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Identification of Acepromazine in Hair: An Illustration of the Difficulties Encountered in Investigating Drug-facilitated Crimes

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After a drug-facilitated sexual assault (DFSA), a woman was found in a drowsy state at home. She remembered having drunk an unknown beverage by the accused. Blood samples (collected 8 hours after the DFSA), two glasses, and a teaspoon seized by the police were analyzed. Acepromazine, a phenothiazine tranquilizer used in human and veterinary medicine, was detected in the residue of one of the glasses. In spite of acepromazine absence in the victim’s blood, the possible use of acepromazine in the DFSA was reported to the police. Two weeks later, a suspect admitted having orally administered acepromazine to the victim. Using a liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry method, this compound was subsequently detected (31 pg/mg) in a sample of the victim’s hair collected a month and a half after the DFSA. A potential short elimination half-life in humans and/or the well-known in vitro degradation of acepromazine could explain the negative blood result. DFSA toxicological investigations are challenging and can be complicated when a rather unusual substance is concerned. In particular, special care should be taken when interpreting the results, taking into account elimination and/or instability data, when available.

Keywords: acepromazine; drug-facilitated sexual assault; forensic science; forensic toxicology; hair analysis; liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University Hospital, Limoges, France.

Publication date: May 1, 2008


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