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January 1985

Activated Charcoal Reborn: Progress in Poison Management

Author Affiliations

Box 484 Medical Center Department of Internal Medicine University of Virginia Medical School Charlottesville, VA 22908

Arch Intern Med. 1985;145(1):43-44. doi:10.1001/archinte.1985.00360010063005

In the January Archives, Curtis et al1, described their study of the efficacy of ipecac alone v activated charcoal plus a cathartic v the three together in the treatment of a simulated aspirin tablet overdose. They accounted for 70% of the ingested aspirin dose in the urine of patients following a standard ipecac regimen, compared with 56% in patients receiving activated charcoal. Their results provided another piece of impressive evidence for the efficacy of activated charcoal in treating the overdose patient.

The fine, black, fluffy powder of activated charcoal used as an antidote since the 19th century results from the destructive distillation of organic materials, usually wood pulp. Following activation with steam or strong acid, activated charcoal's surface area (1,000 sq m/mL) and electrostatic properties favor binding with most poisons.

CLINICAL EXPERIENCE  Linden et al2 reported on the use of repeated doses of activated charcoal in treating 11