Medications vs. Substances

by Steven Sobel, M.D.* Taking a medication generally connotes a positive means of maintaining one’s health. Using a substance, on the other hand, is a pejorative term, implying reliance on chemicals as a means of escape. Yet the boundary between substance and medication defies facile demarcation.  Our labels can be arbitrary and even hypocritical.  One person’s medication is another person’s substance.  A chemical used as a substance in one situation is considered a medication when used somewhat differently. The distinction shifts along with cultural norms and the passage of time. We might reach a consensus that penicillin is a magic bullet medication, a specific, effective antidote to an identified pathogen … Continue reading

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