Time-Dependent Changes in THC Concentrations in Deceased Persons

Mark Chu, Matthew Di Rago, Dylan Mantinieks, Linda Glowacki, Noel W. Woodford, Dimitri Gerostamoulos, Olaf H. Drummer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Changes in the concentrations of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in the postmortem period were investigated in a series of cases by comparing concentrations in blood taken on receipt of the body in the mortuary (admission specimen, AD) with the concentrations obtained in blood taken at autopsy some time later and also from blood specimens taken antemortem. Overall, the median THC concentration in AD blood was 13.7 ng/mL (n = 239, range LOQ-220), while the median concentration at autopsy was 13.8 ng/mL (n = 106, range LOQ-810) and 1.9 ng/mL (n = 147, range LOQ-48) antemortem. Fourteen cases had all three specimens taken from the same decedent. The corresponding AM, AD and PM median concentrations were 4.0 (range LOQ-48), 15.5 (range 4.0-176) and 4.4 ng/mL (LOQ-56), respectively. The median elapsed times from AM to AD and AD to PM were 33 and 97.5 h, respectively. In contrast, acetaminophen showed no change in blood concentration from AM to AD (6.8 and 6.0 mg/L, respectively). These data show large increases in THC concentration in the early postmortem period, followed by a decline, although the median blood concentrations at autopsy were similar to that obtained antemortem. In contrast, when blood was taken from the femoral region, subclavian and heart ventricles sites, in the same case, the THC concentrations, while variable, showed overall no significant difference. These dynamic changes reflect complex phenomenon occurring in deceased persons and will further serve to increase the uncertainty over any interpretation of postmortem THC concentrations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Analytical Toxicology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

Cite this