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Forensic Toxicology: Detection & Classification Of Drugs

Forensic Toxicology

Did you know that forensic toxicology can be a beneficial asset in a court case by bringing forward scientifically analyzing biological samples?

Where the likes of DUIs and urine testing can result in mishaps and unfair prison sentences, forensic toxicology uses improved tools and technologies to achieve highly accurate results.

The toxicological data goes through a system of detection and classification to determine which drugs are present, and their respective quantities.

Understanding Drug Classification

Forensic toxicology approaches its classification process in a scientific way to determine the type of poison in the human body. There are various classifications of poison consumption, namely;

  • Gaseous or vaporous state
  • Liquid state (susceptible to volatility)
  • Acids and strong bases
  • Inorganic anions
  • Metals
  • Non-volatile organic compounds

These poisons are present in various drug forms that are tested and classified through various means.

Ways of Testing

While there is a long history of different ways to test the presence of drugs, forensic toxicology uses improved methods. With a combination of testing methods and expert legal knowledge, the interpretation of toxicological data is improved.

These are a few common ways of testing for toxins. A forensic lawyer will look a the following aspects for physical and biological types of evidence.

  • DNA
  • Bone
  • Electronics
  • Weapons

In everyday life, detection of drugs can be done in the following ways (among others).

Hair Samples

Hair testing is one of the ways that people are tested for drugs. The drug molecules and their metabolites are carried in the bloodstream to the hair follicles.

Hair testing can be administered for up to 90 days after consumption. There are various factors that influence hair testing, however, it is still a popular way of executing the test.

Urine Samples

Another common method of drug and alcohol testing is done via urine. The sample of urine is retrieved on-site and then the sample is tested for the presence of drugs.

While there are definite advantages of using urine testing, there are also ways to alter urine test results.

Blood Samples

Blood tests are common in criminal and civil cases to determine whether there are drugs in an individual’s system. Commonly known as “trial by vial,” blood testing is one of the more in-depth ways of testing for drugs.

Sweat Patch

Sweat patches are a popular method of documenting human drug exposure through secretions of bodily fluids.

There are both pros and cons of sweat patch testing. The absorbent pad is assessed for chemical excretions which will indicate metabolites of drugs – if there are any in an individual’s system.

Understanding The Process Of Detection and Classification

There are three main sub-disciplines of forensic toxicology, namely post mortem forensic toxicology, human performance toxicology, and forensic drug testing.

The advanced testing of biological components is what sets forensic toxicology above other superficial testing methods. Serving as expert witness knowledge in various criminal and civil cases, the following processes are carried out in the laboratory.

Here are two methods of testing that are commonly used.

Gas Chromatography

Gas chromatography (GC) follows the method of breaking down a sample into its components. These individual components are then looked at for individual analysis.

The process of GC is as follows: the sample is heated, the components are vaporized together with a carrier gas, and the gas passes through a silica-lined column. Each of these components, known as volatile organic compounds, reacts with this lining differently and the results are measured by a computer.

The graph produced by the GC is considered to be one of the most accurate and direct methods for detecting the presence of ethanol in human’s blood.

Enzymatic Assay

The enzymatic assay method is also used to measure blood alcohol content (BAC) by assessing the rate of enzyme reactions.

The enzyme responds to being in contact with the ethanol. The enzymatic assay is considered a quick method for testing BAC – but not necessarily the most accurate.

The Fool-Proof Method

The value provided by forensic toxicology can be the make or break the results of a case. A toxicology co-counsel uses scientific knowledge gathered through forensic toxicology to assist in DUI cases and drug tests.

Don’t leave your fate in the hands of an unreliable drug test. Contact Okorie Okorocha at (424) 363-3347 for expert legal, toxicological guidance.

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