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A Journal on Forensic Medicine
Minerva Medicolegale 2002 September;122(3): 151-8
Narcotics-related death. Forensic and toxicological problems
Cingolani M., Froldi R.
Following a brief review of the epidemiological data on deaths due to narcotics in Italy in recent years, the approach that must be taken by the chemico-toxicological investigations in narcotics-related death is evaluated. Problems relating to the sampling of autopsy specimens are then analysed as are all the problems of their preservation in relation to investigational needs of the judicial authorities. The analytical procedures considered most adequate for procuring results are then discussed. The area of the assessment of findings is then addressed and it is considered that the work of interpreting such results can lead to the obtaining of important responses with respect to the search for a causal link between death and the concentration of narcotics in the biological specimens, determining survival time, identifying how the drug was administered, ascertaining the state of drug dependence, and appreciating the effects provoked by the presence of other molecules. In this regard a number of references relating to deaths due to the commonest drugs are provided. Finally, it is reiterated that as regards interpreting findings, rigorous, detailed contributions of a scientific and experimental nature must be supplied. These must be capable above all of correlating the concentrations of narcotics in the biological specimens with the ability to lead to death, in the conviction, however, that the overall judgement relating to each case cannot be separated from the application of all the legal medicine criteria proper to the diagnosis of poisoning.