HSE warns of 'coca tea' dangers as person hospitalised
TEA drinkers who rely on a cuppa for a quick 'pick-me-up' have been warned they could get more than they bargained for.
The HSE has told consumers not to drink a "cocaine tea" which has already left one person in hospital.
It issued a warning about the "Mate De Coca Coca Tea", a popular drink in South American countries which contains traces of cocaine.
The warning was prompted by what the HSE said was an "adverse clinical incident" here -- medical jargon for an incident in which somebody is harmed.
It is understood the person was hospitalised as a result of drinking the tea, though no further details have been released.
A sample of the coca tea was passed on to the Forensic Science Laboratory, which is based in Garda Headquarters in the Phoenix Park in Dublin. It confirmed the sample of tea it analysed contained cocaine.
The HSE said it could not discuss individual patient details but confirmed that no one died as a result of the incident. But it highlighted the dangers of drinking coca tea -- particularly with alcohol.
"The public is advised not to consume this product, either on its own or in combination with other psychoactive substances, including alcohol," it said.
In its warning, the HSE said cocaine was a dangerous substance which had harmful effects on the central nervous and cardiovascular systems in particular.
However, the amount of cocaine in a cup of coca tea is quite small.
There are around 4.25 milligrams of cocaine in an average cup of coca tea -- which means a person would have to drink 250 cups of tea to consume the equivalent of a gram of cocaine.
The greenish coloured coca tea is a product of the coca plant, which is the source of cocaine.
The Department of Health has confirmed that the tea is illegal due to the presence of cocaine.
A garda spokesman said he was not aware of the tea being on sale here or of any Irish companies importing it.
Coca tea has been used by travellers, such as tennis player Pat Cash, to ward off the effects of altitude sickness when visiting sites like Machu Picchu, the ancient city of the Incas, in Peru. The hot drink is served at tourist hotels throughout Peru and Bolivia.