Page last updated at 20:10 GMT, Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Mother warns of poppy tea 'risks' after son's overdose

Tristan Roberts
Tristan Roberts had three cups of poppy tea on two evenings

The mother of a man who unwittingly overdosed on morphine after drinking poppy tea has warned of the potential dangers of some "natural" products.

Tristan Roberts, 28, of Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire, may have drunk the lethal brew as a late-night calmative, his inquest heard last month.

The tea contains morphine, which can depress the respiratory system.

Sabine Roberts, who said her son was not a drug taker, warned that some "natural" products may not be safe.

Mr Roberts was found dead during the second day of a visit to friends in the village of Llanycefn, near Haverfordwest, on 4 September.

While there he had eaten meals, drunk cider and consumed three cups of poppy tea with the friends on two evenings.

The friends had stayed up through the early hours listening to music on the day he died and gone to bed at 7am.

I think Tristan drank the poppy tea because he thought it would help him relax
Sabine Roberts, mother

He was found dead at 20.30 the same day when his friends tried to wake him and discovered he was dead.

An inquest in Milford Haven last month heard that the medical cause of death was an overdose of morphine and codeine.

Pembrokeshire coroner Michael Howells recorded that Mr Roberts, who had suffered serious mental health problems since being a teenager, had died from a self-administered overdose of illegal drugs.

The inquest had heard that poppy tea contains morphine, a powerful analgesic which can depress the respiratory system.

The coroner had said that the concentration of drugs in Mr Roberts' body had depressed his breathing to such an extent that he died.

He went on to warn that manufacturing your own drugs was inherently unsafe and it was easy to get dosages wrong.

Pick poppies

Mr Roberts' mother spoke on Tuesday to warn others that there was no such thing as a safe dose.

"Tristan was not in the habit of taking drugs, other than alcohol and prescribed medication," she said

"I think that there are quite a few people who think that anything that is really natural must be safe or must be a good thing.

"But that is not the case and people need to be made aware of that.

"This is something that is almost completely unknown. The police at Tristan's inquest said that they had never heard of it.

"I think Tristan drank the poppy tea because he thought it would help him relax."

She said that you can quite legally pick wild poppies in the countryside or buy them from florists and use them to make tea.

Different tolerances

People are generally unaware of the different types of poppy species but those containing morphine tended to be used to make tea.

Internet sites which freely give information on how to prepare poppy tea and how to identify between different poppy varieties also exist.

She said that it was easy, even if you knew about poppy tea, to conclude that it was safe to drink.

But she warned that people have different tolerances according to size, weight and how often they drink the tea, among other things.

"It is a worry. I want to get the message across that you need to protect people, vulnerable people in particular."

She added: "And remember, perfectly normal people can become quite vulnerable."

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