Herbs and Drug Testing

employee drug testing, saliva drug test,oraline saliva“I take golden seal because I believe it helps my digestive track, but am concerned it will show up on my drug test.”

“I take herbs and we all know they are plants, so they must be safe as long as they are not poisonous.”

“I didn’t know that heroin comes from a plant!”

If there is any topic in the illicit drug industry that is confusing and full of misinformation, it is the question of which herbs and plants will show up during a urine or saliva drug test. With many employers conducting regular on-site drug testing, employees become concerned that they will fail a drug test if they are taking herbal supplements or eat certain foodstuffs.

Addressing this issue is complicated because most herbs will not show up on drug tests, but there is a persistent urban legend that some herbs can serve as masking agents. For example, goldenseal is believed to be an adulterant that can cause a false negative result. The truth is that is does not work as an adulterant though goldenseal tea can produce dark urine.

The Australian premier authority on drug use is the Australian Government Sports Anti-Doping Authority. It’s possible to enter the name of a substance on their website to see if it is permitted as medication after meeting certain conditions. Interestingly, this organisation only includes a few substances containing herbs and botanicals.

For example, when you input the term ‘herbs’, you get 4 listings for Harpagophytum procumbens. Click on ‘Harpagophytum procumbens dry extract’ and you get a message that says “ASADA can not advise the status of supplements in sport because they are not comprehensively regulated in Australia. Supplements can cause a positive test due to ingredients not being listed on the label, or impurities during manufacturing stage.”1

Harpagophytum procumbens is a member of the sesame family and is used to relieve fever and pain. Sesame seeds are one of the plants around which much confusion exists. Eating sesame seeds won’t cause a positive drug test. That is just one of the many myths about plants that concern people worried about getting a false positive during employee drug testing.

There are plants and plant based products though that can cause false positives if the drug testing laboratory is not using state-of-the-art equipment and procedures. For example, eating poppy seeds in food items has the potential of making a worker test positive. The way to avoid this from happening is to insure the immunoassay drug testing levels are not set too low. If the drug testing equipment meets Australian standards, then it will not be set too low and eating foodstuffs with poppy seeds will normally not be a problem.2

However, in laboratories the opium poppy seeds are used to make opiates including morphine. Heroin is synthesised from morphine, and heroin will most certainly be detected during testing.

Other plants play a role in illegal drug production also. The K2 is called ‘fake weed’ and is actually a mix of dried herbs combined with a variety of chemicals.  Cocaine and crack cocaine is a powdered drug made from the coca plant leaves. LSD is synthesised from lysergic acid obtained from a grain fungus that usually grows on rye. Of course there is cannabis (marijuana) which is a flowering plant. Finally there is the psychedelic mushroom called the Psilocybin mushroom.

Plants play a big role in the world of illicit drugs. Separating the illegal from the legal is not always perfectly obvious. That is precisely why it is so important to use a quality laboratory and/or purchase your employee drug testing equipment from an experienced company. For example, a quality test can differentiate between the metabolites from poppy seeds and the metabolites from heroin. Low quality testing equipment may produce false positives which creates a lot of mistrust in the workplace drug testing program.

CMM Technology at http://www.cmm.com.au/ has the proven quality that employers need as reassurance the workplace drug testing program produces accurate results. The professionals are ready to assist in any way possible.


1. Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority. (2011, May). Harpagophytum procumbens dry extract (herbal). Retrieved May 10, 2011, from Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority: https://checksubstances.asada.gov.au/details.aspx?prodid=&subid=2629&resultid=5691279B-2BDD-4BBE-BA22-45C71909BEE3

2. The Privacy Committee of New South Wales. (1992, October). Drug Testing in the Workplace. Retrieved February 25, 2011, from NSW Government Lawlink Justice & Attorney General: www.lawlink.nsw.gov.au/…/drug%20testing%20complete…/drug%20testing%20complete.doc

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