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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 are also included, whenever applicable.


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).


Refers to synapses or physiological responses involving epinephrine and norepinephrine.


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).


The mutual attraction between a drug and a specific cellular receptor.


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


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


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


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

Allosteric modulators:

Substances that bind to a cell receptor and alter 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.


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).


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


A male steroid such as testosterone.

Angina pectoris:

Severe pain and constriction in the chest region, usually associated with myocardial ischemia.


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


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


Drugs that destroy parasitic worms (e.g., tapeworms, roundworms) in the GI tract and elsewhere in the body.


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


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


The general term for drugs that impair function in harmful cells and microorganisms by ...

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