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Toxicology

Toxicology

Toxicology Testing

In many criminal investigations, an individual can state that they experienced a potential degree of impairment. This impairment could be a result of drug and/or alcohol usage. This must be considered. Thus a sample of blood, urine, organ, or tissue should be taken for scientific analysis. This is known as a toxicology test.

 

How a toxicology test is conducted for the presence of alcohol and the presence of drugs

Typically, the analytical scientist will examine a sample for the presence of alcohol. This analysis of alcohol (ethanol) is relatively routine.

As with the toxicology test for alcohol, the analytical scientist will be asked to examine a sample, but for the presence of drugs. Yet, this analysis is usually far more complex. As there are a vast number of substances, which are classified as drugs, that a person could have used, or been given.

 

Challenges with toxicology tests for the presence of drugs

 

Unknown/ multiple drugs

In a straightforward case where an individual is known to have taken a pharmaceutical drug such as an antidepressant, the toxicologist can focus their analyses on that specific substance. But, in some cases, the drug type can be unknown and there may be a possibility that multiple drugs have been used. In these circumstances, the analyses are more complex, and often require a range of analytical tests.

These can include:

  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GCMS)
  • High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC)

 

Inability to test for all substances

When confronted with a sample containing an unknown substance, testing for all possibilities is impossible. As the scientist is unable to complete analyses that will incorporate every possible substance. Instead, it is usual for a standard range of drugs to be tested for, these include:

  • Heroin
  • Cocaine
  • MDMA (ecstasy)
  • Cannabis (THC)
  • Pharmaceutical drugs

How toxicology testing results are reported and interpreted

The results of an analytical test will usually produce a concentration of the drug (or its metabolite) in the sample. This data can be of great significance. Scientifically reporting on whether a victim or assailant may have been intoxicated through alcohol or drugs at the time of an incident. Which may have contributed to their actions and recollections of events.

Toxicological testing can be extremely varied. It may include the assessment of whether an individual has ingested a substance such as a so-called “date rape” drug. Or, whether at the time of an incident their blood or urine alcohol concentration would have led to a comatose state. This type of toxicological assessment can also be important when reviewing the conduct of an individual who is suspected of having committed a crime.

 

How Bericon reviews toxicology testing

We are asked to review the toxicology data provided by the Crown. In the review, we would comment on the reliability of the test data. Then offer comments on the possible side effects of any detected substance.

We believe that there is a great need to review and scrutinise toxicology data. Given that police procedure and financial restrictions can cause:

  • Delay in samples being taken promptly
  • Delays resulting in issues with interpretation
  • Samples not being analysed
  • Samples not being tested for a complete range of substances

 

How Bericon completes toxicology testing

Increasingly, requests are being made for the testing of samples. Of which have not been analysed as part of the Prosecution case. At Bericon, we are able to facilitate independent testing and the interpretation of such samples.

To discuss toxicology testing, reviewing, and or interpretation of data, please contact us.

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