Showing posts with label Blood. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Blood. Show all posts

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Forensic Toxicology - Drugs and Poisons 101: Information for Writers



       I undressed in the bathroom. When I lifted the hamper lid, my peripheral vision caught a dark face reflected in the mirror. I gasped, my brain processing like a camera with an open shutter. Click. Tribal tattoos. Click. Gas mask. Click. Sink on right. Click. White cloth. Click. Sweet odor. Click. No alarm. Click. No help.
       While my mind snapped perceptions, my body acted from training. I lowered my hips to drop my weight for better balance and leverage. My left leg swung behind his. I bent my knee in a swift, sharp move as I reached over my head, grasping his shirt to put him on the floor.
        But the initial fumes I had sucked in made the room watery and undulating, melting my muscles and my instincts into useless puddles. My arms dropped ineffectually to my sides. One of his hands trapped me against him as I dangled, unable to hold my weight up with my legs, while his other hand smashed the cloth tightly over my nose. 

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Forensic Toxicologists study how animals are affected by drugs and poisons. They work for various independent companies as well as agencies.

Inside a forensic department there are typically two chemistry labs housed in different locations because of the potential for cross-contamination. There are:
1 Contraband Substances Labs
* Identifies substances in seized form
* Typically measured in gram and kilograms
2 Toxicology Lab
* Identifies substances that are found in urine, blood, and tissues
* Typically measured in micro-gram and nano-grams
What is a Forensic Toxicologist (1:50)

Some Useful Vocabulary:
A drug - single chemical or compound chemical that has psychological and or physical reactions on the
Medicine drugs
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
* Prescription
* Over the counter
* Recreational
   legal - such as alcohol
   illegal - such as heroine
* Natural - such as caffeine

A poison has life threatening 
Toxicology - The study of how humans and animals are
                affected by poisons or drugs
Forensic Toxicology - how the affect of drugs and
                 poisons have legal ramifications
Synergism - Forensic Toxicologist must be mindful
                  of Synergism - When two or more drugs or
                  substances work together to increase the effect such as
                  alcohol and barbiturates. Jimmy Hendricks, Janice
                  Joplin are two examples.
Pharmacologyy - the science of understanding the way drugs act
                  and the affects they have on a body
Pharmoketetics study of how drugs move - including how they get
                  into and out of the body
Absorption - how a drug gets into a body 
                        VIDEO QUICK STUDY Absorption and Dose (7:49)

 1. The drug can be inserted intravenously - shot directly into a
      vein/ the blood system. They can also be shot into a muscle 
      where they will enter the blood in a gradual manner.
 2. Orally - entering the body through the digestive tract
 3. Rectal insertion - crossing the mucus lining into the gastro-
     intenstinal tract
 4. Inhaled - such as for asthmatics or with a nebulizer or gas like
     carbon monoxide poisoning.
 5. Deramal - lotions and other products that are applied to the skin,
     but will not typically show up in significant quantities in the
     blood stream.
 6. Ocular

Distribution - almost always the product is distributed to the rest
     of the body through the blood/circulatory system. These do not
     circulate in an even way.
 1. The heart and liver - often have a higher concentration
 2. The brain - many drugs cannot get into the brain because blood
     networks in the brain are less permeable than other parts of the 
 3. Some products simply build up in the system. Pesticides, for
     example, build up in fatty tissues (adipose) over time. 
     Example of this is mercury in fish.

Metabolism - (broken down into metabolites) usually happens in
      the liver.
 1. Drug is deactivated with time.
 2. Body eliminates the drug
 3. Converts it into a substance that can be used for energy

Elimination - 
  1. Most is removed through urine (that's why urine testing is so 
  2. Feces
  3. Sweat
  4. Lactation
  5. Hair follicles. 
      VIDEO QUICK STUDY of hair toxicology (1:10)
  6. Exhalent VIDEO QUICK STUDY - A breathalyzer to analyze
       alcohol consumption (:50)

Poisonings can occur by:


  •   Child poisoning
  •   Storing improperly, putting a poison in an incorrect 
  •   Container/mislabeling
  •   Taking the wrong medication
  •   Taking one's medication multiple times during the day (do     to dementia, etc.)

