Forensic Toxicology Unit

It is the Mission of the Toxicology Unit to provide in-house pathologists and Delaware law enforcement agencies with a reliable and efficient laboratory capable of performing analyses on biological specimens for the presence (or absence) of volatiles, prescription and illicit drugs, and poisons. The Unit is committed to providing state-of-the-art, timely forensic analyses of biological specimens that comply with the standards set by ISO/IEC 17025:2005.

The Toxicology Unit of the State of Delaware Division of Forensic Science is comprised of a staff of eight positions: the Chief Forensic Toxicologist, a Laboratory Supervisor, four Analytical Chemists, and two Laboratory Technicians (one full-time and one part-time).


The Toxicology Unit handles both postmortem and Driving Under the Influence (DUI)/other cases. Most cases (including all DUIs) begin with a preliminary ELISA (Enzyme-linked Immunosorbent Assay) Drug Screen, which tests qualitatively for the following 12 drugs/drug classes:

  1. Benzodiazepines
  2. Cocaine
  3. Opiates
  4. Phencyclidine
  5. Carisoprodol
  6. Methadone
  7. Amphetamine
  8. Methamphetamine
  9. Barbiturates
  10. Cannabinoids
  11. Oxycodone
  12. Fentanyl

Positives from the ELISA screen are then entered for confirmatory testing. A Special Testing ELISA panel, which includes Acetaminophen and Salicylates, is also available.

The Toxicology Unit has 11 confirmatory procedures for the following drug classes/drugs (and their metabolites), which provide quantitation (concentrations or amounts of drugs):

1. Antidepressant (ADP)
2. Cannabinoid
3. Cocaine
4. Fentanyl
5. Methadone
6. Opioid
7. Phencyclidine
8-11. Alkaline Drugs

    • Benzodiazepine
    • Cyclobenzaprine
    • Diphenhydramine
    • Tramadol

All confirmatory procedures utilize Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) except the ADP method, which utilizes Liquid Chromatography-MS/MS (LC-MS/MS). In addition to the ELISA Drug Screen, the Toxicology Unit has two confirmatory (but qualitative) drug screens. The Alkaline Drug Screen procedure covers approximately 200 different compounds, and the Acidic/Neutral Drug Screen covers another approximately 20 compounds.

Alcohol/Volatiles Analysis using Headspace Gas Chromatography with Flame Ionization Detection (GC-FID) is another routine procedure used by the unit. In addition to ethanol, this procedure provides quantitation of acetone, isopropanol, and methanol and qualitative identification of acetaldehyde and 1,1-difluoroethane.