TV: Teen dies from drinking poppy tea


by By Shern-Min Chow and Janet St. James

Posted on October 8, 2009 at 8:11 AM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 21 at 4:07 PM

DALLAS -- Chamomile, Earl Grey and green varieties are some of the more popular teas. However, there is now a warning about another type of tea that could be toxic.

11 News Video
Teen dies from drinking poppy tea
October 7, 2009

On July 28, Frances Young's son, Cory, died. The cause of death was listed as "morphine intoxication."

"He knew what was safe and what was not safe, but he underestimated the tea," she said.

Police found no sign of morphine, but they did discover something that caught their interest.

"They found the bottle of tea and poppy seeds and poppy pods," Young said. "At the time they were removed, the police weren't really sure what it was."

What police found was the makings for an all-natural and perfectly legal poppy seed tea. Like a growing number of young people, Cory had started steeping the seeds into what appeared to be a "natural herbal tea."

But, the poppy plant is used to make opium. Cory was concocting a homebrewed high.

Self professed drug users on lower Montrose in Houston say the tea creates hallucinations and a feeling of relaxation. Its side effects include constipation, contracted pupils and depressed breathing that can be fatal.

"He was drinking the tea because he knew it would get him high," Young said.

She is now talking about the tea so parents can become aware of what would otherwise be a harmless ingredient that can take a fatal turn.

Poppy pods can be bought in hobby stores or online for crafting projects. Seeds are available at nearly every grocery store and are relatively cheap. They cost about $7.00 a pound.

U of H Pharmacist Dr. Leslie Simpson has seen some of the poppy seed autopsy reports.

"(The victims) have about five times the lethal dose. To get that they have to have about three and a half pounds of drugs and to do that they'd have to steep it in a tea, getting that concentrated formula," said Simpson.?

Poppy seeds contain mostly morphine and codeine, while the stem has more opium.? As with any herbs, potency varies tremendously.

"(It depends on) when it's cultivated, when it's harvested, how much rain there is, what part of the field you picked it from and where you harvested it from. It can all be different," said Simpson.

Cory wrote about making the drink and even wrote a warning to "take preventative measures to make sure you won't die if you overdose."

The Internet is littered with similar recipes.

"I want parents to know what it can do to their kids," Young said. "I want parents to be aware that this isn't an herbal supplement."