By Ahmad Khalid
Understanding chemistry is essential to being a good toxicologist, noted Dr. Fuad Tarbah, Senior Forensic Toxicologist and Director of Training, Research and Development at Dubai Forensic Science and Criminology Department, during his lecture at American University of Sharjah (AUS) earlier this month.
Toxicology is the branch of science dealing with poisons, their nature, effects and antidotes, and knowledge of chemistry is helpful in detecting and analyzing chemical compositions of various drugs and other harmful substances.
Dr. Tarbah, who holds a Doctor of Pharmacy in Forensic Toxicology from the University of Düsseldorf in Germany, said part of his job is to perform postmortem toxicology.
"If somebody died, I have to understand, or to explain to the physician if there's any influence of toxins or drugs," he said, adding that "quantitative analysis is very important."
He said toxicologists perform quantitative analysis to identify substances and determine how much of these substances is present in a sample.
"We are responsible for classifying the results, as well as telling a small story." He said his work involves "result interpretation," where he determines whether a drug was used medicinally or recreationally.
Dr. Tarbah said that, according to Federal Law No. 15, UAE Police "classify the drugs in different tables or schedules." He said that Schedule 1 drugs, for example, have no medical use, and include heroin and cocaine.
Dr. Tarbah presented cases of drug smuggling and used photos of seized material to show how traffickers hide drugs in hazelnuts, electric cables, instant noodle packets and mobile phone chargers.
In his lecture, he also touched on the effects of opiates, stimulants and hallucinogenic drugs, as well as the procedures toxicologists employ to analyze samples containing these substances.
The seminar was part of a series of talks by forensic science experts organized by Dr. Yehya El Sayed, Associate Professor at the AUS Department of Biology, Chemistry and Environmental Sciences. American University of Sharjah offers a world-class Bachelor of Science in Chemistry that can help people pursue careers in, among other things, forensic toxicology.
Ahmad Khalid is a mass communication student at American University of Sharjah.
Visit www.aus.edu for more information about American University of Sharjah.