Cover image for Magic molecules : how drugs work
Magic molecules : how drugs work
Aldridge, Susan.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, UK ; New York, NY, USA : Cambridge University Press, 1998.
Physical Description:
xiii, 269 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
RM301.15 .A43 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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We have all been drug users at one time or another. Drugs can be used as medicines, as food additives, for pleasure, and to protect our long-term health. With so many new drugs on the market and an ever-widening definition of what exactly makes a drug a drug, we should all be well informed about the drugs we use--how they work, their benefits, and their risks. This book is a unique guide for the general reader to the drugs of everyday life--from commonly prescribed medicines to recreational drugs (including illicit ones) and food supplements. The author examines how drugs interact with their targets in the body, where drugs come from, how they are developed, and what new kinds of drugs are on the horizon. She reviews all the major pharmaceutical medicines--painkillers, antibiotics, anti-cancer drugs, anti-depressants, heart drugs, tranquilizers, and hormones. Much more than a consumer handbook, this volume conveys the fascinating science behind drugs in an easily accessible way.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Like Aldridge's first work in this popular science series, The Thread of Life: The Story of Genes and Genetic Engineering (CH, Oct'96), this book is written for an educated lay audience with a basic understanding of the scientific process but little prior knowledge of the subject at hand. The title derives from the concept of the ideal drug molecule, characterized by the 19th-century German scientist Paul Ehrlich as a "magic bullet, homing in on its target leaving the rest of the body unharmed." In actuality most drugs are not this precise, and this book explains why. The first two chapters describe how drugs work and the processes that pharmaceutical companies employ to develop them; subsequent chapters focus on different types of drugs: anti-infectives, hormonal products, cardiovascular drugs, painkillers, cancer drugs, and antidepressant and antipsychotic medications. Also covered are "recreational drugs" (caffeine to heroin) and "natural products" (vitamins, minerals, herbs). The final chapter describes the latest gene-based medications. The book is well crafted and written in an accessible style. The one caveat for American readers is that Aldridge describes the British system for drug approval, which differs in significant ways from US Food and Drug Administrations procedures. Highly recommended for general readers; undergraduate and graduate students; and professionals. B. C. Stuart Univeristy of Maryland at Baltimore

Table of Contents

List of illustrations
1 How drugs work
2 From penicillin to Prozac: introducing pharmaceutical drugs
3 Fighting infection
4 The hormonal revolution
5 Cardiovascular drugs: protecting the heart and brain
6 The problem of pain
7 The cancer challenge
8 Drugs for the mind
9 Drugs of recreation and addiction
10 Natural alternatives: vitamins, minerals and herbs
11 In the pipeline: gene-based medicine