INVESTIGATION & CERTIFICATION OF

DRUG TOXICITY DEATHS

Guidance for thorough death investigation and appropriate reporting on the death certificate

The goal of this course is to promote the use of current evidence-based practices for investigation, evaluation, and certification of drug toxicity deaths. This course is comprised of four modules described below. If you are taking this course for Continuing Education (CE) credit, please see instructions below.   

Course: Investigation & Certification of Drug Toxicity Deaths

Course Objectives:

  1. Identify the key investigative stages that teams use  for conducting a necessary and appropriate death investigation when there is a suspected drug-related death.
  2. Describe best practices and challenges related to performing autopsies when there is a suspected drug related death. 
  3. Describe the best practices and challenges associated with using toxicological testing for establishing cause of death. 
  4. Explain the essential components for consideration when determining the cause and manner of drug-related deaths.

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Module 1: Overview of Medicolegal Death Investigation

The ultimate goal of the medicolegal death investigation is to provide information to determine a truthful, logical, and scientifically unbiased statement of the cause and manner of death. The medical examiner or coroner may issue the death certificate for deaths within their jurisdiction.

Note: This module will open in a new window. You must return to this page upon completing the module. 

Launch Module

Module 2: Introduction to Scene Investigation

The scene investigation of any drug-related death requires a complete investigation of the circumstances of death, the death scene, and past medical history. When prescription and illicit drugs are suspected, there are special considerations that apply to the investigation of the death scene.

Note: This module will open in a new window. You must return to this page upon completing the module. 

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Module 3: Autopsy & Postmortem Toxicology

In this module, you will cover specifics on the significance of autopsy and postmortem toxicology in the investigation of suspected drug toxicity deaths. Medical examiners/coroners and toxicologists must work together to evaluate all circumstances as they relate to a case.

Note: This module will open in a new window. You must return to this page upon completing the module. 

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Module 4: Death Certification for Drug Toxicity Deaths

This module provides instructions on completing the medical section of the certificate of death for acute drug toxicity deaths, sometimes referred to as overdose or poisoning deaths.

Note: This module will open in a new window. You must return to this page upon completing the module. 


Launch Module

Resources & Glossary:

Course Credit

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Interprofessional Continuing Education logo

In support of improving investigation and certification of death, this activity has been planned and implemented by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and RTI International. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is jointly accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), to provide continuing education for the healthcare team.

CME: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention designates this enduring activity for a maximum of (3.75) AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. 

Once credit is claimed, an unofficial statement of credit is immediately available on TCEOnline. Official credit will be uploaded within 60 days on the NABP/CPE Monitor.

CEU: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is authorized by IACET to offer (0.4) CEU's for this program. 

DISCLOSURE: In compliance with continuing education requirements, all presenters must disclose any financial or other associations with the manufacturers of commercial products, suppliers of commercial services, or commercial supporters as well as any use of unlabeled product(s) or product(s) under investigational use. 

CDC, our planners, content experts, and their spouses/partners wish to disclose they have no financial interests or other relationships with the manufacturers of commercial products, suppliers of commercial services, or commercial supporters. Planners have reviewed content to ensure there is no bias. 

Content will not include any discussion of the unlabeled use of a product or a product under investigational use. 

CDC did not accept commercial support for this continuing education activity. 

Instructions for Obtaining Continuing Education (CE)

In order to receive continuing education (CE) for WB4317- Investigation and Certification of Drug Toxicity Deaths please visit TCEO and follow these 9 Simple Steps before 05/21/2022

Complete the activity 

Complete the Evaluation at www.cdc.gov/Get CE 

Pass the posttest at 80% at www.cdc.gov/GetCE

FEES: No fees are charged for CDC’s CE activities.

Need ABMDI credits for this course? 

IMPORTANT: ABMDI credits can only be obtained by completing this training on RTI International's Forensics Sciences Training site. Once you have completed the training on the RTI site you will be given instructions on how to obtain ABMDI and CME credits. 

Course References & Annotated Bibliography:

Download PDF containing references for all modules

Download PDF containing the annotated bibliography for the Opioid Position Paper

Acknowledgement: We would like to express great appreciation to all the individuals who made this project possible. We would like to offer special thanks to Dr. Daniel Dye of the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine, who provided extensive knowledge and expertise to the content development for this training. We would also like to thank the National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME) for their support during the development of the position paper and this training. We are particularly grateful for the assistance given by the CDC staff who worked so hard on this project, including Dr. Margaret Warner and Dr. Kelly Brown. We also wish to acknowledge the help provided by the pilot test participants' who volunteered to evaluate the training, to ensure its effectiveness.

Disclaimer: CDC, our planners, our content experts, and their spouses/partners wish to disclose they have no financial interests or other relationships with the manufacturers of commercial products, suppliers of commercial services, or commercial supporters. Planners have reviewed content to ensure there is no bias. CDC did not accept commercial support for this continuing education activity.