Categories: Medicine A-Z

What Drug Activated Charcoal? – A-Z Medicine

Generic Name:
Activated Charcoal

Activated Charcoal and activated charcoal.

Function & Usage

What is activated charcoal used for?

Activated charcoal or activated charcoal is a drug commonly used to treat stomach pain due to excess gas, diarrhea, or indigestion.

This activated charcoal is also used to reduce the itching caused by kidney dialysis treatment and to treat drug poisoning or overdose.

The origin of this charcoal used was from a research test. In 1831, Professor Touery took a lethal dose of strychnine in front of his colleagues at the French Academy of Medicine.

However, Professor Touery drinks the poison together with active charcoal so that the poison does not have a deadly effect. Since then, activated charcoal has been tested and tried to be investigated for medical use.

This activated charcoal is made from coal, wood or other materials. Charcoal is called active when processed using high temperatures combined with gases and other oxidative substances.

Charcoal works by absorbing toxins and chemicals in the intestine. Activated charcoal has a porous texture with a negative electrical charge. This is what makes charcoal can attract positive molecules such as poisons and gases.

Charcoal also cannot be absorbed by the body. As a result the poison absorbed by the charcoal will be taken out by the body through defecation. Activated charcoal is usually used to handle emergencies as first aid during poisoning. This is because of its nature which can help inhibit toxins absorbed by the body.

1. For kidneys

Charcoal is believed to help kidney function by filtering toxins and undigested drugs.

Several studies conducted on animals, show that activated charcoal can help improve kidney function and reduce gastrointestinal damage and inflammation in patients with chronic kidney disease.

A 2014 study from California using mice that have chronic kidney disease. The mice were given 4 grams of charcoal induction every day. Then the results were found that charcoal can reduce inflammation and intestinal damage significantly.

2. Diarrhea

Activated charcoal or activated charcoal is believed to absorb poisons in digestion. So some people who believe use activated charcoal to help overcome the problem of diarrhea.

In 2017, there was a study that examined the benefits of active charcoal for treating diarrhea. The results of the study of researchers concluded that activated charcoal can prevent bacteria and drugs from being absorbed optimally in the body.

3. To treat poisoning

In hospital emergency rooms, medical personnel can sometimes use activated charcoal to treat overdoses or poisoning. Activated charcoal can often help clear toxins from the following medicines:

  • NSAIDs and anti-inflammatory drugs that are sold freely
  • Sedative
  • Drug calcium channel blockers
  • Dapsone medicine
  • The drug carbamazepine (Tegretol)
  • Malaria medicine
  • Medicines for methylxanthines (mild stimulants)

Activated charcoal cannot bind all types of poisons or drugs, especially those that are corrosive. The following are poisons that cannot be absorbed by activated charcoal:

  • alcohol
  • lye
  • iron
  • lithium

In addition, petroleum products, such as fuel oil, gasoline, paint thinners, and some cleaning products also cannot be absorbed by activated charcoal. If in a case of poisoning the patient is conscious, the doctor can give the patient a drink made from powdered activated charcoal and mixed with water.

Medical staff can also provide a mixture of activated charcoal through a filling tube in the nose or mouth if necessary. A person must be given activated charcoal within 1 to 4 hours after poisoning. This is the maximum limit for active charcoal to work optimally in the body.

How to use

How to use activated charcoal?

Take this medicine exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Generally, take this medicine with a full glass (250 ml) of water. Do not crush, damage or chew on activated charcoal tablets or capsules. Swallow pills thoroughly.

Charcoal is usually taken after meals or at the first sign of symptoms when the stomach feels uncomfortable.

Stop using charcoal and call a doctor if diarrhea lasts more than 2 days or you also have a fever. Do not take doses that are larger or longer than recommended. Follow the instructions on the label of your recipe.

Here are some other ways to use activated charcoal:

  • If a poisoned patient vomits while drinking an activated charcoal drink, another dose will be given through a nasogastric or orogastric tube. This is a tube that is inserted through the nose or mouth, down the esophagus and then into the stomach.
  • If the patient is unconscious, the doctor may perform endotracheal intubation (the procedure of inserting a tube through the mouth into the trachea). It aims to send oxygen and help protect the airway and lungs from gastric content, which minimizes the patient's risk of vomiting and choking.

Treatment using activated charcoal is usually given by a doctor. This is not a haphazard substance that can be used at home. The doctor will determine the dose or amount of charcoal given based on the patient's weight (with a special dose for children). The doctor will also compensate with some large amounts of the poison that are ingested.

How to store activated charcoal?

Store at room temperature, keep away from direct light and a humid place. Do not store in the bathroom. Don't freeze it. Other brands of this drug may have different storage rules.

Observe the storage instructions on the product packaging or ask your pharmacist. Keep all medicines out of the reach of children and pets.

Do not flush medicine in the toilet or in the sewer unless instructed. Discard this product when it has expired or if it is no longer needed.

Consult your pharmacist or local waste disposal company about how to safely dispose of your product.


The information provided is not a substitute for medical advice. ALWAYS consult your doctor or pharmacist before starting treatment.

What is the dose of Activated Charcoal for adults?

