May 1986

Expanded Role of Charcoal Therapy in the Poisoned and Overdosed Patient

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Internal Medicine (Drs Spector and Goldberg), Pathology (Dr Johnson), and Pharmacology (Drs Spector and Goldberg), College of Medicine and the Division of Clinical/Hospital Pharmacy, College of Pharmacy (Dr Park), University of Iowa, Iowa City.

Arch Intern Med. 1986;146(5):969-973. doi:10.1001/archinte.1986.00360170207027

• Activated charcoal is widely used as an adsorbent for the management of patients with drug overdoses and poisonings. Activated charcoal can be used orally to prevent drug and poison absorption in cases of overdose and poisoning. Multiple oral doses of charcoal increase the elimination of several, but not all, drugs and poisons. The effectiveness of multiple oral doses of charcoal in accelerating drug clearance is dependent primarily on the endogenous clearance of the drug or poison and its volume of distribution. Multiple doses of charcoal are used to shorten the period of supportive care in certain patients or to more rapidly remove drugs or poisons that may cause tissue damage, eg, theophylline. Charcoal is a safe, effective, and inexpensive alternative to more invasive treatments for some cases of drug overdose and poisoning.

(Arch Intern Med 1986;146:969-973)