CU Student Dies Brewing Poppy Tea

Drug Task Force Investigating CU Student's Death

Boulder residents are being warned about the dangers of opium tea after police learned that a University of Colorado student died from an overdose.

The Boulder County Drug Task Force is investigating the February death of 20-year-old Alex McGuiggan. They said McGuiggan ingested a fatal quantity of opium after brewing a tea made up of poppy seeds and pods.

The coroner's office ruled Friday that the death was accidental, caused by a morphine overdose.

Boulder police said McGuiggan may have legally purchased poppy pods online and processed them to create the tea.

“We do believe he knew that he was ingesting morphine,” said Boulder police spokesperson Sarah Huntley. “We are not so convinced, however, that he was aware it could be fatal.”

Huntley said because the pods can be bought on the Web, there is a perception that making opium tea is not dangerous.

“To have the actual seeds or the pods themselves is not illegal,” Huntley said. “Once you start trying to extract the drug from the plant it can become very dangerous and in this case, unfortunately, it was fatal.”

McGuiggan’s roommate, Landon Barrett, found him lifeless in his bed hours after McGuiggan drank at least two cups of the tea and took an anxiety medication. Barrett has never tried opium tea and said another roommate made the batch of tea with McGuiggan.

Barrett claimed none of them realized just how dangerous the tea could be.

“We had no idea,” he said.

Barrett said McGuiggan was a Chicago native and an English major who loved playing guitar and writing music.

“Everyone loved him and he was just nice to everyone and never had anything against anyone,” he said tearfully.

The drug task force is investigating whether the roommate who helped McGuiggan make the tea committed a crime. Huntley said the district attorney will determine whether charges will be brought.

Boulder County Coroner Tom Faure called this an extremely rare case and said he knows of no other cases of morphine overdoses involving opium tea.

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