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Activated charcoal

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

Authoring team

This is often administered in cases of self-poisoning. It has two roles:

  • to reduce absorption of drug - given immediately after lavage or emesis in a dose approximately 10 times that of of the suspected drug
  • to accelerate drug clearance - given in repeated doses eg. 50 g four-hourly - in salicylate, theophylline, carbamazepine, phenobarbitone and digoxin overdose

It is unhelpful in poisoning from:

  • cyanide
  • iron
  • ethanol
  • lithium
  • acid or alkali
  • pesticides

Patients should be warned that it is unpalatable and will blacken their stools.

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