17-Year-Old Dies After Drinking Poppy Tea – 5 Things to Know About the Poppy Crop

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By Arlene Paredes | November 29, 2012 2:07 PM EST

A 17-year-old male from southern Tasmania was found dead at his home after drinking tea made from poppy heads. An inspector suspects the young man brewed an unregulated amount of poppy heads.

The coroner has yet to confirm the cause of death, but authorities suspected the young man succumbed to the lethal effects of too much opioid in the system.

"If you consume those opioids in that unregulated way, the consequences can be obviously lethal," Tasmania Inspector John Arnold told ABC.

"A 50-year-old northern Tasmanian man died in similar circumstances in February last year," Inspector Arnold recalled. He also noted the last poppy-associated death occurred in 2004.

5 Things to Know About the Poppy Seed

1. The kidney-shaped poppy seed comes from the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum). The drug opium is produced by extracting latex from unripe seed pods. But the plant itself contains opium alkaloids, like morphine and codeine.

2. Ancient civilizations have planted and harvested the opium poppy. The seeds are used either whole or ground, or pressed to yield poppyseed oil. The Egyptians recognize them as sedatives.

3. Poppy seeds are used as food spice, condiment, and even a main ingredient. They are used in preparing sweets, too.

4. Death, as well as anaphylaxis (allergic reaction than can be fatal) resulting from allergy to poppy seeds, is very rare.

5. Digesting meals prepared with poppy seeds can result in a false positive for opiates in a drug test. The presence of opium registers correctly, but the opiates levels were far too low to produce narcotic effects. A woman who has just given birth in Pennsylvania had to take a hospital to a legal battle after she was suspected of being drug user. It turned out she had eaten a bagel with poppy seed before giving birth.

Tasmania's poppy crop, which is now approaching harvest season, is estimated to worth $100 million, ABC reported.

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