Poppy Tea Withdrawal


Poppy tea withdrawal is the normal and predictable result of using poppy tea regularly for a long time.


The human body becomes accustomed to the presence of certain substances - in this case, the opioids inside poppy tea. With continuous use, the body may even begin to depend on a certain level of opioids to feel “normal.” An opioid-dependent person must consume poppy tea or other opioids every day to maintain high drug levels in the body.

When someone drinks poppy tea or uses other opioids for the first time, he is “opioid-naïve” and sensitive to the effects of opioids. As he continues to consume poppy tea over days or weeks, his body becomes tolerant to opioids and less sensitive to their effects. An opioid-tolerant person must drink stronger batches of poppy tea more frequently to achieve the same effects. An opioid-dependent person may eventually need to consume very strong batches of poppy seed tea to maintain the expected levels of opioids in the bloodstream.

When drug levels fall rapidly, the opioid-dependent body struggles to adapt to plummeting opioid levels. Doctors refer to this as detoxification. This rapid decline in opioid levels could be because the individual stopped drinking poppy tea, drank a weak batch of this opioid tea, or used a drug that interfered with the way the opioids in poppy tea work.

The opioid-dependent person experiences detoxification through uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

Facts about Poppy Tea

People have used poppy tea for centuries, both to relieve pain and to enjoy the euphoric feelings this tea produces. Modern consumers use poppy tea to relieve diarrhea, ease pain and for its sedative effects. Some cultural traditions in Eastern Europe use Koknar, or poppy tea, in some social ceremonies and gatherings.

Poppy tea makers use the dried opium poppy plant, Papaver somniferum. Manufacturers steep the dried plant in hot water and other chemicals to draw out its psychoactive alkaloids into the liquid, which is then consumed as tea. Healthy, vigorous plants produce a more potent tea than do weak plants, so there is no consistent way to control the strength of poppy tea.

The effects of poppy tea usually begin a half-hour after consumption and last for up to eight hours. The opioids in poppy tea work with the central nervous system, or CNS, and smooth muscle groups. Opioids depress the central nervous system to cause CNS effects such as pain relief, relaxation and a pleasant sense of euphoria. Other CNS effects include sensations of warmth, pleasure, drowsiness, loss of concentration and sleepiness.

The opioids in poppy tea stiffen smooth muscles to make them less functional. Smooth muscles are located in various places in the body, including in the intestines. Smooth intestinal muscles cause peristalsis, or the act of pushing stool through the digestive tract. The opioids in poppy tea slow peristalsis, giving the intestines extra time to absorb excess fluid from diarrhea.

Unpleasant side effects include itching, constipation and headache.

Potential for Abuse

Many people use poppy tea to ease diarrhea or as part of cultural tradition; others abuse poppy tea because of the way it gets them high.

The U.S. DEA classifies substances according to their relative potential for abuse. The DEA categorizes poppy straw and other poppy products used to make poppy tea as schedule II drugs, meaning poppy tea is a likely target for abuse.

Someone might abuse poppy tea by drinking highly concentrated formulas more frequently than recommended or traditionally consumed.

Abuse and Addiction Rates

In 2010, approximately 12 million used a prescription opioid to get high or to treat a condition for which it was not prescribed. While most of these cases involved more commonly used opioids, such as OxyContin or oxycodone, some individuals abuse poppy tea.

Poppy tea is not as widely abused as other opioids, perhaps, because doctors do not prescribe it as often. American consumers use more painkillers and opioids than any other nation, gobbling up 80 percent of the global opioid supply despite representing only about 5 percent of the earth’s population. Poppy tea abuse is more common in the countries that produce the opium poppy plant and, therefore, have access to the large amount of poppy straw necessary to make poppy tea.

Facts about Withdrawal

Anyone who drinks poppy tea regularly can become opioid-dependent and experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using this beverage suddenly. Uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms usually begin a few hours after the last cup of poppy tea and can last for several days. Left uninterrupted, withdrawal symptoms fade after four to ten days and do not return unless the individual again becomes opioid-dependent.

Someone can stop poppy tea withdrawal symptoms at any time by drinking poppy tea or taking other opioid drugs. While relapse stops withdrawal symptoms, it also halts the detoxification process.

Some medications ease withdrawal symptoms to make the detoxification process tolerable, improving the individual’s chances of recovering from opioid dependence. These medications do not stop the detoxification process.

Other medications mimic all but the euphoric effects of opioids. Physicians prescribe these as replacement drugs that allow patients to delay the detoxification process temporarily while they engage in therapy. Methadone is a common replacement drug for heroin. When the patient is ready, he weans himself from the replacement drug by taking smaller doses at longer intervals.

The detoxification process lowers the patient’s tolerance to opioids. Someone will be more sensitive to the effects of poppy tea after experiencing even moderate withdrawal symptoms.


Opioid withdrawal can cause uncomfortable physical symptoms that can interfere with recovery from opioid dependence. The unpleasant physical symptoms can be demoralizing and can further complicate recovery efforts.

Poppy tea withdrawal usually causes vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea and headache. Some patients experience insomnia, muscle aches and loss of energy. These symptoms vary in intensity between people. While objectionable, withdrawal from poppy tea is not life threatening.

Possible Complications

Even though poppy tea withdrawal is not life threatening, withdrawal symptoms can produce dangerous complications. Severe and prolonged vomiting or diarrhea can result in dehydration and imbalances in electrolytes, such as potassium and sodium. The individual may vomit then inhale stomach contents, a dangerous complication known as aspiration that can result in lung infections and fluid in the lungs.

