The American journal of forensic medicine and pathology

Detection of drugs of forensic importance in postmortem bone.

PMID 19237852


There is a paucity of literature detailing the disposition of drugs in bone and bone marrow. Infrequently, in deaths involving skeletonized remains, fragmentation, decomposition, and exsanguination, traditional specimens may be unavailable for toxicological testing. This study examined the utility of bone for the detection of benzodiazepines, opiates, cocaine and metabolites, and basic drugs in 39 cases. Cases were identified on the basis of a positive blood result. After specimen preparation, samples were assayed by liquid-liquid or solid phase extraction with gas chromatographic and gas chromatographic mass spectrometric detection. The majority of decedents were white males with 28% of individuals between the ages of 41 to 50 years. The cause of death was drug intoxication in 22 cases. The most prevalent drugs detected in the blood males and females were opiates and bases. Morphine, codeine, and oxycodone were detected in bone, whereas 6-acetylmorphine and hydrocodone were absent. For alkaline extractable drugs, in only 57% of blood positive specimens, the corresponding bone was also positive. These included antidepressants and antihistamines. Diazepam and nordiazepam were detected in the bone of all blood positive cases. Bone concentrations were higher than blood levels. Benzoylecgonine was the most common cocaine analyte detected in bone. These data demonstrated that drugs may be detected in bone using current technologies and that in general concentrations were higher than those observed in corresponding blood specimens. A negative result in bone, however, should be interpreted with caution because multiple factors determine the deposition of a drug in this matrix.

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