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Distribution of \0x03949-Tetrahydrocannabinol and 11-Nor-9-Carboxy-\0x03949-Tetrahydrocannabinol acid in postmortem biological fluids and tissues from pilots fatally injured in aviation accidents.
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    Despite a long history of research on the pharmacology of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary active cannabinoid in marijuana, little is known of its distribution in postmortem fluids and tissues. This study presents postmortem fluid and tissue datafor THC and its major metabolite, 11-nor-9-carboxy-Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THCCOOH), from 55 pilots involved in fatal aviation accidents from 2005 –2012.Utilizing immunoassay screening followed by confirmation using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, blood, urine, liver, brain, lung, heart, kidney, and muscle were analyzed, as needed, for each of the 55 cases.Particular attention was paid to lung as this tissue is exposed to cannabinoid-rich marijuana smoke.Mean THC concentrations in blood, liver, lung, and kidney were 12.5 ng/mL, 52.8 ng/g, 766.0 ng/g, and 27.1 ng/g, respectively. Mean THCCOOH concentrations in those same specimens were 34.1 ng/mL, 322.4 ng/g, 38.0 ng/g, and 138.5 ng/g, respectively. Limited data wereavailable for heart tissue (2 cases), muscle (2), and brain (1). Heart THC concentrations were 184.4 and 759.3 ng/g. The corresponding heart THCCOOH measured 11.0 and 95.9 ng/g, respectively. Muscle concentrations for THC were 16.6 and 2.5 ng/g; corresponding THCCOOH, “positive” and 1.4 ng/g. The only brain tested in this study showed 0.0 ng/g THC and 2.9 ng/g THCCOOH, low concentrations that correlated with low values in other specimens from this case. This research emphasizes the need for cannabinoid testing in postmortem forensic toxicology laboratories.In addition, itdemonstrates the usefulness of a number of tissues, most notably lung,for these analyses.
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