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Medical Chemistry & Drugs

This is a collection of articles and other resources pertaining to chemistry as it relates to health and medicine. Information on pharmacology and safety is also provided. Get information on both legal and illegal drugs.
  1. Chemical Weapons
  2. Drugs (36)
  3. Mad Cow Disease (12)

Elements in the Human Body
Find out what elements are in the human body and what these elements do.

Drug Photo Gallery
See the molecular structures of common drugs, including drugs of abuse. Photos of the drugs themselves are also included.

Toxic Chemicals in Cosmetics
Some of the ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products are chemicals that may be hazardous to your health. Take a look at some of the ingredients to watch for and the health concerns raised by these chemicals.

What Does a Meth Lab Smell Like?
No one wants to live next door to a meth lab, but would you be able to recognize one in your neighborhood? One way you might suspect illegal drugs are being made is by their smell.

Would You Drink Hand Sanitizer?
Drinking hand sanitizer is in vogue with the underage drinking crowd because the product is an inexpensive, readily available form of alcohol. Would you drink hand sanitizer? If you do, what steps do you take to protect yourself from accidental poisoning?

Accidental Poisonings
There are some household chemicals you just shouldn't mix and numerous ways to accidentally poison yourself. Do you have an accidental poisoning story to share? Have you ever mixed chemicals with a disastrous result? Be sure to offer any advice that would help prevent others from repeating your mistake.See submissions

Amino Acid Structures
These are the structures for the twenty natural amino acids, plus the general structure for an amino acid.

Anabolic Steroids
Learn what anabolic steroids are, how they can enhance athletic performance, and what risks are associated with using performance enhancing drugs.

Applying to Medical School - What to Do if You're Rejected
Most applicants to medical school don't get accepted! Make plans for this possibility. Here is advice on what to do if your application is rejected, with concrete steps to improve your application for the next year.

BHA and BHT
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are added to many foods to prevent fat spoilage. This article describes what BHA and BHT are, what they do, and how they do it. There is a fairly lengthy list of references because there is controversy over the health effects of BHA, BHT, and other additives.

Biochemistry of Lycopene
Lycopene is the red pigment in tomatoes and several fruits. Find out more about how this antioxidant protects against cancer and heart disease.

Caffeine Chemistry
Learn about the chemical and biological properties of caffeine, the methylxanthine stimulant found in coffee and other foods.

Can You Use Laundry Detergent in the Dishwasher?
Yes, you could put laundry detergent in your dishwasher. Should you? Probably not. Here's why.

Can Your Hair Turn White from Fright or Turn Gray Overnight?
Is it true your hair can turn white from a bad scare or that your hair can turn gray overnight? Learn about your haircolor and get the answer to the question.

Carbon Dioxide Poisoning
You are exposed to carbon dioxide every day, so you may be concerned about carbon dioxide poisoning. Here's the truth about carbon dioxide poisoning.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Carbon monoxide detectors and carbon monoxide alarms protect you from toxic carbon monoxide gas. Learn how carbon monoxide detectors and alarms work.

Chemical Weapons and Warfare Agents
Get basic information about chemical weapons and learn what you can do to protect yourself in the event of a chemical attack.

Chemicals for Hangovers
A hangover is Nature's way of reminding you that alcohol is not good for your body. Having said that, there are some substances that will reduce the damage or lessen the discomfort.

Cocaine Facts
Learn what cocaine or coke is, why people take cocaine, how it's made, and what risks are associated with using cocaine.

Common Household Chemicals - Dangerous Mixtures
Labs have lists of chemicals that don't go together, but it isn't as easy to avoid dangerous mixtures with home chemicals because they aren't pure substances. Here's some help. Be safe and don't mix these common household chemicals.

Crystal Meth Facts
Learn what crystal meth is, why people take crystal meth, how it's made, and what risks are associated with using methamphetamine.

DEET Chemistry
Learn about the insect repellent called DEET. See its chemical structure, find out how it works, get information about the risks of using DEET, and find out how to reduce your need for bug spray.

Drinking Too Much Water - Video
Can you drink too much water? This video examines whether or not it's possible to drink too much water and the consequences of excessive water consumption.

Drugs from Plants
This is a table listing many of the pharmaceuticals that are derived from plants, including the names of the drugs, their actions, plant sources, and the common names of the plants.

Eating Apple Seeds, Peach Seeds or Cherry Pits
Eating apple seeds, peach seeds or cherry pits is controversial. Some people believe the seeds and pits are toxic because they contain a cyanide-producing chemical, while other people believe the seeds are therapeutic. Have you eaten apple seeds or cherry pits? Did you experience any effect from eating the seeds? Share your experience.