  Adverse drug interactions

  •  An individual might have specific issues such as organ    damage that is exacerbated over time by taking certain     medications.
  •  Environmental causes such as radon or industrial chemicals
  •  Animals such as spiders or snakes
  •  Plants

  Overdose on recreational drugs VIDEO QUICK STUDY of street drugs and their forensic effects (9:52)

Suicide only fatal about 2% of the time but often results in organ 

An arrangement of psychoactive drugs
An arrangement of psychoactive drugs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In a living person signs of poisoning might include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • respiratory distress
  • change in skin coloration
  • seizures
  • blurred vision
  • slurred speech
  • mental confusion
  • swelling
  • Loss of consciousness

The severity of the reaction depends on many factors including:

  •  Size of the victim
  •  Health of the victim
  •  Amount of substance
  •  Duration of exposure

When deciding if this was a suicide or homicide investigators may utilize a forensic psychologist or death investigator to interview family, friends, and coworkers to put together a picture of their health  history, their state of mental health, and their history of drug use both legal and illegal.

Tests can be performed on the living or the dead.
Subjects who are living might be tested for some of these reasons:

  •  Pre-employment drug tests
  •  Randomized drug testing for public safety
  •  Athletes
  •  Crime scene - was a suspect under the influence?
  •  Victim of a crime - for example was a date rape drug used?

   Blog - How to Drug Your Victim - the Four Main Date Rape Drugs

Post-mortem Forensic Drug Tests are done by Forensic Toxicologist and/or Forensic Pathologist - medical doctors specializing in disease and chemistry.

In trying to determine the poison/toxin there are three main steps:

Sample - Postmortem Sampling List will probably look at:

  •       blood
  •       urine
  •       stomach contents
  •       bile and liver (site of metabolism for many drugs)
  •       brain tissue/spinal fluid
  •       vitreous fluid (from the eye) Even in a body that has                  already started to breakdown, this is often a place where             toxicologists can gather information because the eye is               more resistant than other tissues to decomposition.

Opium Presumptive Drug Test
(Photo credit: Jack Spades)

  •       fatty deposits
  •       hair - this is the longest lasting           source of a decomposed body.

Screen -
      * indicates a drug might be present
      * some drugs mimic naturally 
         occurring substance
      * Gas Chromotography VIDEO QUICK STUDY (1:12)
      * Enzyme Multiplied Immunoassay Testing
         VIDEO QUICK STUDY (2:06)
Extract -
     * concentrates the drug so it's easier to detect
     * removes other substances that might contaminate the results
     * Mass Spectometry VIDEO QUICK STUDY (7:59)
       qualitative and quantitative information is gathered

Please let me know if you have any questions, and I will do my best to help.

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Bullet Tutorial for Writers

.40S&W cartridge next to expanded hollow point...
.40S&W cartridge next to expanded hollow point bullet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
DISCLAIMER - This is a non-political site that is geared to help writers write it right. I am presenting information to help develop fictional characters and fictional scenes. In no way am I advocating any position or personal decision

So things got pretty serious. Guns were drawn; a body sprawls on the ground. What the police find on the scene has a lot to do with what kind of bullet you as the author chose for this plot line.

If you need a tutorial about Step One - choosing a gun click HERE

Once your heroine has a gun in her hand, there are other things to consider. Let's begin understanding bullets and how they impact plot.


* The bullet is just the top piece of the round - the part that hits the
* A cartridge or round is the entire component 
   (brass + powder + primer) When the primer is hit by the hammer 
   or firing pin, it ignites the powder in the shell, forcing the bullet 
   in the only direction it can go - down the barrel of the gun.
* The caliber is a measurement of the bullet. (If the bullet has two
   numbers the first is the width of the bullet the second is the
   length of the round.)
* Another way to measure a round is by grain the higher the grains
   the more the bullet weighs - the slower it goes and the deeper it
   will penetrate.

INTERMEDIATE - How to read a bullet box:


*Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) - the entire case is encased in metal,
  offering the most penetration through your  target. The base is 
  exposed showing the lead.
*Total Metal Jacket - (TMJ) - The entire case including the base
  is covered
*Semi-jacketed (SMJ)- or just (J) for jacketed - the jacket only
  goes half way up the bullet.


