It might be challenging to keep things straight when it seems like there are more medications than there are ailments. Some are available over the counter in pharmacies and other retail establishments. Others need a prescription from a physician. Some products are only available in hospitals.
What Do Medicines Do?
Medicines are substances or chemicals that treat, halt, or prevent illness, lessen symptoms, or aid in the diagnosis of diseases. Modern medicine has made it possible for doctors to both save and cure many ailments.
Nowadays, there are numerous sources for drugs. Many were created using elements found in nature, and many are still obtained today by extracting plants.
In laboratories, certain medications are created by combining various substances. Others are byproducts of organisms like fungi, like penicillin. In some cases, the desired drug is even produced by bacteria that have had genes added to them through biological engineering.
When we consider taking medications, we frequently picture tablets. But there are other ways to administer medications, including:
- Liquids that are ingested droplets applied to the eyes or ears
- Inhalers are lotions, gels, or ointments that are applied to the skin (like nasal sprays or asthma inhalers)
- Skin patches that have remained there (called transdermal patches)
- The under-the-tongue placement of tablets (called sublingual medicines; the medicine is absorbed into blood vessels and enters the bloodstream)
- Intravenous (inserted into a vein) or intramuscular (injected) medications
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration must first approve any medication before it may be sold (FDA). All new medications are tested by the drug’s manufacturers, who then submit the results to the FDA.
Only when new medications are effective and sufficiently safe are they approved by the FDA for usage. The FDA typically allows the sale of a drug when the advantages outweigh the recognized hazards. If a medication is later discovered to have negative side effects, the FDA has the authority to remove it from sale at any time.
Various Types of Medications
Different mechanisms exist for medicines to work. Some can stop the spread of infectious microorganisms like bacteria and viruses or destroy them to treat an ailment. By destroying cells as they divide or stopping them from proliferating, other methods are employed to cure cancer. Some medications replenish deficient components or restore adequate quantities of natural bodily molecules like certain hormones or vitamins. Even the areas of the nervous system that regulate a bodily function might be impacted by medications.
Most people have used antibiotics. The medication in question combats bacterial infections. For conditions like strep throat or an ear infection, your doctor could recommend an antibiotic. In order for the body’s immune system to successfully combat the infection, antibiotics either kill germs or stop their growth.
Sometimes the body’s ability to produce a certain chemical is compromised. That could also make you feel ill. For example, a person with insulin-dependent diabetes has insufficient insulin production from their pancreas (a hormone that regulates glucose in the body). Thyroid hormone, which aids in regulating how the body uses energy, is produced at a lower rate in some people. In each situation, medical professionals can recommend drugs to supplement the deficient hormone.
Some medications can only treat the symptoms of an illness; they cannot heal the underlying condition. (Anything you experience while unwell is a symptom, such a cough or nausea.) So, while swallowing a lozenge may ease a sore throat, it won’t eradicate the dreadful strep germs.
Some drugs provide pain relief. Your doctor could advise you to take ibuprofen or acetaminophen if you pull a muscle. These painkillers, or analgesics, only mask the symptoms; your strained muscle will still hurt. They reduce pain while your body heals by obstructing the channels that carry pain signals from the wounded or irritated body part to the brain (altering how the brain interprets the pain signal).
People occasionally experience chronic or long-lasting ailments as they age. High cholesterol and high blood pressure are two conditions that medications can help manage. These medications don’t treat the underlying issue, but they can slow down some of its long-term harmful effects on the body.
Immunizations are among the most crucial medications (or vaccines). These immunize the body against some infectious diseases to prevent people from being ill in the first place. A small amount of an agent that closely resembles a specific germ or modified or dead germs is typically present in vaccines. When a person receives a vaccination, the body’s immune system is prepared to “remember” the pathogen so it can resist infection by that germ in the future.
The majority of vaccinations that guard against contracting illnesses like measles, whooping cough, and chickenpox are administered intravenously. Nobody finds shooting enjoyable. But unlike the brief discomfort of the shot, the diseases they guard against can be extremely dangerous and have symptoms that linger for a very long time. You can now obtain vaccines at several pharmacies to make your life easier.
Some medications can be purchased over-the-counter, despite some requiring a prescription. Numerous medications for pain, fever, cough, and allergy are available without a prescription. However, just because a medication is sold without a prescription (OTC), doesn’t mean it has no side effects. OTC medications should be taken with the same caution as those that are doctor-prescribed.
It’s always vital to stay safe and adhere to some fundamental standards, regardless of the sort of medication your doctor prescribes:
- Inform your doctor as soon as possible if you feel worse after taking a medication.
- Verify that you have the appropriate medication. Check that the shape, size, and color are the same if you have the same prescription filled more than once. If not, make sure to discuss it with the pharmacist.
- Pay attention to the directions on the label. If you have any inquiries, ask.
- Exactly as directed, take your medications. Don’t take two tablets twice a day if the directions call for taking one tablet four times daily. It is not equivalent.
- Inquire as to whether the medication might interfere with routine activities like driving or paying attention in class.
- Avoid taking more medication than is advised. You won’t heal or feel better any faster as a result of it. In actuality, taking too much medication might make you ill.
- Always heed the advice of your physician or pharmacist. He or she might advise you to take a medication with food to assist decrease the potential stomach disturbance it might cause, or they might advise you to take the medication on an empty stomach to avoid interfering with the medication’s absorption into your body.
- Never give someone else your prescription medication, even if they have the same condition as you. Modern medications are extremely complicated, and the dosages are frequently precisely prescribed for each patient’s requirements. Overdosing or underdosing can both be hazardous. Additionally, the same medication may not work the same way on someone else’s body (for example, if the person has an allergy to one of the components of the medicine).
- Ask the pharmacist if you wish to take something you can purchase over-the-counter while also taking a medication. A harmful interaction between the medications is conceivable.
- If you use any other medications or herbal supplements, be sure to let your doctor and pharmacist know so they can check for any drug interactions.
- If you think you could be pregnant, inform your doctor right away. Some medications have the potential to damage a newborn. Additionally, if you are breastfeeding, let your doctor or pharmacist know as some drugs can interfere with lactation.
- Keep in mind that many medications’ adverse effects might be significantly worsened by alcohol consumption.
- Even if you become ill with what seems to be the same old problem, resist the urge to self-diagnose and take some leftover medication. Using that medication to treat a different illness may not be effective and may even be hazardous.
- Consult your physician beforehand.
- Even if you start to feel better, continue taking the antibiotics for the full recommended duration to ensure that all the bacteria are eradicated and the infection doesn’t return.
- If at all possible, keep medications in the original, clearly labeled containers.
- Never take expired medication, especially prescription medication.
- The strength of medications can be impacted by heat and humidity, therefore they shouldn’t be kept in the bathroom.
- The majority of medications need to be stored at room temperature, away from sunlight. Some need to be chilled. If you’re unsure, ask your doctor or pharmacist.
- Ensure that any medications are kept securely out of the reach of younger siblings, pets, and children.
- Before starting you on a new medication, let your doctor and pharmacist know if you have any allergies.
- Inform your parents right away if you develop a rash, start scratching, throw up, or have difficulties breathing after starting a medication. Get emergency medical attention immediately away if you are having trouble breathing, developing hives, or if your tongue, lips, face, or other body parts suddenly start to swell.
Sometimes taking medications can seem like a hassle. But for many ailments, medications are the best available therapies. Speak to your doctor or a pharmacist if you’ve ever wondered what a medicine does or how to take it.