The first comprehensive work on Forensic Toxicology was published in 1813 by Mathieu Orfila. He was a respected Spanish chemist and the physician who is often given the distinction of “Father of Toxicology.” His work emphasized the need for adequate proof of identification and the need for quality assurance. It also recognized the application of forensic toxicology in pharmaceutical, clinical, industrial and environmental fields.

Forensic toxicology is a discipline of forensic science concerned with the study of toxic substances or poisons, of which there are many thousands. Toxicology encompasses theoretical considerations, methods and procedures from many disciplines including analytical chemistry, biochemistry, epidemiology, pharmaco-dynamics, pathology, and physiology. It also involves the study of the toxic effects chemicals have on the body. The understanding of how the toxins in the substance act, when the harmfulness of the toxin may occur, and the symptoms and treatments for poisoning are all part of the study of toxicology. Forensic toxicology is used to aid in medical and legal investigations of poisoning, death, and drug use.

Forensic toxicologists work in both the legal and medical industries providing invaluable information on poisons for court cases. Toxicologists also work with crime scene investigators providing information about substances that are involved. The knowledge provided by a forensic toxicologist can prove vital in determining the outcome of criminal cases. Forensic toxicologists use a variety of methods to test for substances, with the method dependent on the type of drug the toxicologist expects to find. Some of the tests that are typically used to detect drugs, both prescription and illegal, include gas-liquid chromatography, immunoassay, and thin-layer chromatography. In order to use these tests for legal purposes, the technician must perform and confirm his original results with a second test. For some illegal drugs, such as marijuana, opiates, cocaine, and amphetamines, spot tests are sometimes used that involve testing blood or hair samples with a reagent solution.

Currently, forensic toxicology is the study of alcohol, drugs (licit and illicit) and poisons, including their chemical composition, preparations and identification. It includes knowledge about the absorption, distribution and elimination characteristics of such substances in the body, as well as the manner in which the body responds to their presence and the factors which determine drug safety and effectiveness. To understand drug action one must know where and how the effects occur in the body.

Suicidal, homicidal and accidental cases of poisoning are common in India and in other countries. With the availability of various agents like pesticides, insecticides, drugs, chemicals the probability of the misuse of the same is happening. The substances of preference for poisoning are aconite, strychnine, calotropis, oleander, copper, mercury, arsenic etc.

The forensic toxicology laboratory analyzes body fluids and tissues to determine the presence of alcohol, drugs, and other substances.

Forensic toxicology results are used to assist medical examiners in determining cause and manner of death; and assist law enforcement agencies in cases involving driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol and/or drugs, automobile homicides, and other crimes

Toxicologists conduct the analysis, issue reports on their findings, and provide court testimony to interpret the test results.


Forensic Toxicology: An Introduction

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