7.1 Introduction to Medications

Learning Objectives

By the end of this chapter, you will be able to

  1. Define the terms prescription, narcotic, and over-the-counter medication
  2. Identify routes of medication administration
  3. Define the terms brand and generic as they pertain to drug names
  4. Describe the difference between inactive and active ingredients in medications
  5. Identify alternative medicines and possible interactions these may have with prescription medications
  6. Define a drug monograph and its components
  7. Identify common forms and uses for intravenous fluids
  8. List the rights and responsibilities of medication administration
  9. Describe the different medication classifications and provide reasons that a patient would be taking medications within these classifications

Chapter Overview

Medications are taken everyday by many patients in hospitals and many people in the course of their daily lives. They can be taken to relieve acute symptoms such as a headache or nausea, or for chronic conditions such as cardiac, endocrine, or respiratory pathologies. The fact that they are so commonplace in our world today emphasizes the importance of certain considerations that need to be addressed before any medication is given to a patient or a member of the general population.

Certain factors, which could include a patient’s age, overall health, sex, or chronic conditions, will greatly impact the way a medication affects a person’s body. For example, medications taken by a 40-year-old man would have a substantially different effect than if the same medications were taken by a 95-year-old or even a five-year-old. As such, it is very important to understand these factors and their effects when a certain medication is prescribed to a patient.

Many of the earliest known medications, such as digitalis, were extracted from plants, and others, such as aspirin, were chemically related to the willow tree (Turley, 2016). Using plant extracts had some disadvantages because there were variable levels of potency and the extracts could also contain other substances that had unwanted actions in the human body. As a result, the production of medications is now performed under strict guidelines to ensure that there is consistency among medications prescribed or taken over the counter.

This chapter will introduce you to some basic considerations that you should be aware of when it comes to medications, and then an overview of common medication classifications will be discussed.


Unless otherwise indicated, material on this page has been adapted from the following resource:

Ernstmeyer, K., & Christman, E. (Eds.). (2020). Nursing pharmacology. Chippewa Valley Technical College. https://wtcs.pressbooks.pub/pharmacology/ licensed under CC BY 4.0


Turley, S. M. (2016). Understanding pharmacology for health professionals (5th ed.). Pearson Education.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

The Language of Medical Terminology Copyright © 2022 by Lisa Sturdy and Susanne Erickson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book