Test tube for tests

Does Kava show up on drug test?

Key Finding:

Recent studies, including one reported in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology, have found that some individuals who consumed kava showed false positives for MDMA in urine tests. This is attributed to the similarity in the chemical structure of kavalactones in kava and MDMA, leading to a misleading result in the test(1).

*Nothing in this article is intended to be medical advice. Consult your doctor for proper recommendations. You may cite sources in this article if your doctor is unfamiliar with kava.

Kava's Cultural Roots and Modern Concerns

Kava, known scientifically as Piper methysticum, is integral to South Pacific cultures. Traditionally used in social ceremonies and religious rituals, it promotes relaxation and well-being. Due to it being a natural remedy for anxiety and stress relief, kava has had a recent surge in popularity in the West.

This rise in popularity has raised concerns about its potential impact on drug testing. This article delves into whether kava can cause a false positive on drug tests. This is a question increasingly discussed on platforms like r/Kava on Reddit.

Understanding Kava:

In the South Pacific islands including Fiji, Vanuatu, and Solomon, kava plays a vital role in social and cultural activities. Known for its soothing effects, it facilitates communal bonding and offers therapeutic benefits. Kava's roots contain active compounds known as kavalactones. They are responsible for its calming effects.

Traditionally, people grind the roots of the kava plant into a powder and mix it with water. This creates a distinctive, earthy beverage shared at social gatherings. In Western countries, kava has diverse forms such as capsules and teas. This caters to a broader audience of people seeking natural stress relief solutions.

Kava Plant

Kava and Drug Testing:

Drug tests use various methods, each with unique detection windows and sensitivities. Urine tests are the most common because of their non-invasive nature. Blood tests analyze substances in the body with greater detail compared to other methods.

Saliva tests are ideal for detecting recent drug use, and hair tests offer a longer detection window. Typically, standard drug testing panels do not include kava or kavalactones. It is important to note that the duration that kava stays in a person's system can vary.

Kava's effects can last from a few hours to a day, but its compounds might be detectable for longer. This duration can be an important consideration for those undergoing drug testing.

Urine Tests: Urine tests can detect a range of substances, including illegal drugs and certain prescription medications. Their non-invasive nature and relatively long detection window make them a favored choice.

Blood Tests: Less common in routine screenings, blood tests offer a high level of accuracy. They are used when detailed information about a specific substance's amount in the body is needed.

Saliva Tests: Often used in workplace settings, these tests are ideal for detecting recent drug use. This is due to their shorter detection window compared to urine tests.

Hair Tests: With the longest detection window, hair follicle tests can reveal drug use over several months but are less common and more expensive.

Incidents of False Positives:

Reports have noted instances where kava consumption, especially in "dip" style urine tests, causes false positives. Its kavalactones can mimic other substances, leading to these erroneous results. A study found that some people who drank kava showed a false positive for MDMA in a urine test. This occurred because the chemical structure of kavalactones shared similarities with MDMA, misleading the test(1).

Such instances are more likely when using certain drug tests that are less sophisticated. They cannot distinguish between similar chemical structures. This specificity problem in "dip" style urine tests can lead to false identifications as seen in the case of kava and MDMA. 

It is advised that regular kava users be aware of this potential. This is especially so when undergoing drug testing in environments that use less comprehensive testing methods.

Implications and Precautions:

Regular kava users undergoing drug tests should be aware of and communicate their kava use to testing authorities. This helps ensure accurate test interpretation and the application of more precise testing methods if needed.


Fijian Waters



  • 1. Madhavaram H, Patel T, Kyle C. Kavain Interference with Amphetamine Immunoassay. J Anal Toxicol. 2020 Dec 16:bkaa178. doi: 10.1093/jat/bkaa178. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33326560.
  • https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33326560/

  • 2. Ferreira JV, Braga AV, Machado RR, Michel D, Pianetti GA, El-Aneed A, César IC. Liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry bioanalytical method for the determination of kavain in mice plasma: Application to a pharmacokinetic study. J Chromatogr B Analyt Technol Biomed Life Sci. 2020 Jan 15;1137:121939. doi: 10.1016/j.jchromb.2019.121939. Epub 2019 Dec 13. PMID: 31877429.
  • https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31877429/

  • 3. H Madhavaram, T Patel, C Kyle, Kavain Interference with Amphetamine Immunoassay, Journal of Analytical Toxicology, Volume 46, Issue 2, March 2022, Pages 211–215,  
  • https://doi.org/10.1093/jat/bkaa178

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