Typically, the clinical toxicologist is a medically qualified graduate who has specialist knowledge of the adverse effects of drugs and other chemicals in humans – and especially how to treat patients who have been exposed to a toxic substance.
Most clinical toxicologists work in hospitals and have close links with university clinical pharmacology departments. Clinical toxicologists are responsible for providing advice on how to treat patients who have been poisoned with a drug or other substance, either accidentally or intentionally. This can be provided as part of the National Poisons Information Service. They are expert in interpreting the results of analyses performed in poisoned patients.
Those who are not medically trained may provide support to clinical colleagues by analysing samples from patients for the presence of toxic substances (such as drugs or toxins), or other indicators of poisoning. It may also be important to manage databases and handle telephone enquiries to poisons information services.
Many clinical toxicologists provide toxicology training and teaching at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Their clinical expertise means that they may be consulted on environmental, occupational and legal aspects of chemical exposure. Some clinical toxicologists serve on government advisory committees, using their expert knowledge to offer independent advice on matters of public health importance.
Clinical toxicologists may be involved in collating and assessing data on the adverse effects of prescribed drugs, which are then fed back to the pharmaceutical industry for further investigation.
Clinical toxicologists often find that helping to restore the health of patients suffering from poisoning is very rewarding.