drug metabolism for dummies




Common Crazy Med Crap Index
Pharmacodynamics Basics | Pharmacology Index | Metabolism & Elimination

Pharmacokinetics (PK)1 is what your body does to a drug, as well as what a drug does to your body in specific ways that usually don’t have much to do with most of the effects of most crazy meds. Unless you count side effects. Pharmacokinetics is a geek’s paradise filled with hardcore, detailed, technical information about a medication. Pharmacists will often know more about a medication’s PK than doctors, because they spent more time in school learning about it. They also deal with PK on a daily basis, as they’re the people who answer the questions, often preemptively, most people don’t think of asking their doctors until after they drop off the prescription2. Questions such as:

  • What time of day should I take it?
  • Should I take this med with food, on an empty stomach, or does it matter?
  • When will it start to work?
  • Will it affect, or be affected by, other drugs I’m taking?
  • What sort of side effects can I expect?
  • If I need to stop taking it, how should I go about doing that?
  • How long will the side effects last after I stop taking it?

Most of those answers are based on:

  • The half-life, which is a key factor in how often you need to take a med and how long it takes to clear your system.
    • How long it takes a drug to clear your system is one of the main factors in determining how to stop taking a medication.
  • How your body clears the med from your system.
    • How you metabolize drugs is also how you convert some otherwise inert pills that you take into the substances called active metabolites that actually do something. Some working drugs also have active metabolites.
    • The vast majority of drug-drug and drug-food interactions involve how drugs are metabolized.
  • Bioavailability factors. These measure how well a medication is absorbed and distributed, and determine such things such as if it’s better to take a medication with meals, on an empty stomach, or whichever works better for you. They are the other factors involved in how often you need to take a medication.
    • Bioavailability factors are also used to determine if a generic medication is 80–125% bioequivalent of the brand name drug3.
  • A drug’s journey through your body is responsible for many side effects. Sometimes PK-related adverse reactions - as they technically wouldn’t be side effects - are worse than those caused by what a drug is actually doing. Most of these adverse reactions are what you’d expect: nausea, diarrhea, excessive gas, and assorted other GI problems. Some are actually due to how a med works, just working in the wrong place, such as an antipsychotic causing metabolic syndrome, which is an example of a true side effect.

Here are the basics of PK dumbed down as I understand them. I’m starting with how drugs are cleared from your system because

  1. It’s easier
  2. It’s what 80% of the people who read this site are interested in as far as PK is concerned

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Common Crazy Med Crap Index
Pharmacodynamics Basics | Pharmacology Index | Metabolism & Elimination


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1 Pharmacokinetics literally means how a drug moves through your body, (from the Greek pharmakon - medicine, and kinetikos - to set in motion) and that is exactly what it's about. From the time you swallow (or however it's delivered) a med until you piss it out (which is how most of the remnants of most meds finally leave).

2 And, as I write all over the place, doctors often can't address themselves in this world of 30-minute intake appointments and 15-minute medication-check follow-ups.

3 However, the FDA requires only a single, frequently sub-therapeutic dose taken by healthy volunteers - who are mostly, sometimes entirely white males between the ages of 20 and 50 willing to take recently developed drugs because they need the money - to determine pharmacokinetic data, including bioavailability and bioequivalence factors that determine the standard used to meet that 80-125% confidence range for bioequivalence.


Pharmacokinetics 101 by Jerod Poore is copyright © 2012 Jerod Poore

Last modified on Thursday, 27 March, 2014 at 18:27:43 by JerodPoorePage Author: Jerod PooreDate created: 14 December 2012

All drug names are the trademarks of someone else. Look on the appropriate PI sheets or ask Google who the owners are. The way pharmaceutical companies buy each other and swap products like Monopoly™ real estate, the ownership of any trademarks may have changed without my noticing.





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Almost all of the material on this site is by Jerod Poore and is copyright © 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 Jerod Poore. Except, of course, the PI sheets - those are the property of the drug companies who developed the drugs the sheets are about - and any documents that are written by other people which may be posted to this site will remain the property of the original authors. You cannot reproduce this page or any other material on this site outside of the boundaries of fair use copying without the express permission of the copyright holder. That’s usually me, so just ask first. That means if want to print out a few pages to take to your doctor, therapist, counselor, support group, non-understanding family members or something like that - then that’s OK to just do. Go for it! Please. As long as you include this copyright notice and something along the lines of following disclaimer, I’m usually cool with it.



