top of page
Assortment of Pills

The Science of Medicine



In a survey, 17% CISOs said that they had turned to medication or alcohol to help deal with that stress

1 in 6 CISOs now use medicines or alcohol

(Winder, Davey, 2019)


Medicine as defined by a team of philosophers and ethicists as – 1. Preventing disease and injury, promoting and maintaining health; 2. Relieving pain and suffering caused by maladies; 3.caring for and curing those with a malady and caring for those who cannot be cured; and 4. Avoiding premature death and pursuing a peaceful death.

The history of medicine may be dated back to the Stone Age where plants were used as a kind of medicine. Hippocrates, an ancient Greek physician (460-377BC), described medicine as “to do away with the sufferings of the sick; to reduce the violence of their diseases’(Hanson, Ann Ellis 2006) Modern days medicines are chemicals or compounds accustomed to treat and forestall symptoms and diseases and to assist during a diagnosis.

​Medicines are chemicals or compounds used to treat and prevent symptoms and diseases and many times even help in the diagnosis. With further advances in medicines, doctors have been able to cure many diseases and save so many lives. They are not only used for physical health problems but also for psychological disorders as and when needed.

Medicines are absorbed into the body’s circulation when traveling from the site of administration. Medicines are taken via the mouth travel into the liver through the stomach and small intestine where most of the medicines are broken down. When medicines are administered by other ways, they directly enter the bloodstream or enter it via lungs or skin.

Once it is absorbed into the system, it travels throughout the body via the bloodstream. Each drug is designed to target specific proteins known as receptors. Once it reaches the target and gets into the cell, the reactions between them produce the desired effects. For example, the target for a pain reliever like Ibuprofen is a headache. Once the medicine reaches the spot of headache, it will bind to the specific target and bring about the desired results which would be reduced pain. However, there may be side effects such as feeling nauseous or feeling sleepy.

Almost every medicine has some sort of a side effect. Side effects are unwanted reactions to a drug causing adverse effects. They can vary from minor issues such as a running nose or headache to life-threatening issues such as a severe allergy, asthma or even a risk of a cardiac arrest. Medicines may have a single side effect or a combination of multiple ones. These can affect an individual’s wellbeing (eg. a headache can ruin an individual’s entire daily schedule).

​Side Effects are caused mainly due to 2 reasons. One, a medicine may readjust one imbalance along with others that might not need returning back to normal as the body often uses a chemical to regulate multiple processes. Two, Medicines may alter other molecules as well other than the target ones bringing about unwanted effects. (Failli, 2017)

The three classes of medication most commonly misused include:

  1. Opioids – Pain relief medicines

  2. Depressants – usually used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders

  3. Stimulants – usually used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)


According to the Partnership for a Drug-Free World, 15 million people become addicted to prescription drugs each year, and 52 million people have abused prescription drugs at some point, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. (NIH, 2020)

Prescription drug and over the counter medicine misuse and addiction is in high rates in America. Though much data is not available about the other regions of the world, misuse and addiction is increasing overall. Although overall abuse and addiction are common among men, the rates have been increasing among women. (Elkins, 2015)

Teenagers and young adults are most likely to be victims of misuse and addiction. This is the age where the abuse usually begins and if not controlled, leads to addiction and many harmful consequences. Individuals might also start abusing drugs such as cannabis along with alcohol. Reasons for misuse and continuous use of these drugs range from wanting to gain euphoria and energy to coping.

The drugs help to get a constant feeling of high and happiness along with increased alertness, energy and attention. This one of the reasons that high school and college students misuse them the most – cognitive enhancement (Better memory, more and longer hours of concentration, and ability to work). They also help to deal with various feelings such as grief, frustration, anger or sadness and help provide immediate relief from anxiety or stress.

The consequences of misuse and overuse range from short-term to long-term consequences. It depends on the drug misused along with an individual’s profile.

Common effects include:

  • Respiratory Issues

  • Psychiatric comorbidities (anxiety, depression, delusions, psychosis, paranoia)

  • Stroke, Blood pressure and Heart-related Issues

  • Sleep-related issues

  • Damage to various parts of the body such as liver, kidney and brain

  • Cognitive issues – problems with memory and learning

  • Problems in relations, at work and academics

  • Addiction and Overdose

  • Seizures, Coma or even Death


Overdose of medicine and drugs is harmful. It can be intentional or accidental but can have severe consequences including death.

