SOFT - TIAFT 1998 Scientific Session 5 Thursday October 8, 1998
Click Picture David A. Engelhart and Amanda J. Jenkins

Cuyahoga County Coroner's Office, 2121 Adelbert Road, Cleveland, OH 44106 U.S.A.

Postmortem fingernail, toenail, and nasal swab samples were utilized for the detection of cocaine, opiates, and their metabolites. This study was designed to evaluate the correlation of these drugs in fingernails (right hand vs. left hand), toenails (right foot vs. left foot), blood, and nasal swabs. Nail clippings were washed with methanol and then solubilized in 0.1 M potassium phosphate (pH 5.0). Drugs were extracted from the nasal swabs by soaking in methanol for 24 hrs. Cocaine and its metabolites were isolated from the solubilized nails and methanol swab extracts by solid phase extraction, while opiates were isolated utilizing a liquid-liquid extraction procedure. After derivatization with MSTFA, quantitation was performed by GC/MS in the SIM mode. The linear range for all analytes was 0.3 to 60.0 ng on column. The limit of quantitation for all analytes was 0.3 ng on column.

The concentration of drugs found in the nails of each hand, foot and nasal swab were compared with those of their corresponding postmortem fluids. Eight cases were screened for cocaine and metabolites and in all of these cases, the fingernails and/or toenails were positive for cocaine, benzoylecgonine, and ecgonine methyl ester. Norcocaine was found in 7 cases and cocaethylene was detected in the toenails of two cases with values of 0.95 and 0.08 ng/mg. Concentration ranges (ng/mg) for nails were as follows: cocaine 4.16 - 397.4; benzoylecgonine 1.8 - 170.3; ecgonine methyl ester 0.19 - 26.98; and norcocaine 0.11 - 32.74. Cocaine was detected in the blood for 5 of the 8 cases. Nasal swabs (2 swabs per nostril) were collected for 7 of the cases and all were positive for cocaine with values ranging from 7.34 to 10,229 ng/swab (mean=2262).

Eight cases were also screened for opiates and in 7 of these, the fingernails and/or toenails were positive for morphine with concentrations ranging from 0.03 - 407.9 ng/mg. In 5 of these cases, 6-monoacetylmorphine and codeine concentrations ranged from 0.18 - 103.6 and 0.06 - 10.4 ng/mg, respectively. Hydromorphone was detected in 2 fingernail specimens with concentrations of 0.02 and 0.44 ng/mg with no drug detected in the corresponding blood. In 6 of the cases, morphine was found in the blood. Nasal swabs were collected for 4 cases and all were positive for morphine with values ranging from 2.29 to 114.9 ng/swab (mean=30.9).

These results demonstrate that nails may provide an alternate matrix for postmortem drug detection in cases where conventional matrices are unavailable. Whenever possible, fingernails are the specimen of choice since in this study, the drug concentrations measured were consistently one order of magnitude greater than drugs detected in toenails.

Albuquerque logo
Previous Abstract
Thursday Index

TIAFT '98 Homepage

TIAFTnet Homepage

Albuquerque logo
Next Abstract

Further information: or
TIAFT & CBFT 1995 - 1997 All Rights Reserved