A Homebrewed High? Poppy Tea Hits the Web

Lukas says a concentrated dose of the trace amount of opiates extracted from the seeds has been shown to result in enough of a hit to result in a high.

"The key here is large quantity of the raw material," he says. "This is because the concentration of opiates is so tiny in the seed that they have to use a few pounds to make enough active opiates to consume."

Improvised Opiates

Regardless of whether all of the various poppy seed tea recipes offered on sites across the Internet actually yield a potent, morphine-laden drink, there has rarely been a class of drugs as used or abused as that derived from opium.

Doering says the term "opiate" refers to the natural drugs that are directly derived from the opium plant -- namely morphine and codeine. Opioids, on the other hand, are a chemically tweaked version of these chemicals. Oxycontin, Vicodin and methadone are all examples of opioids.

But considering that all these potentially useful chemicals come from the same plant that yields opium and heroin, it should come as little surprise that these drugs are as widely known for their addictive potential as they are for their benefits.

According to statistics from the National Institutes of Health, about 9 percent of the general population is believed to misuse opiates or opioids at some point, whether through the use of illegal drugs such as heroin or through the recreational abuse of prescribed pain medications such as Oxycontin.

Dangerous Experimentation

Prescription painkillers aside, the idea of an improvised source of opiates could be frightening to many parents -- particularly considering the online availability of the recipes.

Even the poppyseed.com Web site carries a recipe for the concoction that Tom says killed his son. Tom says that he posted this recipe to let parents know what to look for if their children are brewing or drinking poppy seed tea. He says it turned out to be a controversial move, and he has received at least one e-mail attacking the site for helping to provide information to those who might follow a similar path.

But he says that he has also received several e-mails from others thanking him for the warnings on the drink.

"If we had seen something like this posted at the time, it would have saved our son's life," Tom says. "Of course, I'd rather not have all of this information out on the Internet, but it's out there and the kids know about it."

And Lukas says it is important for young people to be warned of all of the potential dangers of such experimentation.

"This process is not to be taken lightly, because while the little poppy seed that is in the grocery is perfectly harmless when used in moderation, such as adorning a bagel or in a muffin, once you start to mess with Mother Nature and concentrate the seeds, you increase your exposure to all sorts of other chemicals," he says. "Pesticides, heavy metals as well as a host of other chemicals that are way below harmful levels when consumed as directed, are now being consumed in dangerously high concentrations."

Doering adds that when young people experiment with potentially mind-altering substances, they often take into account only the potential for the desired "high" -- and not the possibility of harmful side effects.

"In cemeteries all over the country there are graves that testify that you can't get one without the other," he says. "To the extent that they're going to achieve the desired outcome -- that is, to get high -- this would not be a safe way to do it. If there is enough of a substance to get high, there's enough to get dead.

Reports from ABC affiliate KCRG-TV9 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, contributed to this story.

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