Journal Published Online: 01 January 2000
Volume 45, Issue 1

Fatal Intoxication Following Self-Administration of a Massive Dose of Buprenorphine



Several drug packages, including Subutex® (high-dose buprenorphine, as sublingual tablets) boxes, were found near the corpse of a 25-year-old male drug addict, who apparently had committed suicide. The autopsy revealed a fatal respiratory depression. The toxicological investigations concluded that death resulted from massive burprenorphine intoxication. The determination of buprenorphine (BU) and norbuprenorphine (NBU) in all biological specimens was performed by liquid chromatography-electrospraymass spectrometry (LC-ES-MS) after hydrolysis (for solid tissues), deproteinization of the matrices, and solid-phase extraction of the compounds. Exceptionally high concentrations of BU and NBU were found in blood (3.3 and 0.4 mg/L, respectively), urine (3.4 and 0.6 mg/L), bile (2035 and 536 mg/L) and brain (6.4 and 3.9 µg/g). The high concentration of BU (899 mg/L) and the absence of NBU in gastric liquid suggested oral intake. High concentrations of amino-7-flunitrazepam, the main metabolite of flunitrazepam, were also found in blood, urine and gastric liquid. This benzodiazepine may have been a co-factor in the toxic effects of BU.

Author Information

Gaulier, JM
University Hospital, Limoges, France
Marquet, P
University Hospital, Limoges, France Laboratory of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, University Hospital, Limoges, France
Lacassie, E
University Hospital, Limoges, France
Dupuy, JL
University Hospital, Limoges, France
Lachatre, G
University Hospital, Limoges, France Laboratory of Toxicology, Faculty of Pharmacy, University Hospital, Limoges, France
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Stock #: JFS14667J
ISSN: 0022-1198
DOI: 10.1520/JFS14667J