Flame Retardant People
Learn about the health effects of polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE), a common flame retardant, and efforts to ban further use of certain forms of the chemical.

Food Additives
This is a list of common food additives and a description of their uses.

Hair Color Chemistry
Over 75% of women and a growing percentage of men color their hair. Learn about natural haircolor and find out what happens when you bleach hair or use temporary or permanent haircolor.

How Do Disposable Diapers Work? Why Do They Leak?
Learn about the polymer in disposable diapers, sodium polyacrylate. Find out how the polymer absorbs water and why diapers leak.

How Do Pregnancy Tests Work?
Learn how blood tests and home pregnancy urine tests work, how early they can be used, and some reasons for false positive and negative test results.

How Do Safety Matches Work?
Learn about how safety matches work and why they are considered 'safe'.

How Do Smoke Detectors Work?
Find out how ionization and photoelectric smoke detectors work. Then determine which type is better for your needs. Links are supplied to give you more information about fire safety, tips for installing a smoke detector, and answers to common smoke detector questions.

How Do Sunless Tanning Products Work?
This article discusses bronzers, self-tanning lotions and sprays, tanning accelerators, and pills. Learn how these products work and find out why tans fade.

How to Make Aspirin - Acetylsalicylic Acid
Learn how to synthesize aspirin, acetylsalicylic acid, from salicyclic acid. Get information about the history of aspirin, the effects of salicylates, and see the structures of the reactants.

How to Remove Fluoride Video
See how to remove fluoride from drinking water. This video also explains which methods will not remove fluoride from water and lists common sources of fluoride.

How Sunscreen Works
Find out how sunscreen works, what an SPF rating means, the difference between sunscreen and sunblock, and how to protect yourself from both UV-A and UV-B radiation.

How To Remove Fluoride from Drinking Water
This is a list of methods that can be used to remove fluoride from drinking water. There's also a list of methods that do not remove fluoride and suggestions for ways to minimize fluoride exposure. References for the fluoridation controversy are included.

Why Does Hydrogen Peroxide Bubble on a Wound?
Have you ever wondered why hydrogen peroxide bubbles on a cut or wound, yet doesn't bubble on unbroken skin? Here's a look at the chemistry behind why hydrogen peroxide bubbles and what it means when it doesn't bubble.

Incompatible Chemical Mixtures
Here's a list of chemicals that you don't want to accidentally mix, together with brief statements about the expected reactions. Use this information to avoid accidents and ensure safe storage and handling of potentially dangerous substances, both at work and at home.

Is It Safe to Use Kitchen Glassware for Chemistry?
Is it safe to use your kitchen glassware and utensils for chemistry experiments? Here's a look at some of the risks involved in using your dishes for chemistry.

Is There Really a Chemistry of Love?
Sweaty palms and a pounding heart don't just happen! It takes complex biochemistry to give you the symptoms of being in love. And lust. And security. Chemistry may even play a role in falling out-of-love. Get some of the details here, with links for further study.

Jacobson's Organ and the Sixth Sense
In many animals Jacobson's organ is responsible for sensitive chemical detection and pheromone communication between members of the same species. Is Jacobson's organ responsible for the sixth sense in humans?

Jellyfish Stings and Man of War Stings
You can apply some common household chemistry to treat jellyfish and Portuguese man of war stings. However, jellyfish and man of war are two different animals! Here's a look at how to tell them apart and how the chemistry of treating the stings differs depending on what stung you.

Jellyfish Sting Experience
Have you been stung by a jellyfish or Portuguese man of war? How did you treat the sting? Did the treatment work? Here's your chance to share your experience with other people and to get ideas for treatment options in case you ever get stung. See submissions

Luminol Chemiluminescence Test for Blood
You can use the luminol chemiluminescence reaction as a quick and easy forensic test for blood. Here's a look at what you need to perform the test, how to do it, and an explanation of how the luminol test works.

Mad Cow Disease - What You Need to Know
When it comes to Mad Cow Disease, it's difficult to separate fact from fiction and hard data from supposition. Part of the problem is political and economical, but a lot of it is based in biochemistry. Here's a summary of what you need to know.

Marijuana Facts
Learn what marijuana and THC are, why people use marijuana, where it comes from, and what risks are associated with using marijuana.

Medical School Interviews
From your About Guide. Knowing what to expect in a medical school interview is a key to success. This article focuses on dressing for success and provides valuable tips for after the interview. Links to interview databases and common interview questions/answers are included.