.22 hollow point     9mm hydro-shock      9mm FMJ round nose/tip

Flat Point - (FP) has a flat tip (pictured below - left)

Round Nose - (RN) (below center) - This bullet will not expand in
      size with impact; it will continue on its trajectory. 

      This is an author's decision if she wants the victim to have an 
      exit wound, to die of impact/blood loss, or for the bullet to hit a
      secondary object or person. All of these would could result
      from a RN Click HERE to go to my blog article on Blood
A cut-through of a hollow-point bullet. The pr...
A cut-through of a hollow-point bullet.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hollow point -(HP) the tip is hollow. When it hits its

      target it will expand very quickly to almost 3x it's 
      original size. This means that the bullet expresses 
      the power inside of the body, damaging more 
      tissue than a round nose bullet. This expansion 
      also reduces the chance of a bullet exiting the 
      body and hitting someone nearby. This is safer 
      for self defense where innocent people are 
      nearby. This type of bullet creates massive pressure
      and the victim is likely to die of a brain embolism.
      Click HERE to go to my blog article on EMS and
       gunshot wounds.

Video quick study: First Science TV Round Nose v. Hollow Point (2:08)

Author's own picture. 9 mm pistol cartridge

9mm flat tip                     9mm round tip                    9mm hollow tip
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ADVANCED - Information about calibers

Baby Bear

.22 is cheap so it's good for target practice, but has minimal penetration - not great for defense.

Video Quick Study (5:56) This is a little in depth but shows him weighing the bullet (grains) and measuring the bullet for caliber, and also ballistic tests through testing medium.

.25 is used in small pistols it has a big kick - so a lot of recoil.
.32 penetrates a little deeper than a .380 and has less recoil  
.25 for a very small gun this is a good self-defense round

Mama Bear

38s and 9mm are the same size bullet. One is calculated in inches, and one is calculated in metric.The three kinds of 9mm  from smallest to biggest:

.380 Auto vs. 9mm Luger
.380 Auto vs. 9mm Luger (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
.380 and 9mm Short are the
   same (9x17) a little more
   power than the 38 special - 
   goes in a small pistol.
* 9mm Makarav (9x18)
* 9mm Luger is also known on
   the box as a
   9mm Parabellum (9x19)
   These are accurate far
   away, up close they are devastating. At 15 to 20
   feet your character might have to hit a guy 6 times
   to stop him if he's drugged up.
   (This is the bullet I shoot in my Springfield)

This is probably as big a caliber as your character needs. But if you are trying to make a decision between giving your character a 9mm or a .45 here is a good comparison video
 9mm v .45 bullet (17.31)

Papa Bear

.40 is the same as a 10mm. But a 10mm is really a .40 caliber magnum (I'll explain in a second) The .40 does not have the penetration of the 9mm because it is heavier and takes more power to shoot.

.45 is highly effective in dropping the target in one shot.

Video Quick Study: 10mm ammo energy test   (7:28) go to 3:50 mark

Rabid Klondike Mama Bear Protecting Her Young -or-What is MAGNUM?

A magnum round is a high powered round. So for example you can have .22 magnum or .45 magnum
* Lots of recoil
* Painful to shoot
* This is for hunting (a back up when an angry bear is running full
   tilt at the heroine) not usually for self-defense.
   The gun must be designed to handle magnum bullets unless of
   course you want your heroine to put a .44 magnum (name of a
   round) or .44 special (name of a round) and blow her gun apart
   because the gun couldn't handle the pressure.

Popular wisdom says, a bullet shot from any handgun at a distance of three feet will probably stop anyone. Most of the time a civilian is shooting, it is that close in range. Stopping power is not as important to a civilian as it is to a police officer whose range moves out to nine yards. So your gun/bullet choice depends on who is doing the shooting and why.

Sonic v. Subsonic Bullets Shot with a Suppressor - 

Brian Coates, U.S. Marine Corp., veteran

LINK Nottoway Shooting Sports

PLOT TWIST - One thing that I should point out is that just because a bullet will load into the gun, it does not mean that there will be success in shooting it. A particular round might misfire or jam. Once you know which gun is being used, research which bullets work best. Though, this could create a plot twist for you. Perhaps your heroine is new to the gun scene and buys a weapon for self-protection, purchases some bullets, loads it all up and there is a catastrophic failure. She could be hurt instead of the villain.

