Beating the poppy seed defense: New test can distinguish heroin use from seed ingestion

Heroin is one of the most widely used illegal drugs in the world, but drug testing has long been challenged by the difficulty in separating results of illicit heroin users from those who have innocently eaten poppy seeds containing a natural opiate. Research in Drug Testing and Analysis explores a new test which may present a solution to this so-called 'poppy seed defense.'

The team sought to identify an acetylated derivative which is known to be present in street heroin, but would not be found in either poppy seeds or medicines containing opiates. The authors identified a unique glucuronide metabolite (designated 'ATM4G') which could be used as a marker of street heroin use. A high frequency for the presence of ATM4G in urine strongly suggests that detection of this metabolite may offer an important advance in workplace and forensic toxicology, providing a potential solution to the poppy seed defense.

'This research report addresses a longstanding analytical problem in forensic toxicology and workplace drug testing, by identifying a urinary marker that differentiates street heroin users from those whom have ingested morphine present in poppy seeds,' said Dr Andrew Kicman, from the Department of Forensic and Analytical Science at King's College, London.

More information: P. Chen, R. A. Braithwaite, C. George, P. J. Hylands, M. C. Parkin, N. W. Smith and A. T. Kicman, 'The poppy seed defense: a novel solution', Drug Testing and Analysis, DOI: 10.1002/dta.1590

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Seeking new methods to treat heroin addiction

Sep 26, 2013

"Heroin itself is an inactive substance," explains Jørg Mørland, Norwegian forensic medicine and toxicology researcher. "The substances that heroin forms in the body are mainly what enter the brain and cause the narcotic ...

Heroin availability increasing across Washington state

Jun 12, 2013

New data from the University of Washington's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute indicates increases in heroin availability, abuse and deaths across the state, particularly among young adults ages 18-29. These increases are ...

Recommended for you

Study confirms breast cancer link to low alcohol use

Sep 26, 2014

A newly published study from the University of Victoria's Centre for Addictions Research of BC (CARBC) confirms that moderate drinkers have an increased risk of breast cancer. The study shows that consuming an average of ...

Not all Hispanics are the same when it comes to drinking

Sep 25, 2014

Hispanics are often grouped into a single category when it comes to alcohol use. Yet a new Michigan State University study indicates that the risk of alcohol abuse and dependence can vary significantly among different subgroups ...

Researchers find NAS treatment needs standardization

Sep 25, 2014

When it comes to treating infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) believe the care for these infants should be consistent and objective, with standardized ...

User comments