Volatile substance abuse—post-mortem diagnosis

Sarah M R Wille, Willy E E Lambert
Forensic Science International 2004 June 10, 142 (2-3): 135-56
A substantial number of children and adolescents world-wide abuse volatile substances with the intention to experience an euphoric state of consciousness. Although the ratio of deaths to nonfatal inhalation escapades is low, it is an important and preventable cause of death in young people. In the analytical investigation of volatile substances proper sample collection, storage and handling are important in view of the volatile nature of the compounds. Volatile organic compounds in post-mortem matrices such as blood, urine and tissues are generally determined by gas chromatography after extracting the compounds with methods such as static and dynamic headspace or even with pulse-heating and solvent extraction. In post-mortem cases, metabolites in urine seem less relevant, however, trichloroethanol and trichloroacetic acid were determined in several cases. When interpreting qualitative and quantitative results, researchers should be aware of false conclusions. The main reason why scepticism is necessary is the occurrence of losses of analytes during sampling, sample handling and storage, which results in false quantitation.

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