Josie Stahmann What is a forensic toxicologist? Well we first have to answer the question what is forensics to be able to understand a forensic toxicologist. Forensics is defined by
MerriamWebster as, “relating to the use of scientific knowledge or methods in solving crimes”. Toxicology is defined as, “ the study of poisonous chemicals, drugs, etc., and how a person or other living thing reacts to them”. Forensic toxicologists are often needed at crime scenes to examine if the victim was poisoned, drugged, etc. Toxicology is an important aspect to forensics and interpreting a crime scene. To be a forensic toxicologist you need to be skilled in many different areas. You have to be comfortable with all the duties you are required to perform and you have to be comfortable with the schooling and training required for a degree.
A forensic toxicologist deals mainly with “medicolegal”, (
Medicolegal is something that involves both medical and legal aspects, mainly: Medical jurisprudence, a branch of medicine. Medical law, a branch of law.)
aspects of drugs and poisons. Their main responsibilities is to establish and explain the circumstances of legal cases where drugs or other chemicals have been used. These can range from simple ‘drink driving’ cases to fatal accident, suicide and murder investigations were deliberate or accidental poisoning is suspected. Since the forensic toxicologist may need to demonstrate evidence of drug intake, he or she must be able to isolate, identify and quantify toxic substances in biological materials. This involves using modern tools and technology to be able to measure and examine what may be very small traces of chemicals. Often, they may be called by the Courts as an ‘expert witness’ to identify a drug, to say how much was found, when the drug entered the body, and how it was entered into the body. They may also be asked whether measured drug levels could account for a clinical condition, or whether the drug was taken as a therapeutic dose, or as an accidental or intentional overdose. In order to do this, the forensic toxicologist must be able to identify relationships between drug levels and clinical response, and to recognise how the drug’s metabolism can affect its concentrations and pharmacological effect. But factors such as drug interactions, tolerance, agerelated effects and interindividual differences, which might also affect drug response, must also be taken into account. Clearly, with so many different types of legal case, forensic toxicology can provide an ideal scientific challenge.
With all the important responsibilities that come along with being forensic toxicologist, it can be expected that they are required to go through an extensive amount of schooling and training before becoming certified. In general, forensic toxicologists have a bachelor's degree in the natural sciences, like chemistry or biology, or in forensic science. A graduate degree program in toxicology explores the principles of toxicology, biological chemistry, cellular physiology, pathophysiology, pharmacology and analytic chemistry. Doctorate programs take