Introduction to Pharmacology

Pharmacology is the study of drugs (chemicals) that alter functions of living organisms. Drug therapy, also called pharmacotherapy, is the use of drugs to prevent, diagnose, or treat signs, symptoms, and disease processes. When prevention or cure is not a reasonable goal, relief of symptoms can greatly improve quality of life and ability to function in activities of daily living. Drugs given for therapeutic purposes are usually called medications. Medications may be given for various reasons. In many instances, the goal of drug therapy is to lessen disease processes rather than cure them. To meet this goal, drugs may be given for local or systemic effects. Drugs with local effects, such as sunscreen lotions and local anesthetics, act mainly at the site of application.
Those with systemic effects are taken into the body, circulated through the bloodstream to their sites of action in various body tissues, and eventually eliminated from the body. Most drugs are given for their systemic effects. Drugs may also be given for relatively immediate effects (e.g., in acute problems such as pain or infection) or long-term effects (e.g., to relieve signs and symptoms of chronic disorders). Many drugs are given for their long-term effects.
Pharmacology can be quite daunting to the student approaching the subject for the first time. The reason for this is that most pharmacological activity takes place at a cellular or biochemical level and relatively few people are really comfortable down among the cells and molecules. However, this is the level where we need to be, not only to understand the subject of pharmacology but also to understand the literature relating to the subject.Nursing staff who administer drugs to patients are responsible for the safe administration of those drugs. This means that those staff must be familiar with those drugs, how they work in the body, how they may cause side-effects and possibly interact with other drugs.  One of the key aims of Introducing Pharmacology is to familiarize you with the language of pharmacology, the names of drugs and the terms that you will find on every packet of drugs and in every publication dealing with the clinical use of those drugs. You will need this language not only to study and understand pharmacology but also to discuss drugs and their effects with patients and fellow professionals.