Pharmacology is the study of drug action. It involves looking at the interaction of chemical substances with the systems in our bodies, as well as identifying ways in which our biological systems affect drugs. Let’s break it down further and take a look at what the term encompasses and the differences between pharmacology and toxicology, which are often confused.
About Pharmacological Studies
The goal of the study of pharmacological sciences is to understand the properties of drugs and the ways in which these properties react, according to The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. For example, the interactions between drug molecules and drug receptors and the effects of these interactions are studied under the umbrella of pharmacology. The umbrella of pharmacology is a wide one. It encompasses the examination of the different classes of drugs, their therapeutic uses, their societal roles and their mechanisms of action, among other things.
The knowledge gained through the pharmacological sciences provides a base for other studies and applications. These include the use of pharmaceutical drugs in medicine, drugs used in scientific research, the study of drug actions within the overall health sciences, as well as the regulation and development of various pharmaceuticals. There are also a number of subspecialties within the umbrella of pharmacology. Some of these include behavioral, cardiovascular, neurological and clinical pharmacology, along with pharmacoeconomics and pharmacogenetics.
Since pharmacology and toxicology are sometimes incorrectly used interchangeably, it’s important to take a moment here to define toxicology. Toxicology is the study of the adverse effects that various chemicals, including drugs, can have om biological systems. Some of these chemical agents can be things like natural or synthetic chemical compounds absorbed by humans and other environmental agents ingested into the body. Toxicology also looks at ways to prevent, improve and counteract these negative effects. Some of the toxic effects referred to here are disease or death in organisms, discomfort experienced and changes in individual growth patterns. These effects can be observed on the level of an individual organism or even through observance of entire ecosystems. As with pharmacology, toxicology contains a number of subspecialties. Some of these are regulatory, clinical, occupational and forensic toxicology, along with risk assessment.
Pharmacological study falls under the biomedical sciences. Anyone seeking higher education in pharmacology will look at the effects of drugs on living organisms and are likely to study such subjects as cell biology, basic physiology, biochemistry, medical microbiology, genetics, chemical biology and neuroscience.
In order to be accepted in a graduate level pharmacology program, students should have a four-year degree in biology or chemistry, most likely. A pharmacologist differs greatly from a pharmacist who dispenses medicine in a pharmacy. Pharmacologists generally are employed in laboratory settings. They most often work in government, academic, science writing, scientific patent, private industry, biotech, forensics, public health or environmental science settings.
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As you can see, pharmacology is an in-depth study that covers a broad range of areas related to drugs and their interactions. It is a good field for those with a scientific and analytic mind, who enjoy learning, observing and making discoveries.