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An in vitro evaluation of cocaine hydrochloride adsorption by activated charcoal and desorption upon addition of polyethylene glycol electrolyte lavage solution.

Cocaine body-packers and body-stuffers have become a common medical problem. Significant morbidity and mortality result when cocaine is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract due to cocaine package compromise. The clinical prevention of gastrointestinal absorption of cocaine includes oral activated charcoal and/or whole bowel irrigation with polyethylene glycol--electrolyte lavage solution. This in vitro study investigates the maximal adsorptive capacity of activated charcoal for cocaine at varying activated charcoal:cocaine ratios, at pH 1.2 and pH 7.0, and the effect of polyethylene glycol--electrolyte lavage solution upon this binding. The percent adsorption of cocaine to activated charcoal was significantly better at pH 7.0 for all ratios of activated charcoal:cocaine tested and the maximal adsorptive capacity was 29% greater at pH 7.0 (273 micrograms/mg) than at pH 1.2 (212 micrograms/mg) (p < 0.05). Addition of polyethylene glycol--electrolyte lavage solution to the cocaine-activated charcoal slurry caused significant desorption of cocaine from activated charcoal at all pHs and ratios tested (except the 1:1 ratio at pH 7.0) and was most pronounced at pH 1.2. The addition of polyethylene glycol--electrolyte lavage solution to activated charcoal prior to adding cocaine solution further decreased the adsorption of cocaine to activated charcoal. This difference was significant at both pHs and all ratios tested except the 1:1 ratio at pH 1.2. The maximal adsorptive capacity of activated charcoal for cocaine at pH 1.2 was reduced 75% by pretreatment with polyethylene glycol--electrolyte lavage solution from 212 to 54.2 micrograms/mg, while at pH 7.0 the maximal adsorptive capacity was reduced by 11%, from 273 to 243 micrograms/mg. Polyethylene glycol--electrolyte lavage solution significantly reduces the adsorption of cocaine to activated charcoal particularly if the two are combined at a low pH prior to the addition of cocaine. The in vitro effects suggest that activated charcoal mixed in water should be administered first, followed by the polyethylene glycol--electrolyte lavage solution.

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