Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Pharmacology and Toxicology


Pharmacology and Toxicology

First Advisor

David G. Lundgren


In recent years the number of postmortem cases in which cocaine involvement is suspected has increased considerably. This has created a need for a rapid screening procedure for the postmortem samples. The present study examined the usefulness of vitreous humor specimens, analyzed by a rapid immunological assay, as a possible alternative to the more conventional and relatively slow gas chromatography/mass spectrometry of blood samples to screen for antemortem cocaine use. Medical examiner cases occurring over a six month period were reviewed and forty-eight cases which were determined to be drug related or drug induced deaths were analyzed. Postmortem concentrations of cocaine and its hydrolysis product, benzoylecgonine, recovered from blood, were compared to the concentrations detected in vitreous humor. These specimens were screened via a rapid fluorescence polarization immunoassay (FPIA) and also analyzed by gas chromatography/ mass spectrometry (GC/MS) for a quantitation of cocaine and its primary hydrolysis product, benzoylecgonine. An assessment of FPIA to screen postmortem vitreous humor samples was carried out. The sensitivity of this method was 0.03 mcg/ml. The vitreous humor cocaine metabolite levels by FPIA and GC/MS demonstrated a correlation coefficient of 0.7. Blood and vitreous humor benzoylecgonine levels from the same postmortem case analyzed by GC/MS showed a correlation coefficient of o.s. Significant correlation of the FPIA results with the GC/MS results demonstrate that the FPIA analysis of vitreous humor samples appears to be a valid screening technique to detect antemortem cocaine use. The vitreous humor was found to be a clean and stable body fluid which was suitable for this technique. It is concluded that the screening of postmortem vitreous humor for cocaine use by this FPIA method is a useful and reliable screening technique in forensic toxicology.



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