Arab News – Find out what you are taking with the “British Medical Association Concize Guide to the Medicines & Drugs”. Easy to read, it gives you all the vital information you need to know on today’s most common drugs.

The book is divided into three parts. The first part is subdivided into sections dealing with each body system (such as the brain and nervous system, the gastrointestinal tract, respiratory system, heart and circulation) or major disease grouping (such as malignant and immune disease). This section of the book provides descriptions of the principal classes of drugs with information on the uses, actions, effects and risks associated with each group of drugs.
In the second part, you will find the profiles of 270 key drugs in medical use today. Analgesics are among the most common drugs that we buy over the counter. Analgesics, as pain killers, are divided into the opioids (derived from opium) and non opioids which include paracetamol and the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, known as NSAID’s, the most well known is aspirin.
Opioid drugs and paracetamol act directly on the brain and spinal cord to alter the perception of pain whereas the NSAIDs block the formation of pain-modulating substances at nerve endings at the site of pain. However, paracetamol does not reduce inflammation, although it can reduce fever. Paracetamol can be taken to relieve aches and pains such as headache, toothaches and joint pains. It is one of the safest analgesics when it is taken correctly as it doesn’t irritate the stomach. However an overdose can cause liver and kidney failure.
Aspirin is the most well known non steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). It not only treats pain but it also reduces fever and inflammation. Aspirin can be taken for headaches, toothaches, sore throat and in case of fever. Given regularly, aspirin can also relieve the pain and inflammation of chronic rheumatoid arthritis. In low doses, aspirin helps to prevent blood clots.
Opioid analgesics are related to opium and are the strongest analgesics, therefore they are used to treat strong pain caused by surgery, serious injury and cancer. The use of opioids is strictly controlled and it is given under medical supervision.
Sleeping drugs are normally prescribed when lack of sleep is beginning to affect general health. They are used to reestablish the normal sleeping pattern and should be used in the smallest dose and for the shortest possible time.
It is useful to know that benzodiazepines have the least side effects but non-benzodiazepine sleeping drugs such as zopiclone, and zolpidem are not intended for long-term use. Many people who take sleeping pills do not feel well rested. This is due to the lack of brain activity. Sleeping drugs suppress the sleep during which dreams happen and dream sleep is essential for a good night’s sleep.
We buy most of our medications over the counter and this is especially true for cough syrups. This handbook helps us buy the right medication by reminding us that coughing is a natural response to irritation of the lungs and air passages, designed to expel harmful substances from the respiratory tract. Coughing is caused by the infection of the respiratory tract (for example, bronchitis or pneumonia), inflammation of the airways caused by asthma or exposure to irritant substances such as smoke or chemical fumes.
Depending on their cause, coughs may produce phlegm or may be dry. In most cases, coughing is a necessary reaction that helps the body of ridding itself from excess phlegm therefore suppressing the cough may actually delay recovery.
Mucolytics and expectorants are recommended for productive coughs. Mucolytics alter the consistency of the phlegm making it less sticky and easier to cough up and expectorants loosen a cough. If you suffer from a dry cough, you can take a medication which suppresses the cough. Children suffering from mild coughs can be given antihistamines. Finally in the case of persistent drugs, a syrup with codeine maybe prescribed.
Antacids are also among the top drugs sold over the counter. The need for antacids arises when the stomach lining is damaged or too much acid is produced which eats away at the mucous layer.
Antacids relieve pain resulting from ulcers in the esophagus, stomach or duodenum within a few minutes. The regular intake of antacids reduces the acidity of the stomach and thus encourages the healing of ulcers.
Antacids containing sodium bicarbonate act quickly but its effect passes very quickly. Moreover sodium bicarbonate can lead to accumulation of water in the legs and lungs and therefore is not advised for people with heart or kidney disease. It is also useful to know that antacids can interfere with the absorption of other drugs, therefore if you are taking a prescription medicine, you should check with your doctor or pharmacist.
Viruses are smaller organisms than bacteria and they can survive only if they penetrate body cells therefore medicines that destroy their life cycle without harming human cells have been difficult to develop.
Common virus illnesses include the cold, influenza, and childhood diseases such as chickenpox, mumps and measles. Fortunately, the body’s immune system is usually strong enough to overcome infections.
However, one should bear in mind that antibiotics cannot cure viral infections. Moreover, a virus multiplies very fast so by the time symptoms appear the viruses are so numerous that antiviral drugs have little effect. Antiviral agents should be given as soon as a viral infection is detected.
Dr. Kevin M O’Shaughnessy, the chief medical editor has included the names of 2,500 drug products and substances which provide a quick and easy reference for readers who are interested in finding out about a specific drug or medication used today. You do not need to know whether the item is a brand name or generic drug, or whether it is a prescription or over-the-counter drug because all types of drugs are listed.
The British Medical Association Concize Guide to Medicines & Drugs is a very useful handbook. It should be present in every home. It provides essential data on the specific uses of the most common brand name and generic drugs. You will learn how they work, what they treat, and how to use them safely and effectively. You will also find useful information about their side effects and their benefits. Finally, you will learn what to do if dosage is missed or exceeded. And most of all, this book is written in a clear language devoid of medical and pharmaceutical jargon.

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