The efficacy of ipecac-induced emesis, large-bore orogastric lavage, and activated charcoal as gastrointestinal decontamination procedures after acute drug overdose is unknown. Using an ampicillin overdose model, these three procedures were compared with one another and to a control ingestion in ten human volunteers. Serial serum ampicillin levels were used to compute the areas under the concentration vs time curves (AUC) for each study. The reductions of ampicillin absorption compared to control were as follows: orogastric lavage 32% (NS), ipecac-induced emesis 38% (P less than .01), and activated charcoal 57% (P less than .01). This model examines each intervention in a mutually exclusive fashion. It supports activated charcoal administration as the primary gastrointestinal decontamination procedure after acute drug overdose.