Drug related deaths in the United States continue to increase, especially those involving synthetic opioids. Understanding of drug-involved death can be complex, requiring collaboration between forensic toxicologists, medical examiners or coroners, and death scene investigators. The CFSRE focuses on development of assays for the detection and quantification of drugs in postmortem biological matrices, as well as interpretation of the results.

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Research

The CFSRE conducts extensive research in conjunction with medical examiner and coroner offices, as well as other drug testing laboratories, involving various aspects associated with medicolegal death investigation. Postmortem toxicology testing involving drugs and other toxins remains a large area of work for forensic toxicologists who are often called upon to deliver and interpret analytical findings. Forensic toxicologists are tasked with relaying this information to pathologists and death investigators for correlation with assessment of cause and manner of death, and sometimes to a judge or jury in a court of law when aspects surrounding drug-related death arise (e.g. drug delivery resulting in death). However, a toxicologist’s interpretation is often based on the results and conclusions from peer-reviewed literature and publications. Understanding the impacts of drugs on biological systems (e.g. humans) requires 1) advanced analytical research to confirm the substance(s) present in various biological matrices, 2) comparative and quantitative data for case review in collaboration with postmortem examinations, and 3) surveying of the drug landscape as drug trends and combinations change or evolve.

A staple in the CFSRE medicolegal death investigation research program is our commitment to comprehensive analytical testing in postmortem scenarios, often including testing for a large number of novel psychoactive substances (NPS), using state-of-the-art instrumentation and analytical techniques. Our research efforts include the development and validation of quantitative testing protocols to help expand knowledge on drugs detected after death. In addition, evaluations regarding drug stability, postmortem redistribution, and other aspects necessary for interpretative matters are commonly conducted.

Benefits

  • Medicolegal death investigation research expands upon the information known about drugs and their involvement in drug-related deaths.
  • Forensic toxicologists rely on postmortem studies for comparative purposes when evaluating case information and findings, and subsequently for interpretation of results.
  • Quantitative testing for drugs in medicolegal death investigations provides a frame of references when determining the concentration at which a drug may become lethal and/or its involvement in other physiological processes discovered at autopsy.
  • NPS, specifically synthetic opioids and synthetic cannabinoids, are commonly found in postmortem casework and can go undetected if proper drug testing assays are not employed.

Applications

Methods developed at the CFSRE have been successfully implemented for the detection of drugs in authentic postmortem casework samples. Peer-reviewed literature from our research program is used by forensic toxicologist when writing expert opinions and testifying. The outcomes of our research program continue to positively impact the field of forensic toxicology, both analytically and interpretively.


Resources

The CFSRE develops informative open-access resources to contribute to the scientific community, including scientific reports or publications and training or educational materials.

Do you want to become a Medical Examiner?

The National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME): So You Want to be a Medical Detective?
Becoming a Forensic Pathologist: The Stories of People Who Have Done It
Becoming a Forensic Pathologist, The Story Continues…
Dr. Odette Hall, Suffolk County Medical Examiner – Interview

