its approach to drug tests for expectant moms after her poppy seed bagel breakfast resulted in a false positive for opiates.

“It was traumatizing,” Elizabeth Eden tells WBAL of the saga that began when her doctor alerted her to the result of her drug test while she was in labor. Eden had previously heard that poppy seeds, which come from the opium poppy plant, could cause misleading results.

“I said, ‘Well, can you test me again? And I ate a poppy seed bagel this morning for breakfast,’ and she said, ‘No, you’ve been reported to the state.'”

That meant Eden’s daughter, born April 4, was held at St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson for five days and a case worker had to visit her home.

Increased awareness about false positives means hospitals generally look for opiate levels beyond 2,000 nanograms per millimeter.

Eating one teaspoon of poppy seeds can result in levels of 1,200 nanogram per millimeter, but St. Joseph Medical Center considers a positive test to be above 300 nanograms per millimeter, per Time.

The hospital’s head of obstetrics says raising the limit would let actual drug users slip through undetected.

But, citing a letter in which Eden advises the hospital educate expectant moms about the risks, the doctor adds, “it’s a really good point that people probably should know that if you use poppy seeds before you have a toxicology screen that it could result in a false positive test.” (This mom sued over her poppy seed debacle.)

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4 comments

  • straubdavid9

    I had a security police K9 alert on the oregano in my camping gear back around 1981. Came back to my dorm to find it in disarray …. thought I had been robbed. Called the Security Police and they informed me as to what had happened. I guess leaving a note, or calling me, or my Commander at my work station was out of the question. Oh well ….. life in the military. At least this woman gets some justice ….. hopefully.