Poisoning happens to be one of the oldest methods of killing and drug overdose is just as common as running a temperature. However, Forensic Toxicology has gained importance in the sphere of Forensic Science only recently. And all the more courtesy the high profile Toxicology cases involving Napoleon and Marilyn Monroe.
However, a myth needs to be broken. Forensics dealing with Toxicology is not only about poisoning and foul play. This branch of Forensic Science is equally instrumental in the investigation of accidental deaths and suicides. As it was proved while probing the drug deaths of rock legends Jimmy Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin and actors Balushi, Candy and Phoenix.
To elaborate, in the toxicology branch of forensic investigation, you are required to detect the presence of harmful foreign substances in the body. As a forensic toxicologist, you may be required to analyze blood, urine, tissue or hair samples. And most often than not, you will be presented with miniscule samples to work upon and come up with an identification or a classification.
It may be that you are required to find out the amount of alcohol present in the blood of a person convicted of drunken driving. And with virtually so many poisonous drugs and elements all around, you may be also called upon to detect the presence of certain suspected types of poison in the blood of a deceased person. That is to say, you need to come to a conclusion on whether it was strychnine or cyanide that did the job.
During the Olympics and major sports meets, there is a lot of hullabaloo regarding doping tests. And if you are a forensic toxicologist, your work will be to test urine samples for the presence of banned substances, steroids, performance-enhancing drugs and the like.
Hair samples play a pivotal role in toxicology investigations. Your thin strand of hair can record medium to high doses of substance abuse over quite a long period of time. So when the toxicology expert suspects continual poisoning, a snip of the scissors is all he needs to confirm. The hair sample will definitely bring to book the woman who is vehemently claiming that her husband had “accidentally overdosed”.
Toxicology cases also make wide use of samples taken from the intestine to shed light on poisoning issues.
With poisoners getting brainier and substance abuse on a never-before high, it is only natural that toxicology too would remodel itself to match the wits of the offenders. Thus mass spectrometry and gas chromatography are employed to reach to the bottom of alcohol and drug offences. Immunoassay is another weapon in the arsenal of the discerning forensic toxicologist to detect particularly stubborn substances like venom or other potent concoctions of protein.
Chemical or thermal oxidation is frequently used to detect the presence of metals and then any one of Reinsch test, emission spectroscopy or X-ray diffraction is used to make a positive identification.
The giant leaps that forensic toxicology has taken just make it that much harder for the offender to get away.