Journal Article

Cocaine Detection in Postmortem Samples Following Therapeutic Administration

Kristen M. Bailey, David J. Clay, Myron A. Gebhardt, Matrina J. Schmidt, Nabila A. Haikal and James C. Kraner

in Journal of Analytical Toxicology

Volume 33, issue 8, pages 550-552
Published in print October 2009 | ISSN: 0146-4760
Published online October 2009 | e-ISSN: 1945-2403 | DOI:
Cocaine Detection in Postmortem Samples Following Therapeutic Administration

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  • Medical Toxicology
  • Toxicology (Non-medical)


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Cocaine is one of the most widely abused drugs and one that is frequently encountered in forensic toxicology laboratories. Most often, the detection of cocaine would lead toxicologists and forensic pathologists to believe that the drug was used illicitly; however, cocaine is an effective local anesthetic and vasoconstrictor and is used clinically in surgeries of the eye, ear, nose, and throat. Therefore, it is important to note that the presence of cocaine and its metabolites in forensic samples cannot always be attributed to abuse and that a thorough investigation and review of medical records is warranted before an informed conclusion can be made. In this case report, a 54-year-old male died three days after an altercation in which he suffered multiple injuries. In addition to natural disease and injuries documented at autopsy, cocaine and its metabolites were detected in the decedent's urine, and a review of surgical records showed that earlier on the day of death, he was administered cocaine clinically during a procedure to repair nasal bone fractures. If not for this comprehensive investigation and review of surgical records, the assumption of cocaine abuse might have otherwise been made and the cause and manner of death incorrectly established.

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Subjects: Medical Toxicology ; Toxicology (Non-medical)

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