Forensic Toxicology

, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 19–24

Heroin poisoning deaths with 6-acetylmorphine in blood: demographics of the victims, previous drug-related offences, polydrug use, and free morphine concentrations in femoral blood

Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s11419-011-0123-4

Cite this article as:
Jones, A.W., Holmgren, A. & Ahlner, J. Forensic Toxicol (2012) 30: 19. doi:10.1007/s11419-011-0123-4
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Abstract

This article discusses cases of drug-poisoning death in which 6-acetylmorphine (6-AM) was identified in blood as evidence for recent use of heroin. We report the demographics of the victims, previous drug-related offences, polydrug use, and the concentrations of free morphine in peripheral blood. After solid-phase extraction, morphine, codeine, and 6-AM were determined in blood samples by isotope-dilution gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC–MS) using limits of quantitation of 0.005 mg/l for each opiate. The victims of heroin poisoning were mainly men (88%), with a mean age of 35.4 ± 8.4 years (±SD) and no significant gender difference in age (men 35 ± 8.4 years; women 35 ± 8.6 years). The median concentration of free morphine in blood (n = 671) was 0.25 mg/l (66% > 0.20 mg/l) and women had a higher concentration (0.30 mg/l) than men (0.24 mg/l) (P < 0.05). No significant difference (P > 0.05) was found for the concentration of free morphine in blood when heroin was the only drug taken (median 0.26 mg/l, n = 53) compared with multidrug deaths (median 0.24 mg/l, n = 618) (P > 0.05). The coingested drugs most commonly identified in heroin-related deaths were ethanol (44%), diazepam (27%), cannabis (20%), and flunitrazepam (19%). We found that 61% of victims had previous drug-related offences ranging from 1 to 48 times. The close agreement between the concentrations of free morphine in blood when heroin was the only drug taken and multidrug deaths suggests that differences in tolerance to opiates is more important in causing death than adverse drug–drug interactions.

Keywords

Drug abuseHeroinMorphinePoisoning deathsPolydrug useTolerance

Copyright information

© Japanese Association of Forensic Toxicology and Springer 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alan Wayne Jones
    • 1
  • Anita Holmgren
    • 1
  • Johan Ahlner
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Forensic Genetics and Forensic ToxicologyNational Board of Forensic MedicineLinköpingSweden