Jamie Silakowski stopped for something to eat on the way to the hospital. It was a decision that would haunt her for weeks.
As WROC reports, the mom from Depew, New York was on her way to the delivery of her third child. Hunter was her rainbow baby, and between the fear of complications and the stress of a pregnancy after a miscarriage, Jamie was excited to greet her son.
On the way to Mercy Hospital in Buffalo, the mom went to a Tim Horton’s and got a slice of lemon poppy seed bread. She then went on to the hospital.
The delivery went well, and Jamie was enjoying the first hours with her new baby. But the next day, a doctor arrived with troubling news. Jamie had failed her drug test. She told WROC:
“A doctor came into my room, that was the first time a doctor had come to my room and said, ‘Just so you know, you failed your drug test, is there anything you took?'”
The mom remembered eating the poppy seed bread and told the doctor about it, but he appeared to believe it was a myth that poppy seeds could cause a false positive on a drug test.
“[I told the doctor] I did have a lemon poppy seed bread, just throwing that out there,” Jamie recalled. “And he laughed and said, ‘That’s from Seinfeld, that can’t be.’ And I said, ‘That’s where I heard it, that’s why I’m just bringing it up.'”
Though the doctor might have thought it was just a joke, there are multiple cases of poppy seeds causing positive drug tests. Just last year, a Maryland mother had her newborn taken away for several days after a poppy seed bagel caused her to test positive for opiates.
According to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), the organization that runs the anti-doping program from U.S. Olympians, traces of opium can remain on poppy seeds after harvesting and processing. About 90 percent of the opium is removed, but how much is left can depend greatly on the source of the seeds.
While there isn’t enough opium remaining to feel an effect, there can be enough to spark a positive test result, especially if the levels for the test are very low. Poppy seeds from pastries have resulted in positive tests for morphine and codeine up to 48 hours after consumption. The USADA recommends athletes avoid eating poppy seeds during competitions and for several days prior.
Though the hospital could have used Hunter’s negative drug test results as evidence of an error in Jamie’s test, they chose not to. Nor did they give Jamie a chance to prove it was a false positive. She told WROC:
“I didn’t know what to do. I had nowhere to turn. I didn’t know what questions to ask. I offered to retake the drug test, I asked if I could do another urine sample, a blood test, a hair sample and they said no.”
Instead, the hospital reported the mom to Child Protective Services (CPS). The agency launched an investigation of Jamie and her family. They conducted home visits and went to the school to talk to Jamie’s daughters.
Hoping to allay the concerns of the investigators, Jamie even paid for drug testing and counseling classes.
“Honest to God, it was like a nightmare, I didn’t know where it was going to end,” she told WROC. “It just turned my life upside down for eight weeks when I should have been enjoying the time with my rainbow baby and it’s not fair.”
Finally, after eight weeks, CPS concluded that the suspicions of Jamie’s drug use were unfounded.
Both the agency and Mercy Hospital declined to comment on Jamie’s case.
Though the drug test forms say that Jamie’s test was only for medical — not legal or employment — purposes, the hospital defended the decision to call CPS. In a statement, Mercy hospital pointed to policies and procedures that enable them to make a report to authorities, “where vulnerable patients may be at risk.”
Jamie understands CPS and the hospital were acting out of caution but wishes more people knew about the risk that comes with poppy seeds. She told WROC:
“I understand for protection of babies, you have to be careful and do these tests, but people need to be educated that this can happen and it can rock your world. I think I’m lucky that it was only eight weeks to be honest with you, but it was a long eight weeks.”