Suitable Samples for Drug Testing

Sample matrices for determining drug use and probable cause

Confident drug testing results identify which drugs of abuse (DoA) and the quantities involved in a case, as well as determine drug levels in the body at the time of death or impairment to drive. Commonly tested biological sample matrices include blood, tissue, urine, hair, and innovative sample types such as oral fluid and exhaled breath. However, low amounts of DoA or their metabolites provide challenges for reliable conclusions.

Learn how advancements such as TurboFlow technology automate online sample preparation of complex specimens such as blood and urine for decreased contamination and increased workflow efficiency. In addition, these learning center resources show how high-resolution accurate mass (HRAM) Orbitrap MS have enabled forensic scientists to reliably analyze oral fluid for identifying drugs of abuse.

Thermo Scientific has a wide variety of analytical workflows for identifying DoA, and their metabolites for determining which drugs are involved. Our selection of GC derivatization reagents, and broad range of manual and semi-automated SPE consumable solutions, offer reliable sample processing for forensic drug testing.

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Forensic toxicology testing for drugs of abuse (DoA) in various sample matrices


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Suitable samples for drug testing subtopics

Drug testing of blood and tissue samples has been established  in forensic toxicology since the 1800s. Blood specimens can be tested for the parent drug molecule to indicate recent ingestion, while tissues are tested at autopsy for cause of death cases. The window of detection for blood can indicate usage as recent as a few minutes to hours. For impaired driving cases, testing blood alcohol concentration levels is well established in the judicial system.

Hair was one of the first alternative sample matrices for DoA testing, after blood and urine. The window of detection can indicate drug use as far back as several months. Hair testing primarily involves identifying metabolites of DoA to distinguish deliberate drug use from passive exposure.

Oral fluid and exhaled breath have been progressing in the past few years as reliable sample matrices for drugs of abuse testing. These alternative matrices address the complications of blood and urine testing with easier access to specimen, rapid and convenient collection on site, and without the need for medical professionals.

Perhaps the most common biological fluid for testing DoA is urine. Parent drug and metabolites are tested to indicate ingestion as far back as several weeks, or months, depending on the specific drug.


Analyze drugs of abuse and new psychoactive substances using Orbitrap high-resolution LC-MS

Dr. Giampietro Frison of the Laboratory of Environmental Hygiene and Forensic Toxicology (LIATF) discusses how he addresses the growing load of forensic toxicology cases using Thermo Scientific Orbitrap high-resolution accurate mass LC-MS.


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