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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 78444 Find in a Library
Title: Chemical Findings for Heroin Fatalities
Journal: Archiv fuer Kriminologie  Volume:166  Issue:1/2  Dated:(July/August 1980)  Pages:33-43
Author(s): E Klug
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 11
Format: Article
Language: German
Country: West Germany (Former)
Annotation: Statistics from England, France, Germany, and the United States on chemical-toxological findings in heroin fatalities are reviewed.
Abstract: Records show that opium and heroin deaths were already common occurrences in the 19th century. But the rate of heroin deaths has risen considerably since 1971. Before 1970, little was reported about the presence of alcaloids or their decomposition products in the body fluids and tissues of victims. However, recent studies in the United States indicate that traces of the substances in bile and urine are present with 90 to 98 percent of the drug fatalities. Still, addicts with other causes of death have similar levels, making a positive cause of death determination impossible on the basis of substance levels. The situation for blood is similar, although the presence of the substances in the blood of heroin-overdose victims is not as common as in the bile or urine. Organs of heroin fatalities present no special findings. Combination effects with morphine or heroin and alcohol or medications are common. Findings in 148 German heroin fatalities tend to support these observations. In these cases, drug concentrations are high in bile, urine, and occasionally blood. But when even small amounts of alcohol or medication are present, drug levels are low, indicating that alcohol and medications contribute to rapid death. The most common medications detected are sleeping tablets, especially barbiturates. Chemical findings can thus not provide absolute proof of drug overdoses as a cause of death, but such findings are useful in establishing cause of death after other nondrug-related possibilities have been eliminated and the external circumstances of the death as well as the family history of the victim have been studied. Tables and a 17-item bibliography are supplied.
Index Term(s): Alcoholic beverage consumption; Autopsy; Drug overdose; England; Fatalities; France; Germany; Heroin; United States of America
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