Volume 22, Issue 3 (July 1977)
Analytical Problems with Putrefaction in a Fatal Case Involving Ergotamine and Pentazocine
A drug addict was found dead under suspicious circumstances, but an investigation immediately afterwards did not reveal any drugs in the blood or any pathological indication to explain the cause of death. Six weeks after death a toxicological reinvestigation was requested because of new evidence. By that time, blood decomposition had already started and interfered heavily with normal extraction procedures. This necessitated the use of an acid hydrolysis procedure which revealed the presence of pentazocine and ergotamine, the latter in the form of specific degradation products. This case is of interest as it emphasizes the problems related to the binding of basic drugs to blood proteins or cells, thus rendering them unavailable for solvent extraction procedures. In addition, a search of the literature failed to reveal any other fatal case in which ergotamine was reported to be detectable in postmortem blood.