B1.3 The use and abuse of drugs

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Stages involved in testing a new drug:

  • Researchers target a poblematic disease and make lots of possible new drugs.
  • These drugs are tested in the lab on cells, tissues and whole organs to find out if they are toxic and effective.
  • Medicines which pass are tested in animals - animals are used as models to find out how the drug might affect human beings and also possible doses and side effects.
  • Drugs that pass animal testing are tested in low doses on healthy human volunteers.
  • Then, the drugs are tested on small number of patients.
  • If the drug seems safe and effective, bigger clinical trials take place to find the optimum dose for the drug.
  • If and when the medicine passes all legal tests - it is licensed and doctors can prescribe it. The procedure can take upto 12 years and can cost up to £350 million.

Example(s) of legal recreational drugs - Alcohol, Nicotine, Caffeine

Example(s) of legal medicinal drugs - Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Antibiotics

Example(s) of illegal recreational drugs - Cocaine, Heroine, Cannabis, Ecstacy

Example(s) of illegal medicinal drugs - Cannabis

Example(s) of legal stimulants - Alcohol, Nicotine (depends on when taken), Caffeine

Example(s) of legal depressants - Alcohol, Nicotine, Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Antibioics

Example(s) of illegal depressants - Heroine, Cannabis

Example(s) of illegal stimulants - Cocaine, Cannabis, Ecstacy




A clear and concise summary of the key facts in the AQA topic on medicinal drug development and  other drug issues. Team these with quiz or a set of flashcards for a complete set of resources.

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