Key information

Full interpretative statements are available on request.

Turn-around times

  • 5-10 working days for negative cases
  • 10-20 working days for positive cases

Available on request.

  • The unit has been providing a full toxicology service to HM Coroners for over 30 years
  • The laboratory is dedicated to forensic toxicology and has state of the art equipment and facilities
  • A unique approach to analysis is employed, which is thorough and cost effective
  • Dr Paterson has extensive experience of both Crown and Coroner's Court
  • The methods used for analysis have been published in peer-reviewed journals

Analysis guidelines


Blood and urine are routinely analysed for ethanol. Other volatiles including acetone and methanol are simultaneously detected using the same method of analysis. Samples submitted should ideally be preserved in Fluoride Oxalate.

General screening

Analysis of blood demonstrates the drugs that are influencing the deceased at the time of death. Carrying out a general screen on blood is necessary if the analysis is to comply with accepted standards. If common drugs such as citalopram, diazepam, venlafaxine and many more are detected at therapeutic concentrations or less then they are reported as such and no further analysis is carried out unless specifically requested.

Quantitation is only carried out for drugs at a concentration greater than therapeutic as this is necessary for correct interpretation. The general screen will identify all the drugs that need quantitating and this information can be used to determine which can be analysed simultaneously. This means the most efficient and therefore most cost effective methods of quantitation can be used.

Blood submitted should be taken from the femoral vein in order to minimise the effects of post-mortem redistribution. If blood is not available for analysis then vitreous humor is the preferred sample.

Gastric contents provide information about any drugs that may have been ingested. If submitted for analysis the sample will be screened along with blood at no extra cost.

Specific screen of urine for drugs of abuse

Analysis of urine gives information concerning the drugs ingested the day or so before death. It can be useful for proving heroin ingestion and to show previous cocaine use.

Amphetamine and morphine screens

Morphine and/or amphetamines are analysed for if specifically requested or indicated by the history.


Analysis of hair is the only method for detecting chronic drug use. It is offered as a routine service. The method detects both drugs of abuse and prescription drugs.

Specific tests

  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Solvents
  • B-hydroxybutyrate

Others are available on request - please contact the laboratory.