aobsolete: a substance used in dyeing or chemical operations
b: a substance used as a medication or in the preparation of medication
caccording to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act(1): a substance recognized in an official pharmacopoeia or formulary (2): a substance intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease (3): a substance other than food intended to affect the structure or function of the body (4): a substance intended for use as a component of a medicine but not a device or a component, part, or accessory of a device
: a commodity that is not salable or for which there is no demand —used in the phrase drug on the market
: something and often an illegal substance that causes addiction, habituation, or a marked change in consciousness
Any chemical agent that affects the function of living things. Some, including antibiotics, stimulants, tranquilizers, antidepressants, analgesics, narcotics, and hormones, have generalized effects. Others, including laxatives, heart stimulants, anticoagulants, diuretics, and antihistamines, act on specific systems. Vaccines are sometimes considered drugs. Drugs may protect against attacking organisms (by killing them, stopping them from reproducing, or blocking their effects on the host), substitute for a missing or defective substance in the body, or interrupt an abnormal process. A drug must bind with receptors in or on cells and cannot work if the receptors are absent or its configuration does not fit theirs. Drugs may be given by mouth, by injection, by inhalation, rectally, or through the skin. The oldest existing catalogue of drugs is a stone tablet from ancient Babylonia (c. 1700 BC); the modern drug era began when antibiotics were discovered in 1928. Synthetic versions of natural drugs led to design of drugs based on chemical structure. Drugs must be not only effective but safe; side effects can range from minor to dangerous (seedrug poisoning). Many illegal drugs also have medical uses (seecocaine; heroin; drug addiction). See alsodrug resistance; pharmacology; pharmacy.