Publications/Presentations

Peer reviewed publications

  • Barry K. Logan, Amanda L.A. Mohr, Melissa Friscia, Alex J. Krotulski, Donna M. Papsun, Sherri L. Kacinko, Jeri D. Ropero-Miller, Marilyn A. Huestis. Reports of Adverse Events Associated with Use of Novel Psychoactive Substances, 2013–2016: A Review. Journal of Analytical Toxicology, Volume 41, Issue 7, September 2017, Pages 573–610, https://doi.org/10.1093/jat/bkx031
  • Alex J Krotulski, Donna M Papsun, Melissa Friscia, Jennifer L Swartz, Brian D Holsey, Barry K Logan. Fatality Following Ingestion of Tetrahydrofuranylfentanyl, U-49900 and Methoxy-Phencyclidine. Journal of Analytical Toxicology, Volume 42, Issue 3, April 2018, Pages e27–e32, https://doi.org/10.1093/jat/bkx092
  • Alex J. Krotulski, Donna M. Papsun, Carolina Noble, Sherri L. Kacinko, Barry K. Logan. Brorphine—Investigation and quantitation of a new potent synthetic opioid in forensic toxicology casework using liquid chromatography‐mass spectrometry. Journal of Forensic Science. Early View. https://doi.org/10.1111/1556-4029.14623
  • Alex J Krotulski, Donna M Papsun, Sherri L Kacinko, Barry K Logan. Isotonitazene Quantitation and Metabolite Discovery in Authentic Forensic Casework. Journal of Analytical Toxicology, Volume 44, Issue 6, July 2020, Pages 521–530, https://doi.org/10.1093/jat/bkaa016
  • Alex J Krotulski, Donna M Papsun, Melissa Friscia, Jennifer L Swartz, Brian D Holsey, Barry K Logan. Fatality Following Ingestion of Tetrahydrofuranylfentanyl, U-49900 and Methoxy-Phencyclidine. Journal of Analytical Toxicology, Volume 42, Issue 3, April 2018, Pages e27–e32, https://doi.org/10.1093/jat/bkx092
  • Alex J. Krotulski, Amanda L.A. Mohr, Sherri L. Kacinko, Melissa F. Fogarty, Sarah A. Shuda, Francis X. Diamond, William A. Kinney, M.J. Menendez, Barry K. Logan. 4F‐MDMB‐BINACA: A New Synthetic Cannabinoid Widely Implicated in Forensic Casework. Journal of Forensic Science. Volume 64, Issue 5, September 2019, Pages 1451-1461. https://doi.org/10.1111/1556-4029.14101
  • Donna M Papsun, Alex J Krotulski, Joseph Homan, Keith D H Temporal, Barry K Logan. Flualprazolam Blood Concentrations in 197 Forensic Investigation Cases. Journal of Analytical Toxicology, bkaa070, https://doi.org/10.1093/jat/bkaa070
  • Alex J Krotulski, Donna M Papsun, Chris W Chronister, Joseph Homan, Michele M Crosby, Jennifer Hoyer, Bruce A Goldberger, Barry K Logan. Eutylone Intoxications—An Emerging Synthetic Stimulant in Forensic Investigation. Journal of Analytical Toxicology, bkaa113, https://doi.org/10.1093/jat/bkaa113


Presentations

  • Barry K. Logan, Donna M. Papsun, Alex J. Krotulski, Sherri L Kacinko. A Novel Benzimidazole μ-Opioid Agonist as the Latest Novel Opioid. Society of Forensic Toxicologists. 2020 Annual Meeting. Platform Presentation.
  • Judith Rodriguez Salas, Alex J. Krotulski, Reta Newman, Jon R. Thogmartin, Amanda L.A. Mohr, Barry K. Logan. Concentrations of para-Fluorofuranylfentanyl in Central and Peripheral Blood from Postmortem Death Investigations. Society of Forensic Toxicologists. 2020 Annual Meeting. Platform Presentation.
  • Alex J. Krotulski, Susan Varnum, Barry K. Logan. Data-Supported Poly-Drug Use Among Fentanyl Users: A Toxicology Perspective. American Academy for Forensic Sciences. 2020 Annual Meeting. Platform Presentation.
  • Barry K. Logan, Meaghan P. Drumm, Denice M. Teem, Sherri L. Kacinko. Quantitation of Tianeptine and its Metabolite in Blood and Urine by LC-MS/MS. Society of Forensic Toxicologists. 2019 Annual Meeting. Platform Presentation.
  • Melissa F. Fogarty, Amanda L. A. Mohr, Donna Papsun, Barry K. Logan. Method of Development and Validation of U-Type Opioid (Utopioid) Series Compounds and their Identification in Authentic Case Samples. Society of Forensic Toxicologists. 2019 Annual Meeting. Platform Presentation.
  • Eduardo Geraldo De Campos, Melissa Fogarty, Bruno DeMartinis, Barry K. Logan. Comprehensive Screening of Traditional and Novel Psychoactive Substances in Postmortem Dried Blood Spots Specimens by UHPLC-QToF-MS/MS. Society of Forensic Toxicologists. 2019 Annual Meeting. Poster Presentation.
  • Judith Rodriguez Salas, Amanda L. A. Mohr, Melissa F. Fogarty, Barry K. Logan. Retrospective Datamining of Novel Opioids Using Previously Acquired Data by Liquid Chromatography Time of Flight Mass Spectrometry (LC-TOF-MS). Society of Forensic Toxicologists. 2019 Annual Meeting. Platform Presentation.