CHEM 106: Drugs in Society

Class Program
Weekly Contact Hours
Meets Degree Requirements For
Natural Science

Explores the basis of drug action, major categories of drugs, as well as risks and benefits of drug use from an individual, social and economic viewpoint. Other topics include historical perspective and ethnopharmacology; delivery, absorption, distribution, metabolism and elimination of drugs; modern drug development and regulation. 

Prerequisite Courses

Course Learning Outcomes

Core Topics


  1. Describe the structure of a drug molecule based on known bonding constraints of the atoms comprising the drug
  2. Draw drug molecules using Lewis structures and bond-line formulas, and relate drug structure to function, identifying pharmacophores for select classes of drugs
  3. Understand the concept of polarity, and the critical role it plays in the disposition of drugs; in particular relate “fat-like” or “water-like” characteristics to residence time in the body
  4. Understand the influence of salt formation on the physical properties of drug molecules, as well as the acid-base reactions that lead to their formation
  5. Appreciate the value of buffering in the body, and the influence a buffered environment has on drug disposition
  6. List the key components of the scientific method, their importance, and the role technological advancement plays in scientific discovery
  7. Describe the role drugs have played in human society from a historical and cultural perspective, and identify key discoveries leading to our current understanding of drug action
  8. Define the concept of drug specificity, and contrast against the historical use of “galenicals”
  9. Define the concept of a receptor as a drug target, and identify the principal types of receptors in the body
  10. Define the receptor in terms of cellular function, and what the natural role of the receptor is
  11. Identify the principal types of cellular receptor
  12. Define the various means (agonist, antagonist, partial agonist) drugs may interact with a cellular receptor
  13. Identify what is meant by the pharmacokinetic acronym ADME, and the role each has in the disposition of a drug
  14. List the principal route(s) of phase I and phase II metabolism
  15. Define bioactivation, first-pass metabolism, bioavailability, volume of distribution, and related pharmacokinetic terms
  16. Describe toxicity in terms of the therapeutic index
  17. Describe toxicity in terms of drug specificity/target selectivity
  18. List the principal steps in how new drug entities are developed and what the role of the FDA is in the drug development process
  19. List the principal US legislation governing the development, distribution, and use of drugs in the United States, and the driving force for each
  20. Understand the scheduling of drugs with addictive potential via The Controlled Substances Act, and be able to place select drugs in each of the categories
  21. Appreciate the influence antibiotics and vaccines have had on society, and define terms associated with their development and use
  22. Describe the social and economic value and costs of drugs, for prescribed, OTC, and drugs of abuse, by evaluating a drug (of the student’s choice) using the understanding developed over the course of the quarter and writing an 8-10 page position paper