The term “drug” is a general description of an item that is ingested, injected, sprayed on, smeared in or inhaled (in other words, taken) to alleviate symptoms, control side effects, treat or prevent disease; as well as change the structure of the body of man or animal. For the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to establish the rules and maintain regulation around the release and consumption of drugs (or pharmaceuticals), they have divided drugs into categories. Imagine how confusing (and dangerous!) it would be if all the drug categories were lumped together and provided over the counter.
Consider the following:
It’s self-explanatory that these drugs require a prescription from your doctor before you can buy them from a pharmacy. They have to be FDA-approved, a process that can take many years because of the testing phases required to determine their efficacy and potential side-effects.
Over-the-counter (OTC) medication
These drugs can be purchased over the pharmacy counter without your doctor’s intervention. For OTC drugs to be FDA-approved, the body has to agree that the drugs are safe for patients to self-administer and the potential for abuse must be minimal. As per the regulations, all the ingredients as well as the intended use for the drugs must be clearly stated on the packaging. OTC medication includes mild pain relief medication, cortisone creams, cold and flu meds, antihistamines, etc.
These are foods that have both nutritional and medical benefits. Included in this category are cereals that reduce cholesterol, and cooked tomatoes (which contain lycopene) that reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
Cosmetics are considered drugs for their ability to cleanse, beautify or otherwise alter the appearance of the person applying them. Cosmetics are separated from other drugs by their intended use, which must be stated on the packaging to inform the consumer.
Dietary supplements contain plant-based compounds, proteins (in the form of amino acids) and absorbable minerals and vitamins. Specific supplements do not need to be approved by the FDA, which makes the dieting industry quite dangerous. The FDA will investigate supplements that have misleading or untrue information on the packaging, but by then, the supplements may already have affected many consumers.