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The Forensic Pharmacology of Drugs of Abuse (Forensic Science Communications, October 2002)

The Forensic Pharmacology of Drugs of Abuse (Forensic Science Communications, October 2002)

October 2002 - Volume 4 - Number 4

Book Review

The Forensic Pharmacology of Drugs of Abuse

Olaf H. Drummer
with Morris Odell
Arnold, London, 2001
ISBN 0-340-76257-8

Reviewed by:

Marc A. LeBeau
Unit Chief
Chemistry Unit
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Washington, DC

In the preface of The Forensic Pharmacology of Drugs of Abuse, author Olaf H. Drummer states that the book’s scope is “to provide a comprehensive account of the pharmacological, pharmacokinetic and toxicological properties of the most common drugs of abuse that require expert evidence in courts...” His writing is directed toward experts in the areas of pharmacology and toxicology, legal professionals, and medical practitioners. In striving to meet this goal, Professor Drummer has taken a well-organized, novel approach to presenting this material.

As I read this book, I viewed it as having four divisions: Section 1, Sections 2-7, Section 8, and the Appendix. The first section serves as an introduction to pharmacology and toxicology and provides an easily understood, brief education on key topics. Professor Drummer introduces the section with the statistical prevalence of drug abuse, focusing on the problem in the United States and Australia. He addresses the typical biological specimens that are encountered in clinical and forensic toxicology laboratories, then explains the advantages and disadvantages of each. Next, he provides an overview of analytical techniques, validation, and quality assurance, followed by a brief, well-written chapter on pharmacokinetics and drug duration of action. Particularly valuable is his discussion of the pharmacokinetic differences between healthy young adults and people who are not in that category (e.g., children, elderly, obese, unhealthy). He also examines the effect that blood loss or blood replacement therapy has on pharmacokinetics. This is followed with the focus on drug tolerance and dependence. He then provides guidance with interpretative issues in toxicology (e.g., drug instability, metabolic changes, postmortem drug redistribution). At the end of the section, he furnishes a generous list of references from which the reader might wish to investigate further.

The second division of the book, as I viewed it, consists of separate sections (2-7) on the most commonly encountered abused drugs: stimulants, benzodiazepines (and related central nervous system depressants), cannabis, opiates, ethanol, and others (e.g., LSD, PCP, GHB). Each of these sections provides key information about the drugs’ classification, sources, and structures; pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics; adverse reactions; tolerance and dependence; and toxicology. Moreover, Professor Drummer supplies educational case reports to allow the reader to apply the presented information to real-life scenarios. A synopsis concludes each subsection to provide the reader with a quick review of its pertinent information. A list of references is also furnished at the end of each section.

The book’s third division, Section 8, provides brief guidance for the clinical management of drug-impaired persons. As in the other sections, Professor Drummer supplies educational case reports to supplement the presented information.

The final division of the book is an appendix consisting of extensive monographs of more than 70 drugs of abuse. This section serves as a quick guide to the most important chemical, toxicological, and pharmacokinetic properties of each drug. The information includes the drug’s class, availability, trade names, chemical properties, pharmacology, common doses, blood concentrations, postmortem artifacts, toxicity, abuse potential, and selected review references.

Professor Drummer has provided an invaluable reference to the fields of forensic pharmacology and forensic toxicology. Not only will this book serve as a valuable educational aid to students and trainees, but also as an essential reference to experienced practitioners.