Mixing Bleach and Ammonia
Mixing bleach and ammonia is extremely dangerous, since toxic vapors will be produced. The primary toxic chemical formed by the reaction is chloramine vapor, with a potential for hydrazine formation. Here's a look at the chemical reactions involved in mixing bleach and ammonia, as well as some first aid advice if you accidentally become exposed to a bleach and ammonia mixture.

Mixing Bleach and Vinegar
Mixing bleach and vinegar is a bad idea. Toxic chlorine gas is released, which essentially serves as a way to wage chemical warfare on yourself. Many people mix bleach and vinegar, knowing it's dangerous, but either underestimating the risk or else hoping for increased cleaning power. Here's what you should know about mixing bleach and vinegar,...

Natural Mosquito Repellents
Looking for a natural alternative to synthetic chemical mosquito repellents? Find out which natural substances repel mosquitoes, how to avoid attracting them, and how to maximize the effectiveness of your repellent.

Nepetalactone Chemistry
Learn about nepetalactone, the cycloalkane that is the chemical in catnip that has an effect on cats, people and other animals.

Osmotic Pressure and Red Blood Cells
See the effect of hypertonic, isotonic and hypotonic osmotic pressure on red blood cells.

Poisonous Holiday Plants
Some popular holiday plants can be poisonous or toxic, especially to children and pets. Here's a look at some of the most common poisonous holiday plants and also reassurance about plants many people think are poisonous that really aren't that dangerous.

Rohypnol Fast Facts
Learn what rohypnol is, why people take rohypnol, how it's made, and what risks are associated with using rohypnol.

Sodium Versus Salt
Salt and sodium content are related, but are not the same. Learn about the difference between salt and the sodium in sodium chloride and how to calculate sodium levels in salt.

Science Laboratory Safety Signs
This is a collection of safety signs and symbols commonly seen in a science laboratory, particularly a chemistry lab.

Steroid Molecular Structures
See the molecular structures of steroids.

Tattoo Ink Carrier Chemistry
The fluid used to suspend the pigments in tattoo ink is called the carrier. The composition of the liquid is important for making a high-quality ink and also a safe ink.

Tattoo Ink Chemistry
Tattoo inks aren't regulated by the US FDA, so what you don't know can hurt you. This 3-part article examines the pigments, carriers, and other chemistry-related issues concerning tattoo inks and their toxicity. Instructions for making your own tattoo ink are provided.

Tattoo Inks - What You Don't Know Could Hurt You
There are some risk associated with tattoo ink that are related to ink chemistry. Find out why your tattoo ink might not be as safe as you think.

Tattoo Removal
Tattoos are meant to be permanent, so they aren't easy to remove, but there are multiple methods that are used when a person wishes to have a tattoo removed.

Tear Gas Exposure
Learn what to expect if you encounter tear gas and take steps to minimize your exposure and speed your recovery.

Theobromine Chemistry
The primary methylxanthine in chocolate is theobromine, a molecule similar to caffeine. See the structure of theobromine and read about its chemistry, effects on people and animals, and uses. There are links to chocolate history and chemical research, veterinary advice for theobromine poisoning, and related resources.

Vitamins May Hurt Your Health
Your multivitamin may contain more or less nutrients than you think, plus may include some nasty contaminants.

Vitamin Chemical Structures
This is a collection of molecular structures of the vitamins.

Water Filters that Remove Fluoride
This is a compilation of online vendors and manufacturers of water filters designed to remove tap water. A variety of filter types and price ranges are covered. Tabletop, undersink, and refrigerator models are all available.

Ways to Lower Fluoride Exposure
Fluoride isn't only found in toothpaste and water. There are many everyday sources and several steps you can take to lower your exposure.

What Are Radiation Pills?
Radiation pills may be given in the event of nuclear accidents, nuclear attacks or in the course of certain radioactive medical treatments. Here's a look at what radiation pills are and what is in them.

What Are the Elements in the Human Body?
Do you know the chemical composition of the human body? Here's the list of elements, given in percentage according to weight.

What Causes Rigor Mortis?
Dead bodies are sometimes referred to as 'stiffs' for a reason! Learn what rigor mortis is and find out why it happens.

What Happens If You Eat Silica Gel Beads?
Silica gel beads are found in those little packets accompanying shoes, clothing and some snacks. The packets contain round or granular bits of silica, which is called a gel but is really a solid. The containers typically carry dire "Do Not Eat" and "Keep Away from Children" warnings. So, what happens if you eat silica?

What Is Activated Charcoal and How Does it Work?
Activated charcoal isn't the same as your average barbeque briquette! It's a special type of carbon. Learn what activated charcoal is and why it is used in filters and medicines.

What Is the Chemical Composition of Farts?
Have you ever wondered what gases are in farts or flatus and whether they are the same for everyone? Here's the chemical composition of farts.

