Heroin-related Deaths from the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office from 2004 Through 2015

Sara A. Love, Jessica Lelinski, Julie Kloss, Owen Middleton, Fred S. Apple

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Over the past two decades, prescription and illicit opioid use has led to changes in public health policy to address the increasing number of opioid-related deaths. The purpose of this study was to review cases from Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office between 2004 through 2015 where heroin was listed as a significant contributor or as the cause of death. We identified 322 heroin-related deaths, which were predominantly male (255; 79%). 6-Monoacetylmorphine (6-MAM) median (range) concentrations were as follows: blood (n = 7), 0.010 (0.006–0.078) mg/L; urine (n = 30), 0.359 (0.009–1.75) mg/L; and vitreous humor (n = 31), 0.034 (0.004–0.24) mg/L. Free morphine was measurable in 273 cases and the percent free morphine (range), when grouped by COD, was opioid (n = 124), 28% (2.2%–92%), and mixed drug toxicity (n = 135), 35.3% (1.5%–100%); (p < 0.01). Quantitation of 6-MAM in blood and vitreous humor, along with a free to total morphine ratio >26%, was useful in establishing heroin-related deaths.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)191-194
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Forensic Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018


  • 6-monoacetylmorphine
  • cause of death
  • forensic science
  • forensic toxicology
  • heroin
  • postmortem

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