Position statement: cathartics. American Academy of Clinical Toxicology; European Association of Poisons Centres and Clinical Toxicologists

J Toxicol Clin Toxicol. 1997;35(7):743-52. doi: 10.3109/15563659709162570.


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. The administration of a cathartic alone has no role in the management of the poisoned patient and is not recommended as a method of gut decontamination. Experimental data are conflicting regarding the use of cathartics in combination with activated charcoal. No clinical studies have been published to investigate the ability of a cathartic, with or without activated charcoal, to reduce the bioavailability of drugs or to improve the outcome of poisoned patients. Based on available data, the routine use of a cathartic in combination with activated charcoal is not endorsed. If a cathartic is used, it should be limited to a single dose in order to minimize adverse effects.

Publication types

  • Guideline
  • Practice Guideline
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antidotes / therapeutic use
  • Biological Availability
  • Cathartics / adverse effects
  • Cathartics / therapeutic use*
  • Charcoal / therapeutic use
  • Citric Acid / therapeutic use
  • Contraindications
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Humans
  • Organometallic Compounds / therapeutic use
  • Pharmacokinetics
  • Poisoning / therapy*
  • Sorbitol / therapeutic use


  • Antidotes
  • Cathartics
  • Organometallic Compounds
  • Charcoal
  • Citric Acid
  • Sorbitol
  • magnesium citrate