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Keywords:

  • abuse;
  • dependence;
  • opiates;
  • Papaver somniferum;
  • poppy seed tea

Abstract

The opium poppy Papaver somniferum contains an array of opiates. There is a variety of methods of preparation that can be used by people with opiate dependence, with patterns of use determined by numerous factors including cost, safety, potency and legal status. The objective of this study was to determine the frequency and nature of poppy seed tea (PST) use by opiate-dependent patients in the form of a written questionnaire. The study took place at the Community Alcohol and Drug Clinic, Wellington, New Zealand, and comprised 24 opiate-dependent patients attending the clinic. A total of 11 of 24 (46%) patients reported having used PST. In five patients currently using PST it represented the major source of opiates, and two had managed to withdraw from use of other opiates with regular PST use. Patients reported a median onset of action of 15 minures and an effect lasting a median of 24 hours. The major limitation of PST use was the foul taste. PST is used commonly by opiate-dependent patients attending an alcohol and drug clinic in New Zealand. The use of PST as the major source of opiates could be considered favourably within ‘harm reduction’ philosophies, because of its low cost, legal availability and oral route of administration. Conversely, there is the potential for PST to act as a ‘gateway drug’ by inducing opioid dependence and introducing people to the culture of drug abuse.