Image publicly distributed source unknown

VIDEO 1 - Bullet Basics 101 (8:01)

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Blood Pattern Information for Thriller Writers

English: blood, human, splatter, dropsImage via Wikipedia
Blood is a big part of my life. I don’t mean the blood flowing through my veins - though yes, that’s a really big part of my life. I mean the all over the place kind of blood. I have children. My house often looks like a crime scene, as I explained in my Wirters' Police Academy Intro.

WPA 2011 Blog article
But also, my youngest daughter is a type 1 diabetic. I prick her finger, and use her blood, an average of 21 times a day to figure things out. A drop of blood is analyzed by her meter giving me a snap shot of what’s going on in her body. Is it the whole picture? No. Is it the big picture? No. It’s just a momentary snippet of information. In that moment, I had an idea of what was happening. Putting all of these snippets of information together day after day, week after week, helps me to form my ideas as to what the bigger picture of my daughter’s health looks like.

This is my understanding of how a
forensic scientist goes to work. Each piece of information is added to other information, and soon a picture starts (hopefully) to form. Today, we revisit our hero Dave Pauly whom we met when he was teaching us about how to see "Crime in a Different Light." In this chapter, our forensic specialist is involved in getting a picture of what could have happened to create the blood covered crime scene.The big name for all of this is “Blood Stain Pattern Analysis” or BSPA. The goal here is to determine velocity, direction and point of origin.


Mechanisms o:f Deposition:
Passive - clot, drip, pool, flow saturation, serum separation.
Transfer - swipe and wipe
Projected - arterial spurts, cast off, expiration, splashes
Miscellaneous - fly spots, voids

Transfer Patterns - occur when an object that has blood on it rests on a surface leaving an

Swipe and Wipe Patterns - occur when there is blood on a surface and something moves
through the blood.

Cast Off Pattern - occurs when there is blood on an object and the blood is flung off as
the object is swung through the air.

Shadowing and Ghosting - these are void patterns where an object or person was in
place as blood patterning took place and then the person or object
moves away.

Blood dropping onto blood - self explanatory, creates small droplets
Point of impact - how an object impacts a blood source

Arterial Spurts - When an artery has been breached it releases blood with great velocity
Expiratory - occurs when blood is coughed or sneezed. It is a fine misting. This also
occurs when there is a gun shot and the bullet leaves with velocity.

The tail of the blood droplet points to the direction from which it came.

Blood will change its pattern based on the angle at which it contacted the surface. Once you know the angle the forensic scientist can use a protractor to attach strings and find the spot in which the victim had been. This is a geometric calculation and they are looking for an area of convergence.

Video Quick Study (3:11) Dexter Blood Spatter
Video Quick Study (2:01) Examining blood stains

Video Quick Study (8:14) Studying blood stains
Video Quick Study (2:17) Blood spatter 101 - very interesting use
                                of lasers

Video Quick Study (12:07) part 1 of an academic lecture 
                                link  prt2 (7:40)


THE USE OF LCV - is a chemical substance that is used to check for blood in -
* Missing person cases where a crime is suspected.
* Areas where a suspected violent crime occurred but it has been cleaned/bleached
* Visible substances suspected to be blood

Luminol experiment:Video Quick Study (2:49) Luminol

Video Quick Study (13:24) BlueStar - is visible longer and is now the go to for many CSI investigators.
LCV is readily mixed in the field. It has 0% false positives, BUT this does not mean that you can determine if it is animal blood or
human blood. Hmmm that’s where your plot could thicken.

Did you know they can use LCV to find blood on a wall that has 9 coats of paint on it? The blood can be over 30 years old and the LCV still works?

There should be no ambient light. They spray a fine mist over the target area and if ther eis blood it will show up for a few seconds as bright green. There is a product called Lumiscene that lasts much longer allowing for better photography.

So how do you know if this evidence will be admissible in court? The products used must meet general acceptance standards.

While not a fan of Wikipedia, I am supplying these links as a starting point for your research:
Daubert V. Merrell Dow Pharmeceuticals LINK

Frye v. USA LINK
I hope this helps. Feel free to leave a question or a comment below.

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