Toxicology Unit projects

Our completed projects include

Hair analysis method

A method was developed for the simultaneous detection and quantification of the major drugs of abuse using one 20-50mg sample of hair. The same extract can also be used for screening for prescription and over-the-counter drugs. The method has been applied to samples from Coroners' post-mortem work and from patients attending drug treatment centres. Abstract

Coroners hair evaluation
The usefulness of hair analysis was studied along with data from conventional samples in 285 cases reported to HM Coroner. The study demonstrated that hair analysis can provide vital evidence in a wide range of cases. This evidence can be invaluable to the pathologist, Coroner and the family of the deceased in understanding both the medical cause of death and the circumstances surrounding the death. Abstract

Identifying 'topping up' with street heroin
Initial work by the unit suggested that detection of papaverine metabolites in urine was a potential technique for determining whether drug treatment patients were "topping up" with street heroin. A validation of techniques to detect illicit heroin use in patients prescribed heroin for the maintenance of opioid dependence was carried out in conjunction with the National Addiction Centre. Abstract

Determination of the amount of heroin ingested by hair analysis
The study reported the concentrations of morphine and 6-monoacteylmorphine (6-MAM) and the distribution of the ratio between metabolite to parent drug from 82 cases totalling 173 segments of head hair and 15 cases of pubic hair from heroin-related deaths. A large variation was found for the concentrations of 6-MAM and morphine in both head hair and pubic hair. The statistical results were used to suggest low, middle and high concentration ranges which can be used for estimating the amount of heroin consumed into corresponding low or occasional use, regular or habitual use and heavy or excessive drug use. Abstract