Drugs and Drug Interactions

Drugs and Drug Interaction

Drugs are chemical substances that affect/alter physiological functions when taken into a living system. When a drug is therapeutically active and is used for the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of a disease, it is called medicine. It is the drug’s interactions with macromolecules inside the body that generate a biological response. Let’s see what the different drug targets are, and how they produce a response in the body.

Drugs and Drug Targets

Molecular targets are one of the criteria for the classification of drugs. Here the drugs are classified based on their target molecule. In the body, macromolecules are the primary targets of drugs.  Once a drug is ingested, it will bind to some macromolecules to generate a biological response. Such macromolecules are called target molecules or drug targets.

We know enzymes as biological catalysts which hasten biochemical reactions within a living system. Enzymes are protein molecules which are also a drug targets. Another drug-target are the receptors that help with the communication of cells of the body. The drug interactions with these molecules explain the drugs action. Here we will discuss enzymes and receptors as drug targets.

Enzymes as Drug Targets

The catalytic function of an enzyme can be explained with the help of its properties. Enzymes have active sites which provide a binding site for the substrates where the reagent attacks it. Additionally, enzymes offer functional groups that will attack the substrate necessary for the chemical reactions.

A drug-enzyme interaction will interrupt this catalytic action and such drugs are called enzyme inhibitors. An enzyme inhibitor drug can accomplish this by interfering with the active site of the enzyme. There are two types of inhibitor drugs- competitive inhibitors and non-competitive inhibitors.

Enzymes as Drugs Targets

Competitive inhibitors: Here the drugs will compete with the substrate for the same active site of the enzyme and thus inhibit the catalysis.

Non-competitive inhibitors: Here a drug binds to an enzyme other than the active site (allosteric site). Thus, there is no competition between the substrate and the drug, but this will distort the shape of the enzyme. The distorted enzyme will prevent the substrate binding and hence the catalysis.

Sometimes these drug-enzyme interactions are strong which blocks the enzyme forever.

Receptors as Drug Targets

 Receptors are proteinaceous compounds which help in cell-to-cell communication in the body. These are present on the cell membranes which act as mediators between inside and outside worlds of the cell.  They receive the messages (chemical messages) from the neurons through messengers. The binding of this messenger will alter the shape of the receptors which help to transfer messages inside the cell. Receptors are specific, i.e., every chemical messenger will not be accommodated on every receptor. Drug-receptor interaction also follows the same working principle. Drugs will block the binding site and thus block the messages to the cell. A drug that inhibits the receptor activity is called an antagonist.

Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs


Name two strong opioid drugs.

Oxymorphone and hydromorphone are two opioid drugs many times stronger than morphine.

Define mind-altering drugs

Various psychoactive substances that are used for their perception and mood-altering effects are called mind-altering drugs

Give some examples of psychoactive substances

LSD, caffeine, cocaine, alcohol.

Which drug is the most widely used mind-altering drug globally?


Caffeine is a drug. Why?

It stimulates the CNS and causes increased alertness.

For more details on drug-target interactions with video lessons, download BYJU’S – The Learning App.

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