HOW DOES THE BODY PROCESS MEDICINE?

Oheneba Kwakye Omane
Oheneba Kwakye Omane

I'm sure you've ingested medicine in some form or another, ranging from pain relievers to antibiotics. But have you ever wondered how those medications know where to go and how they work once they're in our bodies? We'll break it down and understand the basics of how our bodies handle medicine in this write-up.

To begin with, medicines affect your body in a variety of ways. They can interfere with invading microbes (germs), destroy cancer-causing defective cells, replenish lacking chemicals (such as hormones or vitamins), or alter the way cells in your body function.

The following is a simple explanation of how some medications work to improve your health.

Basic Overview of how some drugs work in the body

Your body has a system that can deliver medicines to the exact location where they're needed. When you swallow a pill, it travels through the stomach and small intestine to the liver, where it is broken down and released into the bloodstream.

Even though medications pass through our bloodstream, they are always designed to target certain protein molecules known as receptors. When a pain reliever like ibuprofen or acetaminophen travels through the bloodstream, it looks for certain receptors that are activated by pain and inflammation.

"Think of it as a lock and key," said a physician and medical researcher whose work focuses on blood arteries and circulation. "The drug is like a key; it searches the entire body for the lock that it can fit into." The medicine molecules latch onto the target receptors as they flow by the target place — say, a hurting knee in the case of ibuprofen. "The medicine doesn't do its job until it binds to that exact target," says the researcher. When the medicine binds to its target and enters the cell, good things begin to happen. Wherever it's needed, the interactions between the medicine and the target within the cell generate the desired result - in the case of ibuprofen and a hurting knee, that would be a reduction in inflammation and pain.

Drug molecules may bind to sites other than the target, especially if the two are closely linked. Chemotherapy medications are notorious for doing just that. They're ‘hunting’ for fast-growing, rapidly dividing cells, which means they'll locate cancer cells as well as hair cells, which is why so many chemotherapy patients lose their hair. Administering drugs locally can help to reduce side effects and drug toxicity while increasing the effectiveness of treatment. For example, a topical antibacterial cream for a skin infection or a cortisone injection for a painful joint can avoid some of the negative effects that these medications cause when they travel through the bloodstream. Many medications, however, can only be given in a way that causes them to circulate throughout the entire body.

How Does The Body Metabolize Medication?

As previously stated, when the human body begins to metabolize a medicine, various organs process the contents until they are finally released into the bloodstream. While the process may appear simple, different pharmaceuticals dissolve at different rates, formulae and dosages break down differently, and each person's body metabolizes medication differently. These are just a handful of the many factors that go into drug absorption and metabolism.

How is medication administered?

  • A tablet, capsule or syrup administered orally
  • Tablets or pills dissolved sub-lingual
  • Medication Inhaled or droplets administered to eyes, ears, nose or throat
  • Injection via IV or intravenously in a vein
  • Rectal administration
  • In the form of a patch or a gel that is applied to the skin
  • Controlled-release

Stronger drugs are related to certain prescription types. Intravenous drugs, for example, may be more potent than capsule medications. A sublingual pill travels faster through the circulatory system and is digested more quickly. The same is true with rectal drugs, due to the presence of a large number of blood vessels in that area. The speed with which a drug's effects appear is determined by the way by which it is administered, as well as other factors.

Absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion are the four stages that drugs go through in the body.

A medication gets absorbed into the bloodstream when it is administered. The medicine is subsequently distributed throughout the body by the circulatory system. The body then goes through the process of metabolizing it. After that, the medication and its metabolites are eliminated or excreted.

What factors influence medication absorption?

When it comes to assessing how long it takes for the medication to thoroughly digest, there are various aspects to consider. The following elements all have an impact on a person's medication sensitivity and absorption:

  • Age
  • Weight
  • Gender
  • Time of day taken
  • Level of physical activity
  • Level of stress
  • Content of stomach and PH level
  • Presence of other medications

Certain drugs may be prevented or slowed by gastric acids. Furthermore, as a drug is processed in the liver, its potency and effectiveness are reduced before the therapeutic effect reaches the bloodstream.

For instance, to be absorbed, a medicine given orally must survive interactions with low pH and numerous gastro-intestinal secretions, including possibly destructive enzymes. This explains why doctors frequently instruct patients to take some medications on an empty stomach.

How long does it take for medication to be absorbed by the body?

The way you take your prescription has an impact on how quickly it passes through your bloodstream. The solubility of the medication has an impact on how long it takes for it to dissolve. The majority of drugs take about 30 minutes to dissolve in most cases. When a prescription is coated in a specific coating that helps protect it from stomach acids, it can take longer for the medication to enter the bloodstream. Aspirin, for example, may dissolve in a matter of minutes, whereas gelcaps, due to their gel coating, may take much longer. These tablets may also be simpler to take, so try to assess the benefits and disadvantages of various medications yourself before administration.

I hope you now have a better understanding of how your body processes medicines. We'll look at the in-depth journey of medication through the body - from beginning to end - in the next and last write-up episode on this theme.

REFERENCES

Editorial Staff, American Addiction Centers. The Path Drugs Take Through the Body | Sunrise House Retrieved from https://sunrisehouse.com/cause-effect/path-drugs-take-body/

Ryan Stewart (The Oklahoman). How do drugs work in the body? (oklahoman.com). Retrieved from  https://www.oklahoman.com/article/5557200/how-do-drugs-work-in-the-body

Michael Bihari.A Closer Look at How Drugs Work in Your Body (verywellhealth.com). Retrieved from https://www.verywellhealth.com/how-drugs-work-in-your-body-1124115, Updated on December 05, 2020

Orlando Clinical Research Centre. How Does The Body Metabolize Medication? (ocrc.net). Retrieved from https://ocrc.net/how-does-the-body-metabolize-medication/

Medicine

Oheneba Kwakye Omane

Health Enthusiast and Futurist