Zopiclone poisoning: tissue distribution and potential for postmortem diffusion

Forensic Sci Int. 1994 May 13;65(3):177-83. doi: 10.1016/0379-0738(94)90273-9.


Zopiclone is the first cyclopyrrolone hypnotic and is chemically unrelated to any existing drug. The authors studied the tissue distribution and postmortem redistribution of zopiclone in a fatal suicidal overdose. A 29-year-old female weighing 64 kg had cardiac blood ethanol 153 mg% and zopiclone blood concentrations in the range 0.9-2.0 microgram/ml in 10 distinct sampling sites. After 40 h at room temperature the range was 0.9-1.8 micrograms/ml in 15 samples. Portal venous blood and urine concentrations were 3.0 and 10.5 micrograms/ml, respectively. Tissue concentrations (microgram/g) were spleen 5.8, peri-renal fat 5.0, psoas muscle 3.3, brainstem 2.8, gastrocnemius muscle 1.9, myocardium 1.6, and kidney 1.7. Eight liver samples had concentrations in the range 0.5-4.9 micrograms/g, with highest concentrations in the left lobe and adjacent to the gallbladder, probably reflecting postmortem diffusion from gastric residue (700 ml, 55.1 micrograms/ml) and bile (14.1 micrograms/ml). Of six lung samples, paired upper and middle samples had concentrations in the range 2.1-2.3 micrograms/g, the right postero-basal 1.3 micrograms/g and the left postero-basal 3.4 micrograms/g. Drug concentration in putrefactive pleural fluid was also higher on the left (2.1 micrograms/ml) than the right (1.4 micrograms/ml), probably reflecting postmortem diffusion from gastric residue. The authors conclude that zopiclone showed little preferential concentration in solid organs and consequently has relatively stable postmortem blood concentrations, with little drug redistribution artefacts. Postmortem diffusion from gastric drug residue elevates drug levels in the left lobe of the liver and left lung lower lobe.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Adult
  • Autopsy / methods
  • Azabicyclo Compounds
  • Body Burden
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Drug Stability
  • Ethanol / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / blood
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / pharmacokinetics*
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / poisoning*
  • Muscles / metabolism
  • Piperazines / blood
  • Piperazines / pharmacokinetics*
  • Piperazines / poisoning*
  • Postmortem Changes*
  • Suicide
  • Time Factors
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Viscera / metabolism


  • Azabicyclo Compounds
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Piperazines
  • zopiclone
  • Ethanol