Once your body becomes dependent on the medicine, abruptly stopping the use of the medicine or reducing the use usually leads to experiencing of withdrawal symptoms. They are a mix of physical and psychological symptoms which can range from mild ones such as anxiety, nausea, confusion and sleep issues to severe ones such as psychosis, paranoia, seizures, suicidal ideation, and help harm. The severity of the symptoms depends on a variety of factors such as the drug and its dosage, how long one has been using it, the physical and mental health of the individual, whether the drug has been mixed with other substances.

Similarly, not taking the medicine properly is also an issue. If one does not take the specified prescribed dosage, there is a high chance that the medicine will not have the required effect and the recovery from the illness will be delayed and maybe eventually stalled. The condition of an individual may also worsen.

The consumption of medicine has increased worldwide over the years (by 7% since 2009) with pharmerging countries[1] have the foremost consumption rate followed by the developed countries and then the rest of the planet. (The IQVIA Institute, 2020) Together with benefits, almost every medicine has some variety of a side effect. Medicines may alter other molecules likewise aside from the target ones bringing about unwanted effects. (Failli, 2017). These side effects can vary from minor issues like a running nose or headache to life-threatening issues like a severe allergy, asthma, or even a risk of a cardiac arrest.


A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that 45 percent of Americans felt that the COVID-19 crisis is harming their mental health; while 19 percent felt that it is having a “major impact.” In a recent poll from the Pew Research Center, 73 percent of Americans reported feeling anxious at least a few days per week since the onset of the pandemic. Between mid-February and mid-March 2020, prescriptions for antianxiety medications increased 34 percent. During the week of March 15, when stay-at-home orders became pervasive, 78 percent of all antidepressant, antianxiety, and anti-insomnia prescriptions filled were new (versus refills).


WHO estimates that “more than half of all medicines are prescribed, dispensed or sold inappropriately, which half of all patients fail to take them correctly. The overuse, underuse or misuse of medicines results in wastage of scarce resources and widespread health hazards.” (WHO, 2020), an estimated 18 million people have misused such medications at least once in the past year with the US being at the highest. (SAMSHA, 2018)


Stuti Mehta is a junior contributor and research assistant at dR CLB Lab

She is a  psychology undergraduate and wishes to pursue Clinical Psychology and is interested in psychological testing and assessment, psychometrics and research.Her experience at college and various internships have given a strong background in academics as well as practical exposure in the field of psychology.

She enjoys reading, dancing, adventures, and exploring and trying new things. She is dedicated and motivated and passionate about what she does. She is keen on learning and gaining experience


Admin, D. H. D. (2019, June 14). Why Do People Respond Differently to Drugs? Diamond House Detox.

Admin. (2020, March 9). Abusing OTC Drugs: Dangers, Signs and Getting Help. American Addiction Centers.

Callahan, D. (1998). Managed Care and the Goals of Medicine. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 46(3), 385–388.

Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, F. D. A. (n.d.). Think It Through: Managing the Benefits and Risks of Medicines. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Davis, A. (2014, April 30). Medicine's Journey Through the Body: 4 Stages. LiveScience.

Division for Policy Analysis and Public Affair, R. and T. A. B. (2021). (rep.). World Drug Report 2020 (Booklet 2). United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Retrieved from

Elkins, C. (2015). Prescription Drug Abuse - A Worldwide Dilemma.

Failli, V. (2017, June 29). BLOG: Why all medicines have side effects? Wings for Life - Spinal Cord Research Foundation.

Higgs, S., Cooper, A., Lee, J., & Harris, M. (2015). Individual Differences in Drug Responses. In Biological Psychology (pp. 66–74). essay, Sage Publications.

More, B. (2016). Overview of Medicine- Its Importance and Impact. DJ International Journal Medical Research, 1(1), 1–8.

National Institute on Drug Abuse, N. I. of H. (2021, June 7). Over-the-Counter Medicines Drug Facts. National Institute on Drug Abuse.

NIH, N. I. D. A. (2020, June). Misuse of Prescription Drugs Research Report. National Institutes of Health.

NIH, N. I. on D. A. (2021, June 7). Over-the-Counter Medicines DrugFacts. National Institute on Drug Abuse.

SMOC. (2015, August 6). Medicines And How They Work. Southeastern Medical Oncology Center.

Stewart, R. (2017, July 25). How do drugs work in the body?

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2012, March 23). The goals of medicine. Setting new priorities. The Hastings Center report.

WHO. (2020). Promoting rational use of medicines. World Health Organization.

bottom of page