JUN 17, 2017 5:44 AM PDT

What Happens After You Swallow a Pill?

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

A study by the Mayo Clinic in 2013 found that 70 percent of Americans take at least one prescription drug daily. Surprisingly, the most commonly prescribed drugs aren't related to chronic conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, that most people would assume. Rather, Americans are taking a lot of antibiotics, followed by antidepressants, and then opioids.

Most of these medicines share a common route of administration - they are taken by mouth. But what happens once the drugs are swallowed?

From the mouth, some drug's target destination is the stomach, whereas others aim for the small intestines. Special coatings on the pill will either allow the drugs to be absorbed by the stomach lining or the lining of the small intestines. Either way, the medicines will enter the bloodstream at some point. Once in the circulatory system, the drug will be distributed to all tissues and organs.

Ever wondered why some pills have different frequency specifications? Watch the video to learn how the body deals with the medicine.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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