What is Clinical Toxicology?
Clinical toxicology involves the research, prevention and treatment of diseases caused by chemicals, drugs and toxins. Special attention is paid to levels of chemical exposure and to the effects that exposure can have on people. Clinical toxicology is especially useful when dealing with people who are poisoned or who have overdosed, so it is beneficial for medical professionals and first responders. Clinical toxicology can be broken down into two parts: clinical chemistry and toxicology.
Chemical compounds are all around us, from drugs to pollutants, and depending on the compound and the amount or dosage, they have different effects. Clinical chemistry involves analyzing the composition of bodily fluids, looking at molecular diagnostics and interpreting test results. It involves medical testing and using chemical processes to evaluate patient health. Clinical chemistry is used in inpatient and outpatient medical settings, and it is important when dealing with poisoned or overdosed patients.
Toxicology is a scientific discipline that studies the harmful effects of chemicals on organisms—usually the human body. Part of toxicology is determining the potential harmful risks of exposure to substances called risk assessment. Toxicologists may assess chemicals or situations that pose a health risk to people and assist in setting regulations to protect public health.
Clinical toxicologists may develop new methods of determining the harmful effects of chemicals and drugs, as well as what dosage causes these effects. Clinical toxicologists also work on studies of specific chemicals and how they can be used safely. However, one does not need to become a clinical toxicologist in order for clinical toxicology studies to be relevant. Physicians, nurses and physician assistants often study clinical toxicology to gain a better understanding of poisoned or overdosed patients. First responders and poison control center professionals may also study clinical toxicology to better prepare them for their careers.
Clinical toxicology as a field is extremely important today, with drug overdose being the leading cause of injury-related death in 2012, and climbing. Every day, 115 people die as a result of a drug overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The University of Florida offers an online master’s degree and graduate certificate in clinical toxicology, specifically for working professionals. Subject matter includes toxicants; drugs of abuse; drug analysis and biotransformation; as well as the treatment of poisoned or overdosed patients. Courses are entirely online and taught by internationally recognized faculty with expertise in clinical toxicology, medicine, pharmacy, and pharmacology.