As used in this website, the term 'medication' refers to a drug or other chemical compound that is administered into the body and which effects the body in a beneficial way, typically by relieving symptoms, or acting to remove or reduce causes of illness. There are lots of chemicals and drugs in existence, but not all of them are medications.
People have been using medications to help cure disorders and illnesses for thousands of years. Originally, medications were derived from natural (typically plant) sources. Modern medications (as used by physicians) are almost exclusively synthesized in laboratories, however. Herbal medicines do exist and are very popular, but are discussed separately under our Alternative Medicine topic center.
The manufacture and use of medications is governed by law in most countries (if not all). With some exceptions (e.g., over the counter varieties), medicines must be prescribed by a licensed physician, and purchased from a licensed pharmacy before people can have access to them. Laws restricting public access to medications exist to protect the public health. Many medications can be dangerous (even lethal), and/or habit-forming (addictive) when misused. Physicians (and members of several other health professions such as nurse-practitioners, physician's assistants, dentists, ...
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