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In the last two decades, a large increase in opioid overdose death rates has been recorded in North America. This phenomenon, related to the misuse of prescription opioids, has been dubbed an "opioids crisis". Recent years have seen the entrance of novel synthetic opioids (NSO) on the market, compounding the fatal intoxications issue. This brings several challenges for forensic toxicology laboratories: an increased number of cases, a large number of novel structurally similar compounds to include in screening analytical methods, the low concentration of drugs in biological fluids, and the challenging interpretation in the absence of sufficient literature. Three cases of fatal intoxication highlighting those challenges are presented, complete with post-mortem concentrations in cardiac blood, femoral blood and urine. Toxicological screening and quantitative analyses were performed on the biological specimens. In the first and second cases, furanylfentanyl, U-47700 and 4-anilino-N-phenethylpiperidine (4-ANPP) were detected at similar concentrations in cardiac blood. In the third case, a total of seventeen different NSO were detected. All intoxications showed a combination of NSO and other drugs. These three cases appear to be the harbinger of an increased NSO prevalence in the province of Québec, Canada.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Journal of analytical toxicology
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