A drug, in the broadest term, is a chemical substance that, when ingested, has a high biological response to quantity ratio compared to regular foods. Regular foods require much greater quantities to achieve biological effect and are generally excluded from the popular definition.
In pharmacology, a drug is "a chemical substance used in the treatment, cure, prevention, or diagnosis of disease or used to otherwise enhance physical or mental well-being." Traditionally drugs were gained through extraction from different natural sources (e.g., medicinal plants), but more recently also by organic synthesis. Pharmaceutical drugs may be used for a limited duration, or on a regular basis for chronic disorders. Pharmaceutical drugs are often classified into groups of related drugs known as a drug class, which have similar chemical structures, the same mechanism of action (i.e., bind to the same biological target), a related mode of action, and/or are used to treat the same disease.[verification needed] The Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical Classification System (ATC), the most widely used drug classification system, assigns drugs a unique ATC code, which is an alphanumeric code that assigns it to specific drug classes within the ATC system.
Psychoactive drugs are chemical substances that affect the function of the central nervous system, altering perception, mood or consciousness.They include alcohol a depressant, and the stimulants nicotine and caffeine. These three are the most widely consumed psychoactive drugs worldwide and are also considered as recreational drugs since they are used for pleasure rather than medicinal purposes. Other recreational drugs include opiates and amphetamines. Some drugs can cause addiction  and all drugs can have side effects. Many recreational drugs are illicit and international treaties such as the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs exist for the purpose of their prohibition.
In English, the noun "drug" is thought to originate from Old French "drogue", possibly deriving later into "droge-vate" from Middle Dutch meaning "dry barrels", referring to medicinal plants preserved in them. The transitive verb "to drug" (meaning intentionally administer a substance to someone, often without their knowledge) arose later and invokes the psychoactive rather than medicinal properties of a substance.
A medication or medicine is a drug taken to cure and/or ameliorate any symptoms of an illness or medical condition, or may be used as preventive medicine that has future benefits but does not treat any existing or pre-existing diseases or symptoms.
Dispensing of medication is often regulated by governments into three categories—over-the-counter (OTC) medications, which are available in pharmacies and supermarkets without special restrictions, behind-the-counter (BTC), which are dispensed by a pharmacist without needing a doctor's prescription, and prescription only medicines (POM), which must be prescribed by a licensed medical professional, usually a physician.
In the United Kingdom, BTC medicines are called pharmacy medicines which can only be sold in registered pharmacies, by or under the supervision of a pharmacist. These medications are designated by the letter P on the label. The range of medicines available without a prescription varies from country to country.
Medications are typically produced by pharmaceutical companies and are often patented to give the developer exclusive rights to produce them. Those that are not patented (or with expired patents) are called generic drugs since they can be produced by other companies without restrictions or licenses from the patent holder.
Spiritual and religious use
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The spiritual and religious use of drugs has been occurring since the dawn of our species. Drugs that are considered to have spiritual or religious use are called entheogens. Some religions are based completely on the use of certain drugs. Entheogens are mostly hallucinogens, being either psychedelics or deliriants, but some are also stimulants and sedatives.
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Nootropics, also commonly referred to as "smart drugs", are drugs that are claimed to improve human cognitive abilities. Nootropics are used to improve memory, concentration, thought, mood, learning, and many other things. Some nootropics are now beginning to be used to treat certain diseases such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, Parkinson's disease, and Alzheimer's disease. They are also commonly used to regain brain function lost during aging. Similarly, drugs such as steroids improve human physical capabilities and are sometimes used (legally or not) for this purpose, often by professional athletes.
Recreational drug use
Recreational drugs use is the use of a drug (legal, controlled, or illegal) with the primary intention of altering the state of consciousness through alteration of the central nervous system in order to create positive emotions and feelings.
Some national laws prohibit the use of different recreational drugs, and medicinal drugs that have the potential for recreational use are often heavily regulated. On the other hand, there are many recreational drugs that are legal in many jurisdictions and widely culturally accepted. There may be an age restriction on the consumption and purchase of legal recreational drugs. Some recreational drugs that are legal and accepted in many places include alcohol, tobacco, betel nut, and caffeine products, and in some areas of the world the legal use of drugs such as khat is common.
Drugs, both medicinal and recreational, can be administered in a number of ways, or routes. Many drugs can be administered via more than one route.
- Bolus is the administration of a medication, drug or other compound that is given to raise its concentration in blood to an effective level. The administration can be given intravenously, by intramuscular, intrathecal or subcutaneous injection.
- Inhaled, (breathed into the lungs), as an aerosol or dry powder. (This includes smoking a substance)
- Injected as a solution, suspension or emulsion either: intramuscular, intravenous, intraperitoneal, intraosseous.
- Insufflation, or snorted into the nose.
- Orally, as a liquid or solid, that is absorbed through the intestines.
- Rectally as a suppository, that is absorbed by the rectum or colon.
- Sublingually, diffusing into the blood through tissues under the tongue.
- Topically, usually as a cream or ointment. A drug administered in this manner may be given to act locally or systemically.
- Vaginally as a suppository, primarily to treat vaginal infections.
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- DrugBank, a database of 4800 drugs and 2500 protein drug targets