Why medicines are called drugs?
Why medicines are called drugs? What comes to mind when you think of the word drug? You may think of a medicine that you take when you are ill. Or you may think of an illegal drug, such as marijuana. Actually, a drug is any substance, other than food, that causes changes in the way the body or mind works. Drugs that prevent, treat, or cure health problems are called medicines. There are thousands of different medicines. Vaccines are medicines that prevent diseases such as measles, polio, and smallpox. Some medicines, like aspirin, reduce fever and relieve pain.
Antibiotics fight infections by killing disease-causing bacteria. There are a number of medicines that treat serious diseases, such as cancer and heart disease. Think of the different medicines you have used in the past. How did they help you?
Where Medicines Come From
Many of the medicines we use today are made in a laboratory. But about half of the medicines we use originally came from plants. The pictures below show some plants that have given us important medicines. Scientists think there are many other plants that could also be sources of useful medicines. One kind of scientist, called a bioprospector, collects plants from all over the world and brings them back for researchers to study. These bioprospectors are looking for the medicines of the future.
Side Effects of Medicines
Medicines come in many forms. Skin ointments are put on the surface of the skin. Some medicines to treat asthma are breathed in. Some drugs, such as insulin, are injected. Most medicines are taken by mouth. They are absorbed into the blood through the stomach and intestines. The blood carries medicines throughout the body. Because most medicines cause changes throughout the body, a medicine that treats a problem in one part of the body may affect other parts as well. For example, doctors sometimes give their patients medicine to treat cancer.
The medicine kills cancer cells. But it also alters the activities of other body cells. As a result, the medicine may cause vomiting, hair loss, and other unwanted reactions. The unwanted reactions to a medicine are called side effects. Almost every medicine causes side effects, but most aren’t serious. Some disappear as you get used to a medicine. It’s important to know a medicine’s side effects before you take it. Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you what they are. If you feel strange after taking a medicine, tell a parent, teacher, or other trusted adult right away.
Two Types of Medicines
People must visit a doctor to get some medicines. Adults can buy others without seeing a doctor first. What’s the difference between these two kinds of medicines? Prescription medicines are medicines that can be bought only after a doctor has written an order, or a prescription, for them. A prescription shows the name of the patient, the name of the medicine, and how frequently the medicine should be taken. It also shows the amount of medicine the patient should take each time, or the dosage.
A pharmacist uses this information to give the correct medicine to the patient. Over-the-counter medicines, or OTC medicines, are medicines that can be bought without a prescription. OTC medicines treat minor health problems. They include pain relievers, cough medicines, and allergy medicines. OTC medicines can be harmful if they are used too often, in incorrect amounts, or for the wrong reasons. The most important thing to remember is always to check with a parent first. Be sure to read labels carefully. Also check expiration dates. The expiration date is the date after which the medicine should not be used.
Using Medicines Safely
If taken improperly, medicine can harm you. When taking any medicine, keep these guidelines in mind:
- Do not take any medicine on your own-always cooperate with your parents when taking medicine.
- Always follow the directions on the medicine.
- Never use someone else’s prescription medicine, and never share yours with others.
- Report any side effects to a parent or other trusted adult.
- Do not take two or more medicines at the same time unless your doctor tells you to do so.
- Do not use new OTC medicines if their tamper-resistant packaging is missing or damaged.
- Do not take a medicine after its expiration date.
- Cooperate with your doctor by taking a medicine as long as directed.
- Ask your pharmacist if a medicine should be taken with or without food and if there are foods you shouldn’t eat when taking it.
- Do not break, chew, crush, or dissolve pills, tablets, or capsules unless a doctor or a pharmacist tells you to do so.
- Keep all medicines in a safe place out of the reach of young children.
- Measure dosages carefully.
- Store medicines as directed on the label.