Poppy Seeds and Opiate Addiction

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Poppy seeds may seem harmless, but poppy seed tea can be a recipe for disaster. Parents of teenagers must be aware of the potentially dangerous use of the poppy plant and seeds used to brew a tea that causes a high.

Why Are Poppies Popular With Teens?

The poppy plant, more specifically the opium poppy or Papaver somniferum, is used to produce opiates. Opiates have been used successfully to control pain, but they are also abused because of their mind-altering effects.

The opiates that come from the poppy plant include morphine, opium, heroin, and codeine.

After they enter the body, opiates stimulate their receptors in the brain. When the opiate receptors are activated, it causes a rush of pleasure and then hours of feeling content, relaxed or “high.”

Some of these receptors are in the “reward center” of the brain. The brain starts to want to repeat the positive stimulation and this can lead to addiction.

The opiates not only cause pain relief and a sense of euphoria.

  • Opiates can cause drowsiness and constipation.
  • Opiates can also cause a depression of the respiratory system, meaning that the drive to breathe lessens.
  • Too much of an opiate can cause respiratory arrest and death because of this one mechanism of action alone.

How Poppy Tea Is Made

Poppy pods, straw (the pods and stems) and/or seeds are used to create a poppy tea which gives an opioid high. The dried pods or straw are ground into a powder and steeped in water. This is a popular way to extract the opioids from the poppy and make a tea.

How Potent Are Poppy Seeds?

While poppy seeds used in food preparation are washed, which removes up to 90 percent of the opioids, the seeds, stems, and pods sold to make poppy seed tea are unwashed. Poppy seeds are not created equal, and everyone processes them differently. Poppy seeds can vary in their concentrations of codeine and morphine, meaning that the strength of the tea made by one crop of seed can be quite different if it is made from another crop of seed.

Additionally, how one person metabolizes the poppy seed is not how someone else will metabolize the same seed. One study gave poppy seeds to volunteers and there was a big variation in how much codeine and morphine were excreted in their urine.

The Dangers of Poppy Seed Tea

Opioids are dangerous. They are highly addictive and addiction has destroyed many lives. Additionally, suppressing of the respiratory system that opioids can cause may lead to death by respiratory arrest after an overdose of the drug.

A study has shown it is possible to create a lethal dose of morphine in poppy seed tea brewed at home. Because it is almost impossible to tell what the concentration of the active drugs might be in any one crop of poppy pods or poppy seeds, it is impossible to “control” the drug enough to avoid overdose.

Poppy tea can be addictive and deadly. There have been a number of documented cases of death from the use of poppy tea.

Poppy Seeds and Drug Tests

Eating poppy seeds have, in fact, caused individuals to fail urine drug screenings. In the past, even modest amounts of poppy seeds have caused people to test positive for morphine, one of the opioids that are contained in the poppy.

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), who sets the cutoff values for drug testing, has addressed this issue. DHHS increased the threshold for detecting opiate metabolites in urine to help prevent these false positives, so you or your teen can safely enjoy a poppy seed bagel.

What Parents Can Do to Help

As awareness increases about poppy seed tea, we will learn more about its use and its dangers.

If your teen is brewing tea with poppy seeds, it is not a fad, but a dangerous practice that could kill. Seek help from your pediatrician, a counselor or your local drug and alcohol treatment center if you suspect your teen is using this or any other drug.

Teen drug use is difficult for parents to address on their own, so don't hesitate to get help from those who have experience with the issue.

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Article Sources
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