Position statement: single-dose activated charcoal. American Academy of Clinical Toxicology; European Association of Poisons Centres and Clinical Toxicologists

J Toxicol Clin Toxicol. 1997;35(7):721-41. doi: 10.3109/15563659709162569.


In preparing this Position Statement, all relevant scientific literature was identified and reviewed critically by acknowledged experts using agreed criteria. Well-conducted clinical and experimental studies were given precedence over anecdotal case reports and abstracts were not usually considered. A draft Position Statement was then produced and subjected to detailed peer review by an international group of clinical toxicologists chosen by the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology and the European Association of Poisons Centres and Clinical Toxicologists. The Position Statement went through multiple drafts before being approved by the boards of the two societies and being endorsed by other societies. The Position Statement includes a summary statement for ease of use and is supported by detailed documentation which describes the scientific evidence on which the Statement is based. Single-dose activated charcoal should not be administered routinely in the management of poisoned patients. Based on volunteer studies, the effectiveness of activated charcoal decreases with time; the greatest benefit is within 1 hour of ingestion. The administration of activated charcoal may be considered if a patient has ingested a potentially toxic amount of a poison (which is known to be adsorbed to charcoal) up to 1 hour previously; there are insufficient data to support or exclude its use after 1 hour of ingestion. There is no evidence that the administration of activated charcoal improves clinical outcome. Unless a patient has an intact or protected airway, the administration of charcoal is contraindicated.

Publication types

  • Guideline
  • Practice Guideline
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Animals
  • Antidotes / therapeutic use*
  • Biological Availability
  • Charcoal / adverse effects
  • Charcoal / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Contraindications
  • Humans
  • Multicenter Studies as Topic
  • Pharmacokinetics
  • Poisoning / drug therapy*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Antidotes
  • Charcoal