Ever wonder why some drugs are swallowed in pill form, while others are inhaled by pump? Or why some drugs are best taken directly into the bloodstream trough IV?
If you decide to pursue a career in healthcare, then you’ll soon find out as you learn all about the fascinating field of pharmacokinetics.
Pharmacokinetics: What You Need to Know as a Pharmacy Technician
Pharmacokinetics is the study of how a drug passes through the human body. When a patient swallows a pill, for example, the active ingredients will go through the following steps:
- absorption into the body
- distribution to tissues
Each of these steps can have a big impact on a drug’s dose, or how far apart dosages have to be. And a closer look at these steps can help healthcare professionals understand—on a microscopic level—how their work benefits the lives of their patients.
Drug Absorption: Pros in Health Care Careers Know This is The First Stage
If you decide to become a pharmacy technician, then you’ll develop a thorough understanding of how pharmaceutical products interact with the human body.
That process begins with absorption, when the body first comes into contact with a drug.
Different drugs have different properties, and as a result will be absorbed into the body in slightly different ways. For example, if a drug is swallowed, then it needs to pass through the stomach and harsh acids. For some drugs like Aspirin, that journey isn’t a problem. For other more sensitive medications like insulin, passing through the stomach can cause too much damage to the drug.
Distribution: The Drug’s Journey from Blood to Tissue
Some drugs are injected directly into the bloodstream, which helps them bypass the initial absorption stage. This also helps them take effect quickly, which can be a great benefit during emergency situations.
Once a drug reaches the bloodstream, it will be distributed to different tissues and organs. Some parts of the body which get more blood—like the heart and the brain—will receive the drug faster than tissues in the hands and feet, for example.
Metabolism: A Key Process for Some Pharmaceutical Products
We often think about how a body processes food into useful energy when we talk about metabolism. But, as it turns out, the body metabolizes drugs as well.
Metabolism occurs when the body breaks down a drug into different chemical substances. Usually this renders a drug inactive, and helps the body eliminate the drug from its system. In other cases, though, metabolism can actually help a medication become more effective.
Metabolism can be affected by a variety of factors like body size, genetics, age, and several other factors. Seniors and children, for instance, generally metabolize drugs at a slower rate than young adults, which is why they often receive a smaller dose.
Excretion: How the Human Body Eliminates Drugs
The final process of a drug’s passage through the human body occurs when it is flushed out.
Most drugs will be flushed out by the kidneys and leave the body through urine. But some medications can also be excreted in small amounts through sweat, saliva, and breast milk. In most cases, this won’t cause a problem for the patient. But, as healthcare professionals know, breastfeeding mothers need to avoid drugs that can be passed through their breastmilk.
Pharmacodynamics for Students Preparing for Healthcare Careers
As students prepare for their healthcare careers, they’ll learn even more about how the human body interacts with pharmaceuticals. They’ll delve even further into the field of pharmacokinetics, but they’ll also learn about another important field known as pharmacodynamics.
Pharmacodynamics is the study of how a drug binds to receptors and interacts with the body.
Sometimes pharmacokinetics gets confused with pharmacodynamics. One quick trick to remember which is which is to keep in mind that:
- Pharmacokinetics is what the body does to the drug
- Pharmacodynamics is the study of what the drug does to the body.
And, with knowledge of both, you can complete your studies and become a pharmacy assistant.
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