Forensic Pharmacology and Toxicology


This module is designed to promote a detailed appreciation of the effects of toxins and drugs on human systems and the approaches to their detection and quantification in accidental and deliberate poisonings. The syllabus will be based around mammalian toxicology with a predominant focus on human examples.


To provide the student with a detailed appreciation of the interactions between organism and toxicants, and their subsequent effects at molecular, cellular and higher levels of organisation.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module the student should be able to:

1.  Demonstrate a critical understanding of the principles of human pharmacology and toxicology, and of the chemical, cellular and physiological factors that affect the toxicity of compounds.

2.  Discuss the role of pharmacology and toxicology in forensic and environmental investigations, and the range of common drugs and toxicants encountered.

3.  Relate the kinetic and dynamic properties of common drugs and toxicants to the forensic evaluation and clinical management of accidental or deliberate poisonings.

4.  Critically appraise the range of techniques and approaches for sample collection/handling; screening and confirmatory tests; and assessment, interpretation and recording of toxicological data

Indicative Content

1 Mechanisms of drug action and pharmacodynamics.

This will include; receptor signalling; agonists antagonists. Drug− receptor binding and interaction. Examples will be drawn from central nervous system (CNS) receptors, adrenergic cholinergic receptors/neurotransmission.

2 Pharmacokinetics

Absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion (ADME). Routes of administration and the implications for drug/toxin effect, and the distribution/dispersion of drug/toxins, phase I II metabolism, biotransformation. – including bioactivation. Elimination/Excretion. Intrinsic and extrinsic factors affecting ADME (such as pharmacogenetics). Introduction to quantitative elimination/back−calculation. Case studies.

3 Poisoning Symptoms

Toxicity, Toxidromes and the Treatment of Poisoning.

4 Forensic investigations

History of Forensic Toxicology. Areas of Forensic Toxicology. Environmental Toxicology. Sample types: Advantages, Disadvantages; Sample handling. Screening and confirmatory tests. Post−mortem toxicology. Toxicological reports.

5 Topic case studies.

Case studies based on real clinical, environmental and forensic toxicological cases.

Statement on Teaching, Learning and Assessment

Practical activities will be a mixture of laboratory-based practical’s and problem based learning sessions. Lectures will be a combination of live lectures and recorded lectures which will introduce students to a ‘flipped classroom’ approach to learning. Recorded lecture material covering LO1 will be delivered as a series of short (15mins) online presentations with associated Blackboard self-assessment exercises (MCQs and calculations). These will be completed by the student as independent study and by specified deadlines to ensure that the student is prepared for the practical classes, tutorials and problem based learning sessions. Student progress and participation will be monitored via Blackboard. Problem based learning sessions and practical sessions will allow the students to develop as confident thinkers, flexible collaborators and determined creators.

Teaching and Learning Work Loads

Total 200
Lecture 12
Tutorial/Seminar 4
Supervised Practical Activity 24
Unsupervised Practical Activity 0
Assessment 60
Independent 100

Guidance notes

Credit Value – The total value of SCQF credits for the module. 20 credits are the equivalent of 10 ECTS credits. A full-time student should normally register for 60 SCQF credits per semester.


We make every effort to ensure that the information on our website is accurate but it is possible that some changes may occur prior to the academic year of entry. The modules listed in this catalogue are offered subject to availability during academic year 2019/20 , and may be subject to change for future years.