Systems and methods for use of magnesium hydroxide, either directly or through one or more precursors, doped with a divalent or trivalent metal cation, for removing arsenic from drinking water, including water distribution systems. In one embodiment, magnesium hydroxide, Mg(OH).sub.2 (a strong adsorbent for arsenic) doped with a divalent or trivalent metal cation is used to adsorb arsenic. The complex consisting of arsenic adsorbed on Mg(OH).sub.2 doped with a divalent or trivalent metal cation is subsequently removed from the water by conventional means, including filtration, settling, skimming, vortexing, centrifugation, magnetic separation, or other well-known separation systems. In another embodiment, magnesium oxide, MgO, is employed, which reacts with water to form Mg(OH).sub.2. The resulting Mg(OH).sub.2 doped with a divalent or trivalent metal cation, then adsorbs arsenic, as set forth above. The method can also be used to treat human or animal poisoning with arsenic.