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J Forensic Sci. 2018 Jul;63(4):1229-1235. doi: 10.1111/1556-4029.13664. Epub 2017 Oct 3.

Quantification of Morphine, Codeine, and Thebaine in Home-Brewed Poppy Seed Tea by LC-MS/MS.

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Department of Forensic Science, Sam Houston State University, Chemistry & Forensic Science Bldg, Rm 224, 1003 Bowers. Blvd, Box 2525, Huntsville, TX 77341.
Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Arkansas State Crime Lab, 3 Natural Resources Dr., Little Rock, AR 72215.


Recently, medical examiners reported two cases of a 21-year-old male and 24-year-old male with high amounts of morphine in their blood at autopsy. It was suspected that the decedents ingested lethal amounts of morphine from home-brewed poppy seed tea. No studies to date have investigated opium alkaloid content extracted from poppy seeds by home-brewing methods. Various poppy seed products were purchased from online sources and extracted with four home-brewing methods representative of recipes found on drug user forums. Morphine, codeine, and thebaine were quantified in the tea extracts by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry using a validated analytical method. Morphine, codeine, and thebaine concentrations from seeds were <1-2788 mg/kg, <1-247.6 mg/kg, and <1-124 mg/kg, respectively. Alkaloid yield varied between extractions, but regardless of extraction conditions, lethal amounts of morphine can be rinsed from poppy seed coats by home-brewing methods.


forensic science; forensic toxicology; liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry; morphine; opium; poppy seed tea

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