All rights reserved. No warranty is expressed or implied in this information. Consult one or more doctors and/or pharmacists before taking, or changing how you take any neurological and/or psychiatric medication. Your mileage may vary. What happened to us won’t necessarily happen to you. If you still have questions about a medication or condition that were not answered on any of the pages you read, please ask them on Crazy Talk: the Crazymeds Forum.
The information on Crazymeds pertains to and is intended for adults. While some information about children and adolescents is occasionally presented (e.g. US FDA approvals), pediatric-specific data such as dosages, side effects, off-label applications, etc. are rarely included in the articles on drugs or discussed on the forum. If you are looking for information regarding meds for children you’ll have to go somewhere else.
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Nobody on this site is a doctor, a therapist, or a pharmacist. We don’t portray them either here or on TV. Only doctors can diagnose and treat an illness. While it’s not as bad as it used to be, some doctors still get pissed off by patients who know too much about medications, so tread lightly when and where appropriate. Diagnosing yourself from a website is like defending yourself in court, you suddenly have a fool for a doctor. Don’t be a cyberchondriac, thinking you have every disease you see a website about, or that you’ll get every side effect from every medication1. Self-prescribing is as dangerous as buying meds from fraudulent online pharmacies that promise you medications without prescriptions.
All information on this site has been obtained through our personal experience and the experiences family, friends, what people have reported on various reputable sites all over teh intergoogles, the medications’ product information / summary of product characteristic (PI/SPC) sheets, and from sources that are referenced throughout the site. As such the information presented here is not intended as a substitute for real medical advice from your real doctor, just a compliment to it. You should never, ever, replace what a real doctor tells you with something from a website on the Internet. The farthest you should ever take it is getting a second opinion from another real doctor. Educate yourself - always read the PI/SPC sheet or patient information leaflet (PIL) that comes with your medications and never ever throw them away.
Crazymeds is not responsible for the content of sites we provide links to. We like them, or they’re paid advertisements, or they’re something else we think you should read to help you make an informed decision about a particular med. Sometimes they’re more than one of those things. But what’s on those sites is their business, not ours.
Very little information about visitors to this site is collected or saved. From time to time I look at search terms used and which pages they bring up in an effort to make the information I present more relevant. And the country of origin, just because I’m geeky like that. That’s about it. Depending on how you feel about Schrodinger, our privacy policy should either assuage or exacerbate your paranoia.
All brand names of the drugs listed in this site are the trademarks of the companies named on the PI/SPC sheet associated with the medication, sometimes on the pages about the drugs, even though those companies may have been acquired by other companies who may or may not be listed in this site by the time you read this. Or the rights to the drug were sold to another company. And any or all of the companies involved may have changed their names.
Crazymeds is optimized for the browser you’re not using on the platform you wish you had. Between you and me, it all looks a lot cleaner using Safari or Chrome, although more than half of the visitors to this site use either Safari or Internet Explorer, so I’m doing my best to make things look nice for IE as well. I’m using Firefox and running Windows 72. On a computer that sits on top of my desk. With a 23 inch monitor. Hey, at least you can make the text larger or smaller by clicking on the + or - buttons in the upper right hand corner. If you have Java enabled. Like 99% of the websites on the planet, Crazymeds is hosted on domain running an open source operating system with a variety of open source applications, including the software used to display what you’ve been reading. As such Crazymeds is not responsible for whatever weird shit your browser does or does not do when you read this site3.
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1 While there are plenty of books to help you with hypochondria, for some reason there’s not much in the way of websites. Then again, staying off of the Internet is a large part of curing/managing the disorder.

2 Remember kids, Microsloth operating systems are like TOS Star Trek movies with in that every other one sucks way, way more. With TOS Star Trek movies you don’t want to bother watching the odd-numbered ones. With Microsloth OS you don’t want to buy and install the even-numbered ones. Anyone who remembers ME and Vista knows what I mean.

3 Have I mentioned how open source operating systems for commercial applications is one of the dumbest ideas in the history of dumb ideas?
[begin rant] I rent a dedicated server for Crazymeds. It’s sitting on a rack somewhere in Southern California along with a bunch of other servers that other people have rented. The hardware is identical, but no two machines have exactly the same operating systems. I don’t even need to see what is on any of the others to know this. If somebody got their server at the exact same time, with the exact same features as I did, I’m confident that there would be noticeable differences in some aspects of the operating systems. So what does this mean? For one thing it means that no two computers in the same office of a single company have the same operating system, and the techs can spend hours figuring out what the fuck the problem could be based on that alone. It also means that application software like IP board that runs the forum here has to have so many fucking user-configurable bells and whistles that even when I read the manual I can’t find every setting, or every location that every flag needs to be set in order for a feature to run the way I want it to run. And in the real world it means you can get an MBA not only with an emphasis on resource planning, but with an emphasis on using SAP - a piece of software so complex there are now college programs on how to use it. You might think, “But don’t people learn how to use Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator in college?” Sure, in order to create stuff. And in a way you’re creating stuff with SAP. But do you get a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with an emphasis on Photoshop?
Back in the Big Iron Age the operating systems were proprietary, and every computer that took up an entire room with a raised floor and HVAC system, and had less storage and processing power than an iPhone, had the same operating system as every other one, give or take a release level. But when a company bought application software like SAP, they also got the source code, which was usually documented and written in a way to make it easy to modify the hell out of it. Why? Because accounting principles may be the same the world over, and tax laws the same across each country and state, but no two companies have the same format for their reports, invoices, purchase orders and so forth. Standards existed and were universally ignored. If something went wrong it went wrong the same way for everyone, and was easy to track down. People didn’t need to take a college course to learn how to use a piece of software.
I’m not against the open source concept entirely. Back then all the programmers read the same magazines, so we all had the same homebrew utilities. We even had a forerunner of QR Code to scan the longer source code. Software vendors and computer manufacturers sponsored conventions so we could, among other things, swap recipes for such add-ons and utilities. While those things would make our lives easier, they had nothing to do with critical functions of the operating system. Unless badly implemented they would rarely cause key application software to crash and burn. Whereas today, with open source everything, who the hell knows what could be responsible some part of a system failing. [/end rant]

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