Thilo Beck at WEF Roundtable - A Roadmap to Sustainable Health and Better Well-being in the Workforce and Society

Goals House Roundtable, World Economic Forum, Davos – Thilo Beck

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Dangers of Home-Brewed Poppy Seed Tea

Delicious and completely safe in small quantities, poppy seeds add a unique flavor and a bit of crunchiness to baked goods and certain ethnic foods.

The opium content of poppy seeds is reduced when the seeds are baked or processed in hot water. However, it’s a different story when unwashed or unprocessed poppy seeds are used to brew tea with an aim towards getting high.

Although poppy seed tea may sound innocuous, drinking the tea can have fatal consequences for people who drink it for its narcotic or hallucinogenic effects, or to relieve anxiety or sleep problems.

Directions for making poppy seed teas are easy to find via a simple Internet search. As for the seeds, they are legal to purchase at any supermarket in the United States and are available online in bulk quantities, although using the seeds to grow opium poppies is illegal.

About Poppy Seeds

Opium poppies (Papaver somniferum) have been grown for centuries. The seeds aren’t actually used to make opium, but the pods produce a milky sap that finds its way to the surface of the seeds inside.

The seeds contain morphine and codeine, although the amount is low when compared to the high level in the sap. The problem is that the actual level of morphine and codeine in poppy seed tea is impossible to predict. This is what makes home-brewed poppy seed tea so dangerous.

According to A Health Educator’s Guide to Understanding Drugs of Abuse, the concentration varies widely among various brands of poppy seeds. Poppy seeds from Australia, for example, can contain 40 times more morphine than seeds from Turkey or the Netherlands.

Potency of poppy seeds also depends on the method of harvest and the type of seed. The concentration may vary from batch to batch, even when sold by the same vendor. Seeds may also be tainted by pesticides and other toxins. There is absolutely no way to determine the potency of seeds purchased online, and no way to predict the risk.

The Dangerous Effects of Poppy Seed Tea

The narcotic effects begin about 30 minutes after drinking poppy seed tea, and can last as long as 12 hours. Common side effects may include:

  • Difficulty urinating
  • Dry mouth
  • Severe dehydration
  • Nausea and stomach pain
  • Drowsiness and lethargy
  • Physical dependence
  • Respiratory difficulties
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Death from overdose

Like all drugs, individual tolerance varies and can build with long-term use. There is also a danger of withdrawal when the drug is stopped abruptly.

Never mix poppy seed tea with benzodiazepines such as Valium or Xanax as the combination of benzos and opiates can slow breathing and heart rate to dangerous levels. The same is true when opiates are combined with alcohol.

Seeking Treatment for Opioid Dependence

If you’ve been abusing opioid drugs, or you think you may be addicted to opiates, seek drug and alcohol treatment or rehab as soon as possible.

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