A Homebrewed High? Poppy Tea Hits the Web

Tom says the findings were a shock. "It is really amazing to me that one of the most controlled substances out there -- morphine -- is in a way readily available to kids in bulk form at the supermarket," he says.

A Rare Concoction?

Tom says that even though he receives a number of e-mails from those who say they have suffered ill effects from the drink, he has not yet heard of any other cases of fatalities from the consumption of poppy seed tea. ABC News was also unable to discover additional cases.

The dearth of confirmed reports on similar cases of abuse seems to quell notions of the widespread abuse of such a drink. As for the most recent reports on the shoplifting of poppy seeds, the Cedar Rapids Police Department says they have not received any reports of poppy seed tea abuse or overdoses.

Drug abuse experts say they are unfamiliar with the practice of brewing and drinking poppy seed tea.

"Nonmedical use/abuse of prescription medications, including opiates -- for example, Oxycontin and Vicodin -- has been increasing among adolescents. I have not heard of a new 'trend' for children /adolescents trying to get high from excessive ingestion of poppy seeds," says Dr. Paula Riggs, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado at Denver.

Paul Doering, co-director of the Drug Information and Pharmacy Resource Center at the University of Florida's Shands Medical Center in Gainesville, says he is skeptical about the purported potency of poppy seed tea.

"There is reason to think that poppy seeds have some morphine content, but there would not be enough in my opinion to create a tea that would cause any real effects such as this," he says.

However, other pharmacology experts say they are well aware of the concoction, and that its effects have been documented in the scientific literature.

"The process does work," says Scott Lukas, director of the Behavioral Psychopharmacology Research Laboratory at McLean Hospital and professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

Lukas cites a scientific paper published in March of last year by researchers in New Zealand who studied a group of opiate-dependent people who maintain their dependence mostly by drinking this type of tea.

"There are many other reports of poppy tea use and abuse," he says. "The effects come on in about 15 to 20 minutes, and the effects last about 24 hours."

But he adds that there are several reasons why the abuse of poppy seeds in this manner has not yet become more widespread.

"The stuff has a very bitter and foul taste, and so may not be popular for that reason," he says. "Also, other opiates like prescription painkillers, and even heroin, are cheap these days."

Temptation in a Teacup

Internet accounts about the tea are abundant, however. The reports -- and even recipes -- scattered throughout the Internet seem to bear testament to the fact that at least some people are chasing a high from poppy seed tea.

Doering says that the practice of making poppy seed tea to get high likely arises from the notion that consuming poppy seeds can lead to a positive urine test for heroin. Indeed, some -- but not all -- poppy seeds come from the same type of poppy that yields opium.

And in recent years, lawyers in cases in which a person has recorded a positive heroin test have successfully defended their clients in court by alleging that they unwittingly consumed poppy seeds before the test.

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