Australia's Poppy Seed Influencer Tea Caused A String Of Poisonings

In small quantities, poppy seeds are entirely harmless, and they're frequently used in bagels, salad dressings, and pastries. The same can't be said, however, if the seeds are ingested in large amounts. Per Healthline, poppy seeds contain opium extract, which can be used to make morphine, codeine, and heroin. Although 90% of morphine is processed out of the seeds during cleaning in the U.S., they are still able to cause failed drug tests. Frequent consumption of the seeds can also result in dependency, as unwashed poppy seeds are sometimes used as pain relievers and sleep aids.

Per Verywell Mind, some people consume poppy seed tea to get high. When tea is made, it integrates the seeds, stems, and pods of the plant to create feelings of euphoria. Currently, the straw from poppy seeds is listed as a Schedule II drug by the Drug Enforcement Agency. Despite these warnings, people still consume high amounts of the seeds as an alternative to pain pills. Recently, news broke of highly unsafe variations of the tea in Australia, perhaps making people rethink their usage.

They can be used to make morphine

In November 2022, poppy seeds were recalled in Australia after 32 people were poisoned in the last month, via The Guardian. Due to widespread attention on TikTok, many people were eager to try the tea for its relaxing properties. The seeds were recalled due to dangerously high amounts of thebaine. According to ScienceDirect, thebaine is used to make opioids such as oxycodone and buprenorphine. The seeds, which weren't up to food safety standards, accidentally made their way into stores.

Per Genesis Recovery, side effects from consuming large amounts of poppy seeds include itchy skin, mood swings, fatigue, and the inability to stay alert and awake. When experiencing withdrawals, you could be faced with hallucinations, gastrointestinal issues, nausea, and muscle aches. "People like it because it's a home-brew remedy, which makes them feel relaxed, and it can have mild pain relief effects," University of Adelaide lecturer Ian Musgrave said to The Guardian. So, although poppy seeds are safe as an everything bagel ingredient, you might want to steer clear of higher and potentially unsafe doses.