What Is the Volume & Chemical Composition of Blood?
Do you know how many liters of blood are in your body? How about what's in your blood? Let's learn about the chemistry of human blood.

What Is the World's Most Venomous Insect?
The most venomous insect isn't some rare, exotic rain forest creature. You may have them in your own yard. Can you name guess what it is?

What Makes Lead Poisonous?
You probably know that lead is toxic, but do you know what makes it poisonous? Here's an explanation of what lead does in your body that makes it such a health hazard.

What You Need to Know about Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Carbon monoxide poisoning is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in America. Carbon monoxide detectors are available, but you need to understand how they work and what their limitations are in order to decide whether or not you need a detector and, if you purchase a detector, how to use it to get the best protection.

Why Are Babies Born with Blue Eyes?
Do you know the answer? It's a matter of chemistry as much as biology. I've included other factoids about eye color, including some that may surprise you.

Why Do Onions Make You Cry?
Find out why you cry when you cut onions and how you can keep it from happening.

Why Does the Pool Turn Blonde Hair Green?
Do you think it's the chlorine in the swimming pool that turns blonde hair green? Guess again.

Why I Oppose Fluoridation of Public Drinking Water
Anne Helmenstine's reasons for opposing the fluoridation of public drinking water.

Why the Flu Vaccine Doesn't Work
A new study conducted by the CDC indicates that getting the flu vaccine doesn't protect you against cold, flu-like illness, or even the flu. Surprised? Here are some reasons why the vaccine may not work.

You and Your Cat and Mad Cow Disease
Do you think you have a handle on the Mad Cow Disease issue? Here's a detailed guest article, written by microbiologist Eve Riser-Roberts, Ph.D., that may shake things up a bit for you. Although the article is slanted toward dangers in pet food, it contains a lot of controversial information pertaining to human risk and infection.

Health Effects of Copper Jewelry
This article presents information and resources about the impact that wearing copper jewelry can have on health. Both positive and negative effects are discussed, with online references and an annotated list of books, with Amazon links, for further reading.

Health Hazards of Children's Jewelry
Chemical hazards are addressed, as well as choking hazards. References and recommendations for minimizing risk are also included.

AntiCancer Agent Mechanism Database
Proper browser plug-ins allow access to three-dimensional viewing. From the National Cancer Institute.

Carcinogenic Potency Database
Chemicals in this database are listed under each organ that has been evaluated as a cancer site by at least one author in an experiment in rats, mice, hamsters, monkeys, dogs, or prosimians. The index is according to target organ.

Chemical Information Page
Extensive databases include general chemicals, drugs, and environmental hazards. Visualization of structures requires Chime plug-in. From Specialized Information Services, US National Library of Medicine.

Index to U.S. EPA Test Methods
An index of all test methods that EPA requires environmental labs to use. Arranged by substance.

HerbMed
Search for information on traditional and modern herbal preparations and publications relating to their medicinal uses. From the Alternative Medicine Foundation.

Medical Biochemistry
Very complete and impressive online text provided by Indiana University School of Medicine.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Includes the ability to search the Federal Register for compounds and techniques.

Pharmaceutical Collection
Microscopic views of crystalline drugs (JPEG images).

US FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
The site provides an overview, description of program and special interest areas, information on interacting with the center, and other sources of food information. A searchable database, videos, and language options are also offered.

What Is Gluten?
Gluten is a common allergen found in foods. Here's a look at gluten chemistry and the foods most likely to contain gluten.

Home Mosquito Bite Remedies That Work
Unless you douse yourself with repellent, you've probably been bitten by mosquitoes. Yes, you could go out and buy calamine and antihistamine, but chances are you've tried a home remedy. What is your favorite, most effective home remedy for mosquito bites?

Have You Touched Liquid Mercury? - Mercury Exposure Stories
Mercury is a heavy, liquid metal. It used to be common in thermometers and other equipment. Have you ever touched mercury or been exposed to it? Were you fine or did you experience symptoms or exposure? Did you shrug it off or seek medical attention? Here's your chance to share your experience!

Mosquito Bite Home Remedies
While you can buy treatments for mosquito bites, there are a lot of home remedies that can relieve the itching and sting without the expense. Here are common household items you can try as mosquito bite home remedies.

Can You Touch Dry Ice?
Dry ice is solid carbon dioxide. It's very, very cold! Here's whether or not you can touch it and what happens if you do.

Why Does Alcohol Burn on a Cut or Wound?
Learn why alcohol stings and burns when applied to a cut or other wound.

How Does Carbon Monoxide Kill You?
Learn about carbon monoxide poisoning, including its causes, how to prevent it, and how it can kill you.

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