While it might seem like getting a drug test after death would be as simple as getting one before, it’s really not the same at all. The toxicology process has many different steps and areas that are thoroughly studied before a definite cause of death can be accurately determined. According to WebMD, blood, urine, and tissue samples are taken by the coroner during the autopsy. “We collect blood from different areas, such as the femoral vein [in the leg] and heart blood,” Barbarajean Magnani, Ph.D., M.D., chairwoman of the Toxicology Resource committee for the College of American Pathologists told WebMD.
The first test performed, known as an immunoassay, is a basic drug screening for specific opiates, amphetamines, alcohol, and barbiturates, according to Magnani. According to the International Journal of Biomedical Science, immunoassays look for specific antigens and antibodies within the urine or blood to help them find those pharmaceuticals. These tests typically require higher quantities of the drugs to get a positive reading. Later, there are additional tests with the blood and tissue that are more sensitive and can detect smaller amounts of the drug in question (if present).
WebMD noted the various forensic tests needed could take more time since some have to be sent out to specialized facilities for processing. Additionally, any initial tests coming back positive or inconclusive require new tests to be ordered. Therefore, understanding if drugs may have played a role in Perry’s death at his Los Angeles home could leave us waiting months for more definitive answers.