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Common terms related to pharmacology and a brief definition of each term are listed here. Synonyms (SYN), antonyms (ANT), and common abbreviations (ABBR) are also included, whenever applicable.

  • Acetylcholine: A neurotransmitter in the somatic and autonomic nervous systems; principal synapses using acetylcholine include the skeletal neuromuscular junction, autonomic ganglia, and certain pathways in the brain.

  • Adenylate cyclase: An enzyme located on the inner surface of many cell membranes; it is important in mediating biochemical changes in the cell in response to drug and hormone stimulation (SYN: adenyl cyclase).

  • Adrenergic: Refers to synapses or physiological responses involving epinephrine and norepinephrine.

  • Adrenocorticosteroids: The group of steroid hormones produced by the adrenal cortex. These drugs include the glucocorticoids (cortisol, cortisone), mineralocorticoids (aldosterone), and sex hormones (androgens, estrogens, progestins).

  • Affinity: The mutual attraction between a drug and a specific cellular receptor.

  • Agonist: A drug that binds to a receptor and causes some change in cell function (ANT: antagonist).

  • Akathisia: A feeling of extreme motor restlessness and an inability to sit still; may occur because of antipsychotic drug therapy.

  • Aldosterone: A steroid (mineralocorticoid) hormone produced by the adrenal cortex that acts on the kidney to increase sodium reabsorption, thereby retaining sodium in the body.

  • Allergy: A state of hypersensitivity to foreign substances (e.g., environmental antigens and certain drugs), manifested by an exaggerated response of the immune system.

  • Allosteric modulator: A substance that binds to a cell receptor and alters the receptor’s affinity for specific drugs; common allosteric modulators include guanine nucleotides, ammonium ions, calcium, and other divalent cations.

  • Alpha receptors: A primary class of receptors that are responsive to epinephrine and norepinephrine. Alpha receptors are subclassified into alpha-1 and alpha-2 receptors based on their sensitivity to various drugs.

  • Amylin: A hormone released with insulin from pancreatic beta cells that helps suppress a rise in blood glucose by inhibiting glucagon release, delaying gastric emptying, and reducing food intake by increasing feelings of fullness.

  • Anabolic steroids: Natural and synthetic male hormones that may be misused in an attempt to increase muscle size and improve athletic performance (SYN: androgens).

  • Analgesia: To lessen or relieve pain. Drugs with this ability are known as analgesics.

  • Androgen: A male steroid such as testosterone.

  • Angina pectoris: Severe pain and constriction in the chest region, usually associated with myocardial ischemia.

  • Angiogenesis: The development of new blood vessels. Drugs that inhibit this effect can be useful in limiting the growth and proliferation of certain tumors.

  • Antagonist: A drug that binds to a receptor but does not cause a change in cell activity (SYN: blocker).

  • Anthelmintic: A drug that destroys parasitic worms (e.g., tapeworms, roundworms) in the gastrointestinal tract and elsewhere in the body.

  • Anticholinergic: Drugs that decrease activity at acetylcholine synapses. These agents are often used to diminish activity in the parasympathetic nervous system (SYN: parasympatholytic).

  • Anticoagulation: A decrease in the blood’s capacity to coagulate (clot). Drugs with the ability to decrease coagulation are known as anticoagulants.

  • Antimetabolite: The general term for drugs that impair function ...

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