Beware! A home-brewing technique used to extract morphine from unwashed poppy seeds can produce life-threatening effects, warns a new study.
Study author Madeleine Swortwood from Sam Houston State University in Texas, U.S.A. investigated the issue after being contacted by the father of a 21-year-old man, who died after ingesting home-brewed poppy seed tea.
It is one of many deaths and overdoses in morgues and emergency rooms that have been suspected from the home-brewed drug.
The team tested 22 samples of bulk poppy seeds purchased legally on the internet, using four home-brewing methods found on drug users' forums.
The study traced three main components of the drug - including morphine, codeine and thebaine.
They found that these techniques could produce lethal levels of morphine based on moderate use.
While thebaine is not an addictive component, it was included in testing because it is valuable in identifying the poppy seeds as the source of morphine in order to rule out heroin use.
"Although some bulk poppy seeds can be more lethal than others due to the variation in morphine concentrations both between vendors and between harvest dates, it should be noted that regardless of the sample, it is possible to obtain lethal doses of morphine from poppy seed tea, if moderate volumes of tea are consumed," Swortwood said.
Processed poppy seeds are generally used in baking, such as in a poppy seed bun, which poses no threat to consumers. However, the high concentration of morphine contained in unwashed poppy seeds and extracted through home-brew methods may pose a danger of overdose or death.
The study will bring knowledge to law enforcement and the federal community.
Unwashed poppy seeds are easily accessible. This is a new illicit way of obtaining high levels of morphine, the researchers noted.
The results are published in the Journal of Forensic Science.