An analysis of post-mortem toxicology practices in drug-related death cases in Europe


The objective of this report is to provide an updated analysis of the post-mortem toxicology practices of drug-related deaths (DRD) in Europe and to discuss the effect of these practices on the monitoring of DRDs. It is based on the results of a project that consisted of two components: a scoping study and a mapping survey. The scoping study analysed the international and national guidance relating to the post-mortem investigation of suspected DRD cases. The mapping survey was conducted in 2017 and 2018 in 54 forensic toxicology laboratories in Europe. It looked at their technical equipment, analytical strategies and standards for post-mortem investigations, their technical coverage of typical drugs of abuse with special reference to NPS, their reporting standards and potential hindrances to their daily work. The study showed that the analytical strategies, standards for post-mortem investigations and methods used across Europe still vary. The report highlights the consequences of the different practices for monitoring DRD. It presents suggestions for improving the completeness and comparability of forensic toxicological data available on DRD cases.

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Table of contents

  • Executive summary 
    • Background and objectives 
    • Key findings
    • Limitations 
    • Conclusions 
  • Introduction 
  • Part 1: Scoping study on national reference documents that address drug-related death toxicology investigations in Europe (28 EU Member States plus Norway and Turkey) 
    • 1.1. Objective and methods 
    • 1.2. Findings
    • 1.3. Discussion
  • Part 2: Survey of practices — mapping the ‘typical’ or ‘standard’ toxicology practices in place in each country 
    • 2.1. Objective
    • 2.2. Methods 
    • 2.3. Results
  • Discussion and conclusions