Friday, December 13, 2013
The Associated Press
MIAMI — Authorities may never know why a Florida man viciously attacked and chewed on the face of an older homeless man in Miami last month after lab tests failed to find components of "bath salts" in the system of the assailant, who was killed by police.
The tests detected only marijuana in the system of the attacker, the medical examiner said Wednesday, ruling out other street drugs that some had speculated 31-year-old Rudy Eugene might have taken.
An expert on toxicology testing said marijuana alone wasn't likely to cause behavior as strange as Eugene's.
"The problem today is that there is an almost an infinite number of chemical substances out there that can trigger unusual behavior," said Dr. Bruce Goldberger, Professor and Director of Toxicology at the University of Florida.
Goldberger said the medical examiner's office in Miami is known for doing thorough work and he's confident they and the independent lab covered as much ground as possible. But it's nearly impossible for toxicology testing to keep pace with new formulations of synthetic drugs.
"There are many of these synthetic drugs that we currently don't have the methodology to test on, and that is not the fault of the toxicology lab. The challenge today for the toxicology lab is to stay on top of these new chemicals and develop methodologies for them, but it's very difficult and very expensive." Goldberger said. "There is no one test or combination of tests that can detect every possible substance out there."
There has been much speculation about what drugs, if any, would lead to the bizarre behavior authorities said Eugene exhibited before and during the attack that left the other man horribly disfigured. A Miami police union official had suggested that Eugene, who was shot and killed by an officer during the attack, was probably under the influence of bath salts.
The Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner said in a news release that the toxicology detected marijuana, but it didn't find any other street drugs, alcohol or prescription drugs. Eugene also tested negative for adulterants commonly mixed with street drugs.
The department ruled out the most common components found in so-called bath salts, which mimic the effects of cocaine or methamphetamine and have been associated with bizarre crimes in recent months. An outside forensic toxicology lab, which took a second look at the results, also confirmed the absence of bath salts, synthetic marijuana and LSD.
Messages left with the medical examiner's office for comment were not immediately returned.
The Drug Enforcement Administration last year temporarily outlawed the possession and sale of three synthetic stimulants sometimes packaged as "bath salts." Several states have also moved to ban the drugs, often sold on the Internet and in head shops and other retail outlets. The bans don't affect the kinds of bath salts added to tubs for their fragrance and cosmetic benefits.
An addiction expert said she wouldn't rule out marijuana causing the agitation.
"It could have been the strain of marijuana that increases the dopamine in the brain, such as sativa," said Dr. Patricia Junquera, assistant professor at the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
There are two strains of marijuana called sativa and indica. The sativa increases dopamine and gives you energy while decreasing pain threshold. Indica is a "sleepy high," she explained.
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