New Developments in Analytical Toxicology for the Investigation of Drug Facilitated Crime

  • Richard Paul

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Drug facilitated assault (DFA) is an increasing problem in the UK. The crime often occurs through the surreptitious administration of a drug into a victims drink, rendering the victim unable to resist the assault. The detection of these drugs in a biological specimen from the victim is one of the most challenging facets of forensic chemistry. Drug concentrations can be very low, as often only a single dose is administered, and the pharmacodynamics of commonly employed drugs further hinders the testing process.

    The research presented in this work shows the development of several new assays for the detection of flunitrazepam, gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) and ethyl glucuronide (EtG) in a variety of biological matrices. New methods of drug testing in blood and urine are demonstrated, as well as interesting developments in the field of hair testing. Using hair to detect drug exposure allows a much wider window of detection than the more traditional matrices of blood and urine. New methods are presented in this work using gas chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (GCMS/MS) to detect drugs in hair. Validation data is presented along with the results of authentic DFA testing.

    All aspects of the drug testing procedure have been evaluated, from new extraction techniques utilising water instead of solvents, to novel clean up stages involving the unique combination of SFE and SPME. Several confirmation techniques are explored including single quadrupole, triple quadrupole and ion trap mass spectrometry.

    In addition to developing assays for DFA cases, the versatility of this type of analytical chemistry is explored in two population studies. The first study evaluates alcohol consumption between two groups; drugs users and non drug users in medico-legal cases. There is an anecdotal belief amongst drug clinic staff that alcohol use is lower in drugs users than it is in non drug users. This study presents the first scientific confirmation of this belief through EtG (an alcohol metabolite) testing in hair of the two groups.

    The second study investigates whether there is a correlation between EtG and cocaethylene (a metabolite of cocaine only produced in the presence of alcohol) in cocaine users. Results f this study suggest that there is no positive correlation between the two compounds.

    The research presented in this thesis aims to further the analytical science surrounding FA investigation and provide accurate, sensitive and reliable methodology for drug esting in blood, urine and hair.
    Date of AwardAug 2007
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorTony (Antony) Berry (Supervisor) & Alan Guwy (Supervisor)


    • Analytical toxicology
    • Drug facilitated assault (DFA)
    • Detection of drugs in biological specimen
    • Analytical chemistry
    • Forensic chemistry
    • Flunitrazepam
    • Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB)
    • Ethyl Glucuronide (EtG)
    • Blood and urine testing
    • Hair testing
    • Criminal investigation

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