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Activated Charcoal

Activated Charcoal Overview

Patient Comments

It was 1831. In front of his distinguished colleagues at the French Academy of Medicine, Professor Touery drank a lethal dose of strychnine and lived to tell the tale. He had combined the deadly poison with activated charcoal.

That's how powerful activated charcoal is as an emergency decontaminant in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which includes the stomach and intestines. Activated charcoal is considered to be the most effective single agent available. It is used after a person swallows or absorbs almost any toxic drug or chemical.

  • Activated charcoal is estimated to reduce absorption of poisonous substances nearly to 60%.
  • It works by binding (adsorbing) chemicals, thus reducing their toxicity (poisonous nature), through the entire length of the stomach and small and large intestines (GI tract).
  • Activated charcoal itself is a fine, black powder that is odorless, tasteless, and nontoxic.
  • Activated charcoal is often given after the stomach is pumped (gastric lavage). Gastric lavage is only effective immediately after swallowing a toxic substance (within about one-half hour) and does not have effects that reach beyond the stomach as activated charcoal does.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/18/2013

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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Activated Charcoal:

Activated Charcoal - Experience

Please describe your experience with activated charcoal.

Activated Charcoal - How Given

What type of poison did you experience, and did you have to have treatment at the hospital with activated charcoal.



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