Section II. INTRODUCTION TO DRUGS
3-3. SOURCES OF DRUGS
Drugs today are obtained from several sources. Some sources of drugs are
discussed below. Some drugs are listed under the sources. The specific drugs
mentioned are not the only drugs obtained from that source.
a. Plants. For thousands of years, plants have served as sources of drugs.
Ephedrine, a drug used to treat nasal congestion, was used by the Chinese long before
western man visited the Orient. Belladonna (or Deadly Nightshade), the source of
atropine and scopolamine was used in the Middle Ages. Its name means "beautiful
woman" in Italian. A solution obtained by soaking the belladonna plant in water caused
the pupils of the eye to dilate and appear black. These were symbols of beauty at the
time. Belladonna was a favorite poison. Opium, a product obtained from the poppy
plant, is mentioned in early Greek mythology as a sleep producer.
b. Animals. Animals provide us with large supplies of natural products like
hormones. Insulin, used in the treatment of diabetes mellitus, used to be obtained from
the pancreas of pork, beef, and even fish. Heparin, a potent anticoagulant, is obtained
from the intestinal and lung mucosa of beef and hogs.
c. Minerals. Minerals, such as iron and iodine, are essential for normal growth
and development. An old remedy for pallor (a very pale complexion) was the water
used to cool horseshoes in the blacksmith shop. This water contained small amounts of
iron in solution.
d. Microorganisms. You are probably aware of the fact that microbes can
cause disease and/or death. Fortunately, some microorganisms can be used to
produce antibiotics. These antibiotics can be used to kill or stop the growth of other
microbes. Furthermore, chemically treated or killed microorganisms can be used to
e. Synthetics. Most drugs today are synthetically made. Examples of
synthetically produced drugs are aspirin and the sulfa drugs.
3-4. USES FOR DRUGS
Drugs have many uses. In today's society, the legitimate--and not so legitimate--
use of drugs is wide seen. Listed and briefly discussed below are the major uses and
some representative examples of drugs:
a. To Maintain Health. Vitamins and minerals are used and abused in the
pursuit of good health.