Prevalence of nicotine consumption in drug deaths

Forensic Sci Int. 2001 Jul 15;119(3):284-9. doi: 10.1016/s0379-0738(00)00440-0.


One hundred consecutive drug death victims autopsied at the Institute of Forensic Medicine, University of Freiburg, between 1995 and 1997 were studied retrospectively as to whether the drug users had also consumed nicotine. The study included histological examination of the lung tissue for smoker cells and radioimmunological as well as GC-MS assays of the urine for cotinine, the primary metabolite of nicotine. It was found that 98 out of 100 drug victims had consumed nicotine in addition to illicit drugs or replacements. Yellowish-brown discolorations on the middle and index fingers were discernible in 44 drug victims, whereas fresh or scarred burns due to glowing cigarettes were found in six deceased drug consumers. Diseases of the bronchial system typical of heavy smokers were seen in 35 cases. Siderophages could be demonstrated in 17 of the 100 drug deaths.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cotinine / blood*
  • Cotinine / urine
  • Female
  • Forensic Medicine*
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Macrophages, Alveolar / pathology*
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / pathology


  • Cotinine