The opening chapter of The Golden Compass (AKA Northern Lights) depicts the Master of (fictional) Jordan College at Oxford cutting open poppy heads and frying them in butter to serve to his guests because it “clarified the mind.”
I’ve heard of eating opium, but never of eating whole fried seed pods. It doesn’t seem like a very effective way of consuming opium. Was this ever done in real life? Googling reveals nothing. (Actually, it reveals a great deal about growing, harvesting, refining, and consuming opium, but nothing that suggests frying the heads in butter is effective or has ever been practiced.)
It’s in the book; they cut that scene from the movie. It is possible that they are just enjoying the seeds, but the description–clarifying the mind and loosening conversation–suggests a psychotropic effect. Poppy heads are also the source of opium, so it seems significant that the heads are referred to, not the seeds within. Even if Pullman is describing a historical practice that was purely culinary, he is certainly creating the deliberate impression of something illicit by our society’s standards (though not the standards of the book’s fictional society).
It’s very effective. People have become addicted to poppy-head tea or even poppy-seed tea quite readily, and presumably eating the poppy heads would be even more effective, if only slightly. Obviously you’d get a much stronger effect from actually extracting the opium and converting it to morphine and/or heroin, but that’s not exactly a “mind-clarifying for a dinner party” effect.
As noted in Darryl Lict’s link (which, coincidentally, I posted in a different thread earlier tonight), poppy pods can be some strong little buggers. For someone with no tolerance, a single pod will have very noticable effects. Like the opium that comes from them, poppy pods are a mixture of codeine and morphine.
Poppy seeds can have those effects, too, but they’re much weaker. IIRC, people making tea from them tend to use about 1/4 pound or so, depending on the strength, which can vary wildly. In fact, there’s such a great variation in strength that the same dose of weaker seeds that has only a normal effect on a person could kill that same person if it was particularly strong. Here is a site made by the parents of a teenager who overdosed and died that way.
It is definitely done. I have had poppy-head tea in Pakistan, and the effect was very nice and mellow. It was not the only intoxicant involved, though. At the same time we were served a cannabis-based drink called bhang, and I strongly suspect that the poppy-heads alone wouldn’t have had much of an effect. YMMV.
When I was an unwise teen, we found opium poppies in my neighbour’s garden. We picked them and I made poppy head tea, then strained it, boiled it down to a resin, and smoked it. It gave me a feeling of physical numbness all over my body for about five minutes, and the next day I had the worst hangover of my life.