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Poppy tea is a narcotic analgesic tea which is brewed from the dried parts of the Papaver somniferum plant. It has been consumed for its psychoactive effects for as long as the poppy has been cultivated. It is depicted both in Asian literature and Western literature, such as in opium dens. In some places, preparation of tea may be preferred to opium as the latex of the plant (itself the primary component of opium) is illegal. In the Netherlands, all parts of the Papaver Somniferum after harvesting(except for the seeds) are illegal by law, as they are List I drugs of the Opium Law. Because of use for decorative purposes, the trade in, and possession of dried Papaver Somniferum is not actively prosecuted. Trade in, or possession of dried Papaper Somniferum with the intention of drug use can be prosecuted, although this is very unlikely. For this reason, it's an alternative to pharmaceutical opioids, which are highly regulated in the Netherlands, while dried Papaver Somniferum is easily obtainable as it's commonly available for decorative use. In the United States it is legal to purchase poppy seeds, dried pods, and in some cases to grow the Papaver somniferum variety of poppies, but intentionally using a legal purchase (such as seeds) to concentrate any usable opioid product is illegal.
Poppy tea contains two groups of alkaloids: phenanthrenes (including morphine and codeine) and benzylisoquinolines (including papaverine). Of these, morphine is the most prevalent comprising 8%-14% of the total. Its effects derive from the fact that it binds to and activates mu opioid receptors in the brain, spinal cord, stomach and intestine.
Preparation and consumption
The tea may be prepared from either the seed pods or the seeds themselves. Dried poppy pods are first crushed up into a fine straw like substance for efficient extraction. When reduced to small pieces they form poppy straw, which is steeped in hot water that has been slightly acidified with vinegar or citric acid. After steeping for a few minutes, the mixture is strained and the brown liquid is set aside for consumption.
When the tea is drunk, its effects begin after about 30 minutes, lasting up to 8 hours. It is intensely bitter and some users add other flavorings to the tea. Grapefruit juice may also inhibit liver enzyme activation, thus increasing the strength and duration of the opiate effects.
The tea is also sometimes evaporated over a very low heat to make a thick, concentrated liquid or a dry powder, and some users put this material into gel caps to allow for dosage to be measured more carefully.
Although oral administration is the most common, dried poppy tea can also be snorted or smoked. However, many users report unpleasant side effects from these methods because of the non-active and potentially irritating substances which are present in addition to the alkaloids. Dried poppy tea is not the same as opium, as the former is made from the whole plant while the latter is made from exuded latex alone. Some users bypass the tea stage and simply add poppy straw to a food such as yogurt. This method partially masks the taste but may lead to more gastric discomfort than consuming tea or dried tea.
The pods may also be used in the green (undried) state to make tea. It has often been written that the tea may only be procured from the dried pods. This is not an accurate statement, as the green pods are as viable for the production of an excellent tea as much as the dried pods. The advantage of dried pods is more crucial in the production of large quantities of pure opium from whole pods. This is due to the fact that it is easier to grind the dried pods into a smaller mass that is easier to work with in a large scale production. In contrast, the green pods tend to "gum up" and, thus, are not easily reduced into the small particles attained by grinding dried pods into a powder from which one may extract the maximum amount of the active alkaloids per pod.
To make a tea from the green pods all that is necessary is a blender, hot water, stove and sauce pan. It is crucial to blend the green pods into a fine mash in the blender, so that the maximum amount of alkaloids can be extracted. Then the mash should be heated over medium heat with three pods for every 8 oz. of water. This proportion may vary in relation to the strength of the poppy pods or an individuals tolerance to the drug, but is effective in most cases. Never allow the mash to boil, as this may destroy the alkaloids necessary to make a potent tea. Lastly, mix the heated mash with lemon and honey and steep for 15 minutes. The resulting beverage will yield immense pleasure and/or pain relief.
Effects vary widely depending on dosage (amount of poppy straw used, alkaloid content of poppies and the quality of extraction), on individual sensitivity and on any opiate tolerance which has built up. In varying degrees, the tea's contents are the base from which all opiates (natural, semi-synthetic & synthetic) are derived from. The user can expect a warming sensation of the skin and body during onset. Since many of the opioid receptors are located in the spinal chord (CNC) as well as in the the digestional tract, the user describes the ability tofeel the intestinal tract with the sensation of lightness, and pleasure. An elevated mood change follows, along with a state of extreme euphoria and well being. Pupils tend to constrict, and the face, neck, and outer extremeties flush. Since opioids are known to release histamine, the user becomes itchy, towards the time the liver starts to metabolize the alkaloids.
Side effects and tolerance
Side effects increase with dosage and include sleepiness, mild stomachache, lethargy, itching, slowed breathing and nausea. Nausea can be attributed to the presence of noscapine and is more common in first-time or inexperienced users. At high doses, the side effects are dangerous and can cause death through cessation of breathing or choking on vomit.
As with any opiate, frequent use results in tolerance and dependence. Chemical dependency builds up after one to two weeks of daily usage. Frequent use followed by abrupt abstinence gives rise to withdrawal symptoms including leg and abdominal cramps, vomit, diarrhea, headache, insomnia, cravings and anxiety. Physical symptoms of withdrawal usually fade after 4-10 days but cravings and psychological dependence may continue for longer.
It is relatively easy to overdose with poppy tea as the recreational dose is not greatly below the dose at which side effects become unpleasant or dangerous. Experienced users take a modest initial dose followed by small amounts over an extended period of time in order to titrate up to the desired level.
A case of fatal overdose in 2003 has been reported on a website authored by the victim's parents. The site alleges that a sample of poppy seed tea was sent for laboratory analysis. This victim is reported to have used 3.5 lbs of poppy seeds in his tea preparation as on several previous occasions. The concentration of morphine in the tea was shown to be around 250 μg/ml and the amount of morphine which had been consumed by the individual was around 500 mg. This is about five times the lethal oral dose for an individual without opiate tolerance. ABC News reported on the incident in January 2008.
- Poppy Tea FAQ
- Poppy seed contents include oleamide, a hypnotic amide agent
- Poppy Seed Tea Can Kill
- "Opium Made Easy: One gardener's encounter with the war on drugs" by Michael Pollan in Harper's Magazine, April 1, 1997