Nova Scotia family speaks out about poppy seed tea dangers

Sheryl Nadler
Shine OnJune 5, 2012

For those who still believe that herbal remedies are always safe and healthy, a Nova Scotia family would like you to think again.

Cole Marchand, a 19-year-old teen from Nova Scotia, died after consuming poppy seed tea he made with the seeds from a poppy pod he ordered online from China, his family tells CTV News. His grieving sister says he texted her a photo of the pod days before he died, reassuring her it was safe and all natural. Yet poppy seeds contain morphine and codeine. Cole, who suffered from depression, died of a morphine overdose.

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Tessa Burns, a Calgary-based registered psychologist and owner of the Serenity Now Wellness Centre, cautions people never know how their bodies are going to respond to any drug, be it prescription or natural.

"The reason your doctor prescribes the medication and then has to follow up with you is because you don't know how your body is going to react, even how it's going to react to being off of the medication once you've been using it," she says. "I think anything you take — even a vitamin — needs to be taken with caution and with education."

This is why the Marchand family is speaking out. They want to remind the public that there is no governing body regulating the amount of narcotic in a poppy pod, which is illegal in Canada.

"He was working out, and he was acting happy, so he definitely didn't mean to do something like this," his sister Carissa Marchand tells CBC.

Watch the CBC video below where Cole's parents speak about the dangers of the tea:

But researching narcotics and their effects on the internet can paint a different story, particularly for someone hoping to believe all natural always equals healthy and safe. A quick search of Google instantly brings up at least one site downplaying the dangers of drinking poppy seed tea.

"A cup of the brew is highly unlikely to kill someone, but poppy seeds do contain both morphine and codeine," says the website PoppySeedTea.net. "These two narcotics can, of course, produce a high."

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Burns adds that teens looking for help should seek out peer counselling groups where they can feel safe talking about their problems. Because despite what parents may want to believe, most teens are reluctant to talk to them for fear of suffering the consequences.

"They're so influenced by their peers that it is important for them to talk to other teens and know they're not alone," she says.

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