Sequencing Education Center

Effects of Medicine on the Body

effects of medicine on the body

 

Most people who start taking a new medicine will wonder about the effects of that medicine on the body. No one wants to deal with uncomfortable side effects while treating another illness. Understanding the effects of medicine on the body can help you decrease or even eliminate the risk of side effects. 

 

Why Side Effects Happen

People can suffer from side effects no matter if they are taking prescription drugs or over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. Even dietary supplements can cause side effects. Drugs are chemicals and when they enter the body, they alter the balance of naturally occurring chemicals in the body. This can throw bodily function off course causing people to feel ill. 

 

common and serious side effectsCommon side effects include:

  • Headache
  • Upset stomach
  • Dry mouth
  • Drowsiness
  • Constipation
  • Insomnia
  • Rash
  • Vomiting
  • Hives

Serious side effects include:

  • Anaphylactic reaction (a severe allergic reaction)
  • ​Internal bleeding
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Cancer
  • Heart attack

The above adverse events can be life-threatening, so a health care professional should be contacted immediately. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) works hard to identify adverse reactions in new drugs and will only approve them if they do not pose a risk to users. At times, some drugs are approved that cause serious side effects because they didn't present during clinical trials. This is why the FDA encourages all United States citizens to complete their online MedWatch form if they suffer from unknown and serious side effects. 

 

How the Body Processes Medication

Medicine goes through many stages when it enters the body. 

Absorption: Drugs administered orally will enter the bloodstream by being absorbed by the walls of the small intestines. Blood vessels take the drug to the liver. The liver processes the drug and then it circulates throughout the body. 

Distribution: Drugs circulate the body. This is when side effects occur in the body because the drugs infiltrate a part of the body it wasn't intended for. For instance, someone may experience an upset stomach when taking ibuprofen even though they took it to alleviate a headache. 

Metabolism: Metabolization happens when the drugs reach the intended location. The amount of time it takes for drugs to metabolize or break down depends on many factors, such as genetics. When medications take too long to break down, side effects, drug interactions, and allergic reactions may occur. 

Excretion: Metabolized drugs are excreted out of the body through urine and feces. The amount that's in the urine and feces can tell how quickly drugs are broken down. When that happens too quickly, a higher dose may be needed. 

 

 

How to Get Rid of Medicine Side Effects

It is possible to get rid of medicine side effects. Consider these tips when medicines have side effects:

  • One option to get rid of medicine side effects is to take an OTC medication or another prescription medicine to counteract them. 
  • Some medication brand names have a lower risk of side effects than the generic form, so ask your health care provider or pharmacist for medical advice. 
  • A doctor may be able to prescribe alternative prescription medications for a health problem. Drug information should be reviewed before taking a new medicine. 
     

​How to Prevent Side Effects from Medicine

It's always better to not have to deal with side effects at all. The following tips can help prevent medication side effects

  • ​Ask for a fact sheet before taking any new prescription and non-prescription medications. 
  • Request transdermal versus oral administration as that has a lower risk of producing side effects. 
  • Begin taking pain relievers before taking the new medication with permission from a doctor. 
  • Consider genetic testing to identify medications with the least risk of side effects. Every person's body is different, and DNA data reveals information that can help doctors with prescribing medications. 

You can protect your body from the effects of medicine with a DNA test or uploading your DNA raw data from another testing company such as 23andMe, MyHeritage, etc. to Sequencing.com.

The Medication and Drug Response Advanced Pharmacogenomics Analysis includes information about your risk of side effects with common medications as well as the risk of addiction to certain medications and illicit drugs. To learn more about this and see sample reports, click here.