New Delhi, June 4: The numbers that Rahul Mahajan's urine threw up during a toxicology screen were enmeshed in controversy today with doctors saying that they suggest “faint traces” of a cocktail of illicit drugs but well within “normal range”.
Apollo Hospital doctors said while their qualitative tests had failed to detect illicit drugs, quantitative tests at a private laboratory in New Delhi had revealed trace levels of cocaine, opiates, and cannabinoids among other substances.
As the medical report published in The Telegraph on Sunday had indicated, the quantitative toxicology screen on the urine sample had revealed traces of alcohol, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, cannabinoids, cocaine, and opiates. Doctors had described these results on Saturday as “negative” ' not suggestive of ingestion of the drug.
Pharmacology experts point out that illicit drugs and their residual substances called metabolites are typically not present in the body.
However, a “normal range” for such metabolites emerges from the testing process itself and varies from laboratory to laboratory, depending on the test used for screening.
“The concept of a normal value for such illicit drugs implies a lack of sophistication of the tests,” said Dr Chandra Gulhati, editor of the Monthly Index of Medical Specialities India.
A doctor who was part of the treating team said some tests might pick out metabolites that are normally present in the body and mistakenly identify them as metabolites of illicit drugs. This would explain the “faint traces”.
But Gulhati said such results merely expose the lack of sophistication of the tests. The results will be influenced by factors such as the treatment given to a patient before the urine sample was drawn.
When fluids are given to a patient, a large amount of urine is produced and the exact time during which the sample was drawn becomes important in interpreting the results, Gulhati said. “The numbers alone cannot be interpreted without such additional information.”