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A reminder that this article from our magazine Visions was published more than 1 year ago. It is here for reference only. Some information in it may no longer be current. It also represents the point of the view of the author only. See the author box at the bottom of the article for more about the contributor.

Medications Glossary

Reprinted from "Medications" issue of Visions Journal, 2007, 4 (2), p.6

Antidepressant medication: medication designed to treat depression. Common antidepressant families include SSRIs, SNRIs, MAOIs and TCAs.

Antipsychotic medication: medication designed to treat psychotic symptoms. Also called neuroleptics.

Anxiolytic medication: medication designed to treat anxiety.

Black box warnings: warnings that appear on prescription medications informing patients of serious side effects.

Central nervous system (CNS): is made up of the brain and spinal cord. It controls all body and cognitive function.

Cognitive decline: a decrease in the ability of the brain to perform regular functions like judgement, reasoning, memory, learning and understanding. This is often the result of mental illnesses such as dementia but can also be (to some extent) a normal part of aging.

Compliance/adherence: how closely patients follow treatment programs given to them by their doctor or practitioner such as taking medications, following diet or exercise plans, or doing psychotherapy “homework.” Adherence is being increasingly used as the preferred term because it implies and recognizes patient choice in treatment.

Depot: injection medication that is injected with a needle that is designed to release slowly into your system.

Dossette: single doses of medication packaged individually to help make taking medication easier. Examples: blister packs (each pill individually sealed within a plastic bubble with a peel-off or push-through backing) or pill boxes.

Monograph: a factual document on a drug product agreed on by Health Canada and the drug manufacturer that scientifically describes what the drug is, how it is designed to work, side effects, why and when it’s to be used, and other information for the safest and most effective use of the drug.

Negative symptoms: symptoms of an illness that decrease normal experiences a person has such as loss of interest in things they used to enjoy, lack of emotion or loss of concentration.

Neurotransmitter: chemicals that act as messengers between nerve cells. Common neurotransmitters affected by mental health or addictions medicines include serotonin, norepinephrine (noradrenalin), and dopamine. Most mental health or addictions medications affect the way the brain processes one or more of these messengers.

Off-label use: when doctors prescribe a medication for health issues other than those the medication is intended for. Also known as off-label prescription.

Pharmaceuticals: if substances have medicinal properties, they are considered pharmaceuticals.

Pharmacology: the study of how drugs affect functioning in living things.

Pharmacotherapy: treating a health condition with medication.

Placebo: sugar pills or other non-medicinal pills given to people in medication trials to help determine if the medication that is being tested is actually working or if the same effects can be reached simply by the power of suggestion. This allows researchers to better measure the effects and side-effects of the medication.

Positive symptoms: symptoms of an illness that are added to what a person normally experiences. Examples: hallucinations, delusions or strange thoughts.

Psychoactive drug: a chemical substance that affects brain function, resulting in changes in perception, mood, consciousness and behaviour.

Psychotropic medication: any medication capable of affecting the mind, emotions, and behaviour.

These definitions are adapted from ones found in key literature in the field. We hope they will help readers outside the medications field to better understand some of the terms used in this issue. They are purposely brief and in plain language. As such, these definitions may not include all nuances or variations of a term, and alternate or expanded definitions may be used by some organizations. These have been developed by editorial staff and may not be definitions in use by all member agencies in the BC Partners or its funder.


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