Usual Adult Dose for Gastrointestinal Decontamination:

  • Activated Charcoal:
  • Single dose: 25-100 g orally or with a single nasogastric tube, as a porridge in water. Routine use of a single dose of activated charcoal is not recommended.
  • Multiple-dose:
  • Initial dose: 50-100 g orally or by nasogastric tube, as a porridge in water.
  • Maintenance dose: 12.5 g every hour, 25 g every 2 hours, or 50 g every 4 hours until symptoms can be resolved.

Usual Adult Dose for Flatulence:

  • Capsules and tablets: 500-1040 mg up to 4 times a day as needed. Not effective in the treatment of poisoning.

What is the dose of activated charcoal for children?

Usual Child Dose for Gastrointestinal Decontamination:

Give a watery suspension or as mush in water.

Single dose:

  • <1 year: 0.5-1 g / kg or 10-25 g orally or with a single nasogastric tube
  • 1-12 years: 0.5-1 g / kg or 25-50 g orally or with a single nasogastric tube
  • 13-18 years: single dose: 25-100 g orally or once with a nasogastric tube

Routine use of a single dose of activated charcoal is not recommended.

At what dose is activated charcoal available?

This drug is available as:

  • Liquid
  • Suspension
  • Tablet
  • Chewable Tablet
  • Powder for suspension

Side effects

What side effects can be experienced because of activated charcoal?

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience signs of a general allergic reaction such as itching, difficulty breathing, swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat.

The list is indeed not a complete list of side effects and other things that can still happen. Contact your doctor for medical advice about the side effects of this drug.

Generally activated charcoal is considered safe and is rarely reported to experience severe side effects if done in the correct use and dosage.

However, there are still some common side effects that can occur when consuming activated charcoal. Generally you will feel nausea and vomiting. In addition, the risk of constipation and the color of black stool are two other side effects that are often reported.

When activated charcoal is used as an emergency medicine for poisoning, there is a risk that charcoal can move into the lungs, rather than the stomach. This usually happens if the patient experiences vomiting or is in a state of complete unconscious when given active charcoal.

In addition, activated charcoal can worsen symptoms in people with variegate porphyria conditions, this is a rare genetic disease that affects the skin, intestine and nervous system. Also, in very rare cases, activated charcoal has been linked to blockage of the hole in the intestine.

It is worth mentioning that activated charcoal can also reduce the absorption of certain drugs. Therefore, people who take medicine should consult a doctor before taking it.

Not everyone experiences the following side effects. There may be some side effects not mentioned above. If you have concerns about certain side effects, consult your doctor or pharmacist.

Prevention & Warnings

What needs to be known before using activated charcoal?

You don't have to use this medicine if you have ever had an allergic reaction to charcoal.

If possible, before you consume activated charcoal, tell your doctor if you are allergic to other medicines, or if you have:

  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease, or
  • Other types of serious illnesses

If you have this condition, you may need a dose adjustment or special tests to stay safe when taking this medicine.

Do not give this medicine to children under the age of 1 year without instructions from the doctor. Do not take active charcoal medication with other drugs. Take activated charcoal at least 2 hours before or 1 hour after the dosage of other drugs. Activated charcoal can usually bind to toxic substances or other drugs and can make them less effective.

Is Activated Charcoal safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women?

Not yet known what the safety and effectiveness of activated charcoal for pregnant and lactating women. Consult your doctor before pregnant and lactating women use any type of medication.

Drug Interactions

What medicines might interact with activated charcoal?

Although some drugs may not be taken together at all, in other cases some drugs can also be used together although interactions may occur.

In cases like this, the doctor may change the dose, or do other prevention things that are needed. Let your doctor know if you are taking other medicines both over the counter and from a prescription.

Using this drug with any of the following medicines is not recommended. Your doctor may decide not to treat you with these drugs or change some of the other medicines that you take.

Using this drug with one of the following medicines is usually not recommended, but may be needed in some cases. If the two drugs are prescribed together, your doctor can change the dosage or how often you use one or both of these drugs.

  • Acrivastine
  • Bupropion
  • Carbinoxamine
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydrocodone
  • Meclizine
  • Methadone
  • Morphine
  • Morphine Sulfate Liposome
  • Mycophenolate Mofetil
  • Mycophenolic Acid
  • Oxycodone
  • Oxymorphone
  • Suvorexant
  • Tapentadol
  • Umeclidinium

Can food or alcohol interact with activated charcoal?

Certain medicines should not be used when eating or when eating certain foods because drug interactions can occur. Consuming alcohol or tobacco with certain drugs can also cause interactions to occur. Discuss your use of drugs with food, alcohol, or tobacco with your health care provider.

What health conditions can interact with activated charcoal?

Other health conditions that you have can affect the use of this drug. Always tell your doctor if you have other health problems, especially:

  • Intestinal bleeding or
  • Blockage of the intestine or
  • Activated charcoal can make intestinal conditions that have lesions or holes become worse.
  • A low level of awareness can risk making activated charcoal enter the patient's lungs. A tube in the patient's throat may be needed before activated charcoal is given.
  • The use of laxatives, such as sorbitol and charcoal together is not recommended. This can cause a risk of dehydration


What should I do in an emergency or overdose?

In cases of emergency or overdose, contact your local emergency service provider 119 or 118 or immediately to the nearest hospital emergency department.

What should I do if I miss a dose?

If you forget one dose of this medicine, take it as soon as possible. But when it is nearing the next dose, skip the missed dose and return to the usual dosage schedule. Do not double the dose.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment

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