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Am J Emerg Med. 2003 May;21(3):189-91.

Efficacy of superactivated charcoal administered late (3 hours) after acetaminophen overdose.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Hawaii, John A. Burns School of Medicine, Clinical Research Center, Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children, Honolulu, HI 96826, USA.


The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of superactivated charcoal (SAC) given late after a drug overdose. Acetaminophen was chosen as our overdose drug because it has relatively few side effects, serum levels are easily attainable and measurable, and it is generally a common drug overdose. Forty-six healthy adult volunteers participated in this randomized, controlled study. Acetaminophen was administered the morning after an overnight fast. Thirteen participants received 2000 mg acetaminophen and the remaining 33 received 3000 mg. After 3 hours, half of the participants (22 of 46) received 75 g of SAC (Requa, Greenwich, CT) orally as a slurry in 8 oz of apple juice. Serum acetaminophen levels were measured at 4 and 7 hours after the initial acetaminophen administration. There were significantly lower uncorrected and corrected acetaminophen levels in the SAC group compared with the control group at both 4 and 7 hours after ingesting acetaminophen. This randomized human experimental design trial demonstrates some detoxification benefit in administering superactivated charcoal 3 hours after an overdose.

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