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What is Forensic Toxicology?

The first comprehensive work on forensic toxicology was published in 1813 by Mathieu Orifila. He was a respected Spanish chemist and the physician who is often given the distinction of "father of toxicology." His work emphasized the need for adequate proof of identification and the need for quality assurance. It also recognized the application of forensic toxicology in pharmaceutical, clinical, industrial and environmental fields.

Forensic toxicology is a discipline of forensic science concerned with the study of toxic substances or poisons, of which there are many thousands. Toxicology encompasses theoretical considerations, methods and procedures from many disciplines including analytical chemistry, biochemistry, epidemiology, pharmacodynamics, pathology, and physiology.

Currently, forensic toxicology is the study of alcohol, drugs (licit and illicit) and poisons, including their chemical composition, preparations and identification. It includes knowledge about the absorption, distribution and elimination characteristics of such substances in the body, as well as the manner in which the body reponds to their presence and the factors which determine drug safety and effectiveness. To understand drug action one must know where and how the effects occur in the body.


Toxicology is the study of the toxic or harmful effects of chemicals. It is concerned with how toxins act, when their harmful effects occur, and what the symptoms and treatments are for poisoning. It also involves the identification of the substances involved.

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