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Do you need a prescription for activated charcoal?

Activated charcoal is sometimes used to help treat a drug overdose or a poisoning.

When you take activated charcoal, drugs and toxins can bind to it. This helps rid the body of unwanted substances.

Charcoal is made from coal, wood, or other substances. It becomes “activated charcoal” when high temperatures combine with a gas or activating agent to expand its surface area.

People take activated charcoal to manage a poisoning or overdose.

When used along with other treatments, activated charcoal may be effective for an acute poisoning. But it is not useful in some cases, including poisoning from:

Cyanide
Lithium
Alcohol
Iron tablets
It also is not used to treat poisons such as strong acids or bases.

With a poisoning, don’t guess about the right thing to do. Call your local poison control center immediately. And get to an emergency room. You need to use activated charcoal as soon as possible if it is recommended.

Other less studied uses of activated charcoal include:

Treat a condition of pregnancy in which the normal flow of bile is affected (cholestasis)
Prevent gas
Reduce high cholesterol
Prevent a hangover
Early research about using activated charcoal to treat cholestasis of pregnancy is very limited. More studies are needed to prove its safety and effectiveness.