Relapse to the use of poppy tea or another opioid is the primary complication associated with poppy tea withdrawal. Severe and prolonged withdrawal symptoms may overwhelm the individual, compelling him to relapse in an effort to stop the pain.

Treatment options

According to 2005 statistics cited by the Institute of Addiction Medicine, almost 2 million Americans are opioid-dependent. A few of these individuals receive treatment at a specialty facility, staffed with professionals who receive advanced training in detoxification procedures. Many seek help from local hospitals or mental healthcare facilities without specially trained staff.

There are two phases of treatment for poppy tea withdrawal - detoxification and rehabilitation. The detoxification process involves medications to counteract the effects of poppy tea along with drugs to soothe withdrawal symptoms. Rehabilitation usually includes behavior modification to help the individual avoid drug abuse in the future.

Self Detoxification

Many people try to overcome poppy tea withdrawal symptoms alone, without medicine to ease symptoms or professional guidance to address complications. Doctors call this practice self-detoxification while the average person might call it “going cold turkey.” Cold turkey refers to the appearance of the patient’s skin during the detoxification process - pale, cold and clammy with goose bumps, much like a plucked bird.

Even though cold turkey sounds funny, the prolonged, uncomfortable and demoralizing detoxification process is anything but humorous. The severity and duration of symptoms, along with complications, relapse rates are high for those who attempt self-detoxification.

The Thomas Recipe

Some people devise homemade treatment plans to overcome withdrawal symptoms. One such remedy is The Thomas Recipe, which calls for a benzodiazepine such as Valium, Librium, Ativan or Xanax to help the patient calm down and sleep. The recipe includes Imodium for diarrhea, vitamin B6 and supplements along with hot baths for muscle aches and L-Tyrosine for a burst of energy.

While the Thomas Recipe eases symptoms, it does not shorten detoxification nor does it reduce the risk for dangerous complications such as aspiration, dehydration and relapse.


Relapse is a major complication to poppy tea withdrawal; relapse may lead to decreased tolerance and overdose. Returning to poppy tea abuse after any amount of detoxification as the detoxification process lowers the individual’s tolerance to opioids; it is possible for someone to overdose on a smaller dose of opioids than he used to take before experiencing even minor withdrawal symptoms.

Poppy tea overdose requires immediate medical care. Emergency department workers will help the patient breathe, pump excess poppy tea from her stomach, administer intravenous fluids and medications to stabilize her blood pressure and other vital signs and perform CPR and other lifesaving measures as necessary.

Once the patient’s condition is stable, she may choose to engage in rehabilitation to reduce her risk for relapsing to drug abuse.

Standard detox

Some individuals enroll in detoxification programs to help them overcome poppy tea withdrawal. Standard detoxification usually includes medications to block the opioid action in poppy tea plus drugs to relieve withdrawal symptoms. These detoxification procedures reduce the severity but not the duration of poppy tea withdrawal symptoms. Patients may require a week or more of treatment before being stable enough to engage in rehabilitation and behavior modification.

Rapid Detox

Many informed patients now choose rapid detox. Professionals recommend rapid detox as the more efficient and humane approach to poppy tea withdrawal. During rapid detox, patients receive anesthesia and sedatives prior to the standard detoxification and anti-withdrawal drugs. Rapid detox patients rest in a comfortable twilight sleep during the difficult detoxification process and awaken feeling refreshed and renewed. The rapid detox patient is ready for rehabilitation in just a few days.


By itself, the detoxification process does little to change the behaviors associated with poppy tea abuse. Without significant behavior modification, the individual is likely to return to his previous lifestyle that left him vulnerable to opioid dependence. Rehabilitation gives the opioid-dependent person the skills he needs to recognize situations that may lead to drug abuse and teaches him how to refuse drugs when offered.

Rehabilitation can take place in an inpatient or outpatient setting. Many outpatient clinics offer drug replacement therapy, where patients use methadone or other drugs to curb withdrawal symptoms while they engage in therapy. Inpatient settings usually offer intensified therapies in highly structured surroundings. Inpatient therapy may be short-term, lasting only a few weeks, or it may be at a long-term residential settings with treatment plans lasting six months to a year or longer. Long-term inpatient settings are best for those with recurring or severe opioid dependence.

The goal of any drug treatment plan is to stop drug use and return the patient to his normal life. Rehabilitation can have added benefits, including curbing criminal activity and improving the patient’s social and occupational functioning.

Patients may relapse, even with professional treatment. The overall relapse rate for those in drug treatment is 40 to 60 percent. It is important that the opioid-dependent person and his family recognize that substance abuse problems like poppy tea withdrawal are chronic conditions and, as such, include periods of relapse and remission. Relapse is not an indication that treatment has failed but it does mean the patient should return to treatment or consider a different treatment plan.

No single treatment plan is right for everyone. A patient may participate in several forms of treatment before finding one that works right for him. Effective treatment tends to the many needs of the individual, not just his poppy tea withdrawal. Treatment needs to be readily available to encourage long-term participation. It is critical the individual remain in rehabilitation long enough to make meaningful changes to his behavior.

Most treatment plans include individual, family and group counseling. Medications are an important element in treatment for many individuals. Some of these medications address co-existing physical and mental conditions that can interfere with treatment efforts.

Counselors will initial treatment based on the patient’s condition and individual needs. The counselor will continually assess the patient’s progress and modify the treatment plan as necessary to ensure it continues to meet the patient’s needs. Counselors will also monitor for drug use, as lapses during treatment do occur.