This topic comprises a lecture course on drug action, metabolism, toxicology and analysis and a laboratory component.
The topic deals with the chemical interaction of drug molecules with biological systems and the analysis of drugs from a variety of matrices. Topics covered include the interaction of drugs with enzymes, receptors, membranes and DNA and the scope and mechanism of drug metabolism. The identification and quantification of chemicals in human and animal body fluids and tissues for forensic investigations is then discussed. Toxicology deals with the analysis and quantification of both poisons and beneficial drug levels.
The practical component has two parts, in the first of which the students undertake proficiency tests to demonstrate proficiencies in the key competencies expected in a forensic or analytical laboratory. This is followed by the second part where the students use all available techniques to investigate a mini research/analysis project. This project component includes familiarisation with literature and database searching, project planning, risk assessment and the preparation of oral and written project report. A one day excursion to relevant local chemical industries is also available to the students in this topic.
The theory part of the topic aims to give the students a sound theoretical knowledge of the way drugs function and interact with biological systems including adsorption, metabolism and excretion. Following on from this an understanding is gained of how forensic analysis can utilise different body fluids or parts. The way different analytical techniques can be used to determine the presence and quantity of a drug or metabolite in a body will be discussed.
The practical component develops the student's practical skills in the analysis of compounds from a variety of matrices in the proficiency exercises. Data base searching and information gathering, project planning and reporting skills are further developed in the project based component of the laboratory work. This brings together the body of knowledge gained through previous study and thus provides a capstone to their understanding. The excursion gives the student an appreciation of the variety and application of chemistry in local industry.