What is a clinical toxicologist?

Clinical toxicologists are doctors who specialise in the diagnosis and managment of poisoning and disorders caused by toxins or chemicals that have a negative effect on people, including:

  • Drug overdose
  • Medications – side effect or interaction that may cause a clinical problem
  • Bites and stings (envenomation)
  • Workplace toxins
  • Environmental toxins

Treatment of poisoning

Treatment depends on the agent causing the problem. If necessary treatment begins with resuscitation (life support).

General supportive management as required along with observation and monitoring for adverse effects is the mainstay of management.

Treatment may involve reducing exposure to an agent by reducing its absorption or increasing its elimination, neutralising its effect with an antidote and correcting any adverse consequences that may occur.

What to expect at your first visit with a toxicologist


A clinical toxicologist will ask about the agent involved, particularly the amount of exposure, the timing of exposure and any effects that are being suffered.

Whether the exposure was deliberate self harm, accidental or occupational is also important to subsequent management.


Examination by a clinical toxicologist begins with a general overview of any patient. First you will be assessed before proceding to detailed examination of the patient using a systematic approach. This assessment will include measuring your:

  • Temperature
  • Blood pressure
  • Heart rate
  • Oxygen level
  • Respiratory rate
  • Level of consciousness

Focus is particularly directed to the cardiovascular system (heart and blood vessels), respiratory system (lungs) and neurological system (brain and nerves).

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Specialty areas of interest

  • Snake bite
  • Marine envenomation
  • Illicit drug and alcohol use
  • Drug interactions

Associated tests

  • Many blood tests are used to measure levels of certain drugs and to monitor their effects.

Training and qualifications



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This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. If in doubt, HealthEngine recommends consulting with a registered health practitioner.