by Denise Purdie Andrews
Axis Forensic Toxicology, your forensic toxicology partner, is excited to announce its new blog! This new feature of our website will provide an additional communication channel to bring you important information to help you be more productive and effective with your toxicology testing. We are committed to keeping you informed of the ever changing landscape of forensic toxicology. This information will be prepared by our experienced toxicologists and chemists as well as our client service professionals. Articles will include:
- Primers regarding drugs or drug classes
- Statistics and trends for various drugs drawn from our nationwide base of toxicology testing.
- Current event articles, including emerging threats
- Book reviews and links to other references
- Operational bulletins to assist with collection and submission of testing requests
We will begin publishing the blog in June and are committed to posting at least monthly. Our goal is to continue to serve you well, so please let us know if there are particularly topics of interest. We hope that you find this to be a helpful resource to your important work.
By Kevin Shanks, M.S., D-ABFT-FT
Toxicology is the study of the effects of substances on living organisms. Forensic toxicology is the use of toxicology in medical-legal investigations. Forensic toxicologists use analytical chemistry, pharmacology, and clinical chemistry to aid in these investigations of death, poisoning, intoxication, or substance use.
The field of forensic toxicology can be broken down into three main realms: postmortem toxicology, human performance toxicology, and forensic drug testing.
Postmortem toxicology is the analysis of biological specimens obtained at autopsy in order to identify the effect of drugs or poisons. These biological specimens may include blood, urine, vitreous humor, bile, gastric contents, and tissues such as liver, kidney, spleen, and brain. The toxicological analyses and toxicologist’s expertise aid in the certification of cause and manner of death, which is determined by the forensic pathologist, medical examiner, or coroner.
Human performance toxicology is the analysis of biological specimens obtained by a hospital or law enforcement agency in order to identify the effects of drugs on psychomotor performance. The typical biological specimen analyzed is whole blood, but may also include blood serum, blood plasma, or in some case, urine. The toxicological analyses and toxicologist’s opinion, in conjunction with observed witness reports and field tests administered by law enforcement officials, help in the determination if a person is under the influence of a substance during a specific incident, such as a motor vehicle stop or collision.
Forensic drug testing is the analysis of biological specimens obtained by a physician, hospital system, the criminal justice system, the public business sector (e.g. Department of Transportation, etc.) and private workplaces or businesses to identify substance use. The primary specimen used in forensic drug testing is urine, but other specimens analyzed include oral fluids, hair, and sweat. The presence or absence of substances detected in biological specimens along with the toxicologist’s scientific opinion, after review of case circumstances and context, allow for the decision to be made regarding potential substance use.
Common instrumentation used across all three realms of forensic toxicology includes immunoassay, gas chromatography with mass spectrometry (GC-MS), and liquid chromatography with mass spectrometry (LC-MS). Routine drugs monitored in all realms include amphetamine, methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, fentanyl, prescription opioids, PCP, barbiturates, cannabis, and ethanol. The scope of analysis can change to include a more comprehensive scope (e.g. designer opioids, synthetic cannabinoids, novel psychoactive substances, etc.) according to the case circumstances and specifics.
To stay current with the scope of testing for all realms of toxicology offered by Axis Forensic Toxicology, please consult the online test catalog.
- Order Code 70530, Drugs of Abuse Panel, Blood
- Order Code 70510, Comprehensive Drug Panel, Blood
- Order Code 70080, Drugs of Abuse Panel, Urine
- Order Code 13810, Designer Opioids Panel, Blood
- Order Code 42130, Synthetic Cannabinoid Panel, Blood
- Order Code 13610, Psychoactive Substances Panel, Blood
Guidelines for the Interpretation of Analytical Toxicology Results. Disposition of Toxic Drugs and Chemicals in Man. Twelfth Edition. Randall C. Baselt. Biomedical Publications. Pages xxx-xlii. (2020).
Introduction to Forensic Toxicology. Clarke’s Analytical Forensic Toxicology. Sue Jickells and Adam Negrusz. Pharmaceutical Press. Pages 1-12. (2008).
Postmortem Toxicology. Clarke’s Analytical Forensic Toxicology. Sue Jickells and Adam Negrusz. Pharmaceutical Press. Pages 191-218. (2008).
Postmortem Forensic Toxicology. Principles of Forensic Toxicology. Fourth Edition. Barry Levine. AACC, Inc. Pages 3-14. (2017).
Alcohol, Drugs, and Driving. Clarke’s Analytical Forensic Toxicology. Sue Jickells and Adam Negrusz. Pharmaceutical Press. Pages 299-322. (2008).
Human Performance Toxicology. Principles of Forensic Toxicology. Fourth Edition. Barry Levine. AACC, Inc. Pages 15-30. (2017).
Workplace Drug Testing. Clarke’s Analytical Forensic Toxicology. Sue Jickells and Adam Negrusz. Pharmaceutical Press. Pages 135-152. (2008).
Forensic Drug Testing. Principles of Forensic Toxicology. Fourth Edition. Barry Levine. AACC, Inc. Pages 31-48. (2017).
Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault. Clarke’s Analytical Forensic Toxicology. Sue Jickells and Adam Negrusz. Pharmaceutical Press. Pages 287-298. (2008).