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

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


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.

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

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Codeine / analysis*
  • Forensic Toxicology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Morphine / analysis*
  • Papaver*
  • Seeds*
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry
  • Tea / chemistry*
  • Thebaine / analysis*
  • Young Adult


  • Tea
  • Thebaine
  • Morphine
  • Codeine