What Is Pharmacology? - Definition & Principles

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  • 0:01 What Is Pharmacology?
  • 0:48 Pharmacokinetics
  • 2:02 Pharmacodynamics
  • 2:41 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Meghan Greenwood

Meghan has taught undergraduate and graduate level science courses and has a PhD in Immunology.

This lesson defines pharmacology and describes two areas of study within pharmacology that are concerned with how the body handles a drug and what a drug does to the body. Take a short quiz at the end to test your knowledge.

What Is Pharmacology?

Think about the last time you took medication. Did you read the directions carefully to decide when and how often to take the drug? Were you able to eat before you swallowed the pill? Did you have to have a prescription filled, or were you able to buy the medicine off the pharmacy shelf? Most of these directions were developed based on research and regulations. A whole field of investigation, called pharmacology, is responsible for making sure you are able to receive medications that will treat your ailment and not harm you.

Pharmacology is the study of drugs - how they interact with other molecules in the body and how they affect the body. This field of study can be broken down into two smaller pieces: pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics. These are the two main areas of pharmacology dedicated to providing a comprehensive picture of the safety and action of a medication.


Pharmacokinetics is concerned with what your body does with a drug. Think about what happens when you eat food. The food travels from your mouth to your stomach and then to your intestines. Along each step of the process, the food is broken down, nutrients are absorbed, and waste is removed. A similar process occurs with drugs. Determining how the drug is absorbed, distributed throughout the body, broken down, and then eliminated is what constitutes pharmacokinetics. Pharmacokinetics is based on ADME: absorption, distribution, metabolism, and elimination.

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