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What Is Forensic Toxicology?

Forensic toxicology is the analysis of biological samples for the presence of toxins, including drugs (1). As a part of the science of pharmacology, the main reason of having the services performed would be to confirm if drugs or poisons may have contributed to one's passing.

Less invasive than a full autopsy, the samples are collected and provided to a laboratory for testing. Samples collected range from blood, hair, skin, nails, vitreous fluid, bone marrow among other options.

Volatile substances such as ethanol, carbon monoxide, metals in human fluids and tissues can be found from forensic toxicology. Prescription drugs, illicit substances, or over-the-counter medications are tested for to give a clearer picture to cause of death.

Examples of what can be found from toxicology testing are chloroform, ethanol (alcohol), methanol, heroin, methamphetamines, opiates, ibuprofen, barbiturates, acetaminophen, and isopropanol. These are a few examples; testing can discover a wide range of substances.

The Three Main Objectives of Forensic Toxicology Are:

1. Establish if toxicants are present and capable of contributing to death

2. Establish if toxicants are present and capable of causing behavioral changes

3. Establish if substances are present and whether or not they represent legitimate use or exposure, such as prescribed medications or workplace exposures (2)

At Private Autopsy, INC. we have this service available to help determine cause of death. If you would like further information on how toxicology can help you and your specific situation, please call for assistance.


1. National Institute of Justice


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