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Forensic Toxicology

Forensic Toxicology
Is defined as the science of detecting and
identifying the presence of drugs and poisons
in body fluids, tissues, and organs.

Role of the Toxicologist

Must identify one of thousands of drugs and poisons.

Must find nanogram to microgram quantities dissipated
throughout the entire body.
Not always looking for exact chemicals, but metabolites
of desired chemicals (ex. heroin morphine within

Toxicology Procedures
10mL of blood in airtight container
Add anticoagulant
Add preservative
2 consecutive urine samples
Some drugs take a while to show up in
urine (1-3 days)
Vitreous humor
Hair samples

Toxicology Procedures

Screeningquick test to narrow down possibilities

color tests, TLC, GC, immunoassay
Confirmationdetermines exact identity
GC/Mass Spectrophotometer
Note: TLCthin layerchromatography
GC Gas Chromatography

Color Tests
Marquis Test:
Turns purple in the presence of Heroin, morphine,
Turns orange-brown in presence of Amphetamines
Scott Test: Three solutions
Blue then pink then back to blue in the presence of

Test for marijuana turns purple

Drug Schedules
Schedule I:
Drugs with high potential for abuse and
addiction, NO medical value
Ex: Heroin, LSD, Ecstasy, Marijuana
Schedule II:
Drugs with high potential for abuse and
addiction, have some medical value with
Ex: PCP, Cocaine, Amphetamines, Most
Opiates, Some Barbiturates

Drug Schedules
Schedule III:
Drugs with less potential for abuse and
addiction, currently acceptable for
medical use
Ex: Some Barbiturates, Codeine, Steroids
Schedule IV:
Drugs with low potential for abuse and
addiction, currently acceptable for
medical use
Ex: Tranquilizers like Valium, Xanax,

Drug Schedules
Schedule V:
Drugs with low potential abuse,
medical use, lowest potential
Ex: Some Opiates with Non-Narcotic

Think of all the people that you have
heard do drugs.
US drug manufacturers produce enough
barbiturates and tranquilizers each year
to give every person in the US 40 pills
(thats about 12 billion pills)
18,000 out of 44,000 annual traffic deaths
are alcohol related and send over 2
million people to the hospital

Toxicology of Alcohol
Alcohol is absorbed through the
stomach and intestine
Once absorbed, alcohol is:
Oxidized- in liver by alcohol
dehydrogenaseturned into acidic
Excreted- by breath, perspiration, and
kidneysturned into carbon dioxide
and water

Factors that Affect Alcohol

Time of
Type of alcoholic
Presence of food
in stomach

Toxicology of Alcohol
Alcohol intoxication depends on
Amount of alcohol consumed
Time of consumption
Body weight
Rate of alcohol absorption

Fate of Alcohol
Alcohol is absorbed into the
Distributed through-out the bodys
And finally eliminated by oxidation
and excretion

Fate of Alcohol Cont

A. Oxidation is the combination of
oxygen and alcohol to produce
new products by the liver
B. Elimination is removing alcohol
from the body in an unchanged
state; normally excreted in breath
and urine

Alcohol in the Circulatory

Measuring the quantity of alcohol in
the blood system determines the
degree to which someone is drunk
Two methods of making this
Measurement of alcohol content in
Measurement of alcohol in breath

Circulation and Alcohol

Circulation and Alcohol

Circulation Definitions
Arterya blood vessel that carries blood
away from the heart
Veina blood vessel that transports
blood toward the heart
Capillarya tiny blood vesselwalls
exchange materials between blood and
Alveolismall sacs in lungsexchange
vapors between breath and blood

Circulation Cont
Note: If alcohol is present, it will be
passed from the blood into the alveoli
where it will be passed on to the mouth
and nose during the act of breathing.
Evidence has shown that the ratio of
alcohol to alveoli air is approx. 2100 to 1
This is a basis for relating breath to
blood-alcohol concentration.

Analysis of BAC
Breath Tests

Field Sobriety Tests

Blood Tests

Breath Tests
A breath test reflects the alcohol
concentration in the pulmonary
One instrument used for breath tests
is called The Breathalyzer.
The Breathalyzer is a device for
collecting and measuring the alcohol
content of alveolar breath.

The Breathalyzer

The Breathalyzer Cont

The Breathalyzer traps 1/40 of 2100
milliliters of alveolar breath.
Since the amount of alcohol in 2100
milliliters of breath approximates the
amount of alcohol in 1 milliliter of
bloodthe Breathalyzer in
essence measures the alcohol
concentration present in 1/40 of a
milliliter of blood.

Breathalyzer Cont
Once the alveolar breath is trapped it is
allowed to undergo a chemical reaction:

2K2Cr2O7 + 3C2H5OH + 8H2SO4 2Cr2(SO4)3 + 2K2SO4 + 3CH3COOH +









The Breathalyzer indirectly

determines the quantity of alcohol
consumed by measuring the
absorption of light by potassium
chromate before and after its
reaction with alcohol, using the
principle of spectrophotometry

Other Breath Tests

Infrared breath-testing instrument
Fuel cell
Note: These instruments are used
more recently because they dont
depend upon chemical reagents and
are entirely automated.

Infrared-Breath Test
Uses the principle that infrared light is
absorbed when shined on alcohol
Essentially, the infrared light passes
through a chamber where it will interact
with the alcohol and cause the light
density to decrease.
The decrease in light intensity is
proportional to the concentration of
alcohol present in the captured breath

Fuel CellBreath Test

A fuel cell converts a fuel and an
oxidant into an electrical current.
In this test, the breath alcohol is the
fuel and atmospheric oxygen acts as
the oxidant.
Alcohol is converted, generating a
current that is proportional to the
quantity of alcohol present in the

Infrared and Fuel Cell

Breath Tests
Infrared Breath Test
uses infrared
wavelengths to test for
alcohol or other
interferences in the

Fuel Cell Test

converts fuel
(alcohol) and
oxygen into a
measurable electric

Field Sobriety Testing

Two reasons for the field sobriety

1. Used as a preliminary test to
ascertain the degree of the suspects
physical impairment
2. To see whether or not an evidential
test is justified.

Field Sobriety Testing

Field sobriety testing consists of a
series of psychophysical tests and a
preliminary breath test (typically
done with a handheld fuel cell tester)
These tests are preliminary and
nonevidential in naturethey only
serve to establish probable cause
requiring a more thorough breath or
blood test.

Field Sobriety Tests

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus
Involuntary eye jerk as eye moves horizontally

Walk and Turn (divided attention tasks)

One-Leg Stand

Parts of the brain affected

by Alcohol
Alcohol 1st
affects the
and moves
affected is

and the Law
intoxicated =
0.15% BAC
1965: intoxicated
= 0.10% BAC
2003: intoxicated
= 0.08% BAC

At least we dont live in

France, Germany, Ireland,
or Japan (0.05%) or
especially Sweden (0.02%)!

Alcohol and the Law

Try the drink wheel:

The End