Meds and you

27 September 2013

Charcoal, activated

Activated charcoal is a powerful adsorbent - a material with a capacity or tendency to adsorb another substance

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General information

Activated charcoal is a powerful adsorbent - a material with a capacity or tendency to adsorb another substance - of a wide range of poisonous substances and drugs, reducing their systemic absorption from the gastro-intestinal tract.

In South Africa activated charcoal is registered for the treatment, or emergency treatment, of poisoning or overdose with most drugs and chemicals. It is most effective if given within 30 minutes of acute poisoning.

Charcoal should only be used in conscious patients.

Fast facts

Drug schedule: not scheduled

Available as: charcoal is available as powder or in capsules.

What does it do charcoal adsorbs toxins.

Overdose risk: low

Dependence risk: low

Is activated charcoal available as a generic? no

Is activated charcoal available on prescription only? no

User information

Dietary advice: efficacy of charcoal is reduced if taken with milk or ice cream

Special precautions

Activated charcoal is not effective in treating poisoning with:

  • cyanide
  • mineral acids
  • caustic alkalis
  • organic solvents
  • iron
  • ethanol
  • methanol

Pregnancy: avoid. Potential risk to the foetus has been reported. Consult your doctor before use, or if you are planning to fall pregnant.

Breastfeeding: avoid. It is unknown how this medication may affect your baby. Consult your doctor before use.

Possible side effects

Side effects Frequency
Consult your doctor

Common Rare Only if severe In all cases
black stools x
x
constipation x
x

Interactions

Drug interactions

Ipecacuanha reduced effects of ipecacuanha
Digoxin (and most other oral drugs) reduced effects of digoxin

Recommended dosage

Adults, oral (or via naso-gastric tube): 50 - 100g in 250 - 500 ml water

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This material is not intended to substitute medical advice, but is for informational purposes only.

Please consult a physician for specific treatment and recommendations.

 
 

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