(Received 4 February 1988; accepted 14 March 1988)
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Cannabinoid use was studied in a nonspecific population of postmortem urine specimens in the State of Maryland. Of 500 sequential specimens screened for cannabinoids by enzyme multiplied immunoassay EMIT®, 63 (13%) were initially positive and 58 (12%) were confirmed positive (92%). It was observed that geographic location and race did not correlate with cannabinoid prevalence. Cannabinoid use was observed to be strongly age related, with peak use by the 21- to 25-year-old age group where 22% of the cases were positive. Use of cannabinoids was also closely linked to homicides, which represented nearly half of the positive cases but only 13% of the total cases. When comparing manner of death, the greatest percent of confirmed positives was seen in homicide (26%) and drug-related (17%) deaths. The incidence of cannabinoid use was found to be more than 3 times as great in drug-related (17%) as compared to natural deaths (5%). The percent of cannabinoid-positive cases from vehicle-related accidents was low (6%) and that from nonvehicle-related accidents somewhat higher (10%).
Other drugs appeared in cannabinoid-positive cases. Most prevalent was ethanol N = 18, followed by morphine (from heroin, N = 11), quinine N = 11, and cocaine N = 11. Phencyclidine (PCP) occurred twice and several other drugs were reported only once. Of the 25 homicide cases screened for drugs, 64% were positive for some drug including ethyl alcohol. Thus it appears that a high percentage of homicide cases are drug related. Males greatly outnumbered females (56:2) in positive cases, but the number of female specimens received was small.
Graduate student, University of Maryland at Baltimore, Baltimore, MD
Toxicologist, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Baltimore, MD
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