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Pharmacy/THC and Meth Levels After Death


QUESTION: My brother passed away a few months ago due to what we thought was a heart attack.  He had a history of meth use in the past but had been sober for 6 years.  He was a chronic marijuana user for chronic pain.  He smoked it multiple times every day for the last 5 years.  He was also a recreational drinker, and had drunk approximately 6 beers the night before he died.

We recently received the coroner's report that showed high levels of methamphetamine, but showed no THC or alcohol.  How could this be?  I know people swear that someone is clean, but I can say without a doubt that he would not use meth because of his situation.  He had just finalized his wedding plans the night before his death and he and his fiance were excited for the future.  He was not sad or depressed or stressed about anything.  

The test results make no sense to us.  Even if his autopsy had been a few days after his death, wouldn't the THC levels have been detected?  And what about the alcohol?

Thank you for your expertise on this subject.  We are grieving and just looking for answers.


ANSWER: Hi Teresa,
I am sory to hear about your borther, having lost one myself, I can appreciate your loss and sorrow.
There is very little research and information on what happens to levels of drugs or alcohol after death. Yet one thing is true, no drug gets formed in the blood. That means if the coroner's report is correct (it is wrong sometimes) then he did consume methamphetamine before his death. The next question is  what is the possibility that the coroner is wrong. Mistakes are known to occur in some case but coroner's reports are very often the center of a law suit. I believe that they are extra careful before giving the reports. Next when these tests (for drugs) are done, the technique used is quite foolproof.
So I can conclude in two ways whether your brother did take meth (and he never told anyone about it), or the report is wrong. The first possibility leaves you  with no course  of action. But you could ask for the coroner's report in toto. This could be examined for possible pitfalls, or you could ask for a re-examination (I belive some samples must be stored).
Given the possibility that he could have used the drug, there is a third option, accept your fate. In any case you are not going to get back what you have lost, so it will depend on what you hope to achieve by digging up into the past. Yes, if you believe that there is fould play in the death, certainly it must be investigated, but if there is no such suspicion, what are you going to achieve by investigating?
Please decide among these options and take appropriate steps.
Best wishes & with all my sympathies.
Ravi Ghooi

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you for your response.  I appreciate it so much.  I know my brother was an addict, and can live with the fact that he very well may have done meth.  What I am confused about is given his chronic use of marijuana over the last 6 years or so, why the THC that they say they tested for did not show in the tox screen.  He smoked pot the night before and the morning of his death.  How could this be in your opinion?

I know that it a chronic user as my brother was, it can be detected in a living person for months.  Is this true after someone dies as well?

Just very confused as to why the marijuana did not show on the tox screen.

Thank you again for your response and condolences.  No matter what the end result, it doesn't change how much I love and miss my brother.


Dear Teresa,
Love is unconditional. I appreciate that your love for your brother will not be affected by the coroner's report.
In giving this reply I rely on a number of papers, but the most important one is by Huestis MA et al entitled "Estimating the Time of Last Cannabis Use from Plasma Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol and 11-nor-9-Carboxy-Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol Concentrations" from CLinical Chemistry, published in Dec 2005. If you wish to read it, the article is available at :
We infer to state:
1. The method is fairly accurate (90% and above)
2. It works over a range of time elapsed between smoking and time of sampling.
3. Corelation between ante mortem and post mortem concentrations is not well known.

Before I can comment on the possibilities why THC was not found in the blood (what does the report say? is it negative for THC or is there no mention of THC?)I must admit that at the present I am not able to provide any explanation, but at least we know that the methods used are good and dependdable.
I will appreciate reading the actual report of the coroner, is it possible to view the same?
I know you cannot send it through thissite, but you may send it on
It may help me to understand the case better and hence help you better.
All the best
Ravi Ghooi  


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Dr. Ravindra Bhaskar Ghooi


I can provide information on drugs and medicines, their actions, uses, interactions and adverse effects. To avoid confusion, generic names of medicines may please be provided. I am a pharmacologist, having worked on animal and human pharmacology, and presently I am the Dean of Bilcare Research Academy, where we teach courses on clinical research. We dont work on saturdays and sundays, hence questions reachng me on these days will be replied on Monday, please bear with me.

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