The pharm + tox lecture series: #2 - Drugs, medications, and poisons (Oh my!)

The name of this site is a misnomer. Sad but true. You see, technically, poisons ARE drugs, so it's pretty silly to make a distinction between them ('Drugs and Poisons'). It's a shame, but at least I wasn't writing a textbook or something.

The definition of a drug is shrouded in caliginous gloom. Actually, it's not that bad (I just wanted to use the word caliginous), but it certainly isn't clear-cut. The key feature of a drug is that it alters in some way the function(s) of an organism when introduced into an organism's body. In a broad sense, food can be considered a drug.

It can get tricky. Estrogen naturally produced in people's gonads is not a drug, but it becomes one once it is packaged into birth control pills.

Anyway, way back in the sixteenth century, this Swiss fellow named Paracelsus (oh for the days of one-word names) introduced an intriguing concept: All drugs are poisons. Any drug, regardless of how benign it may seem, when given in a sufficiently high enough dose, will cause harm to a person. Poisons refer to drugs that are recognized for their ability to cause disease, while medications are drugs that usually treat disease.

In conclusion, I should have named this site 'Medications and Poisons', but 'Drugs and Poisons' sounded too cool to pass up. The end.

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