SOFT - TIAFT 1998 Scientific Session 8 Friday October 9, 1998
Click Picture Martin Schmid and Peter X. Iten

Institute of Legal Medicine, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstr. 190, CH-8057 Zurich

For a short time in October 1996, cocaine adulterated with atropine (mean content 7%) appeared on the illicit drug market in Zurich. Subsequently, four cases of suspected driving under the influence of drugs proved to be related to atropine, as was shown by our investigations. Two of these cases will be presented in detail.

Case 1:
A 30-year-old man called for the police claiming that his little daughter had been kidnapped. The police found him nervously walking around his car and talking to not existing persons whereas his daughter sat crying on the back-seat.

Case 2:
The police observed a 30-year-old man driving unsafely and sometimes even stopping on the highway. His behaviour was striking: apathy, apparent confusion, difficulties in walking. A subsequent interrogation by the police was impossible.

In both cases the medical examination revealed mydriasis, slurred speech, bloodshot conjunctivas, in case 1 furthermore disorientation, in case 2 agitation.

Atropine was detected in toxic concentrations in whole blood (0.003 and 0.009 mg/L, respectively) and urine (6.6 and 27.0 mg/L, respectively) taken from the drivers a few hours after the event. Identification was carried out by GC/MS, quantitation by GC using nitrogen-phosphorus-detection. The intake of cocaine was proven in both cases. Additionally, in case 2, 0.020 mg/L of free morphine were detected in blood by GC/MS.

Atropine-adulterated cocaine produced severe intoxications with long lasting symptoms, e.g. hallucinations, disorientation, confusion, impaired vision, resulting in a severe driving impairment even at a time when direct impairment by cocaine could be ruled out. In case 2 a combined effect of atropine and heroin/morphine had to be taken into account.

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