Hello! Welcome to Ask a Teacher! This week we answer a question from Zafer in Turkey.
Would you please explain the difference between pill, drug and medicine? Thanks in advance.
Thank you for writing to us. These three words are most often used when we talk about health.
Let us begin with the word “medicine.” One meaning is “a substance or drug used to treat disease or pain.” But it is also a general term that describes the science or study of treating or curing disease. Here is an example of that use:
Alex went to the university to study medicine.
Medication is another word you can use for medicine. They mean the same thing.
An antiviral drug is the only government-approved medication for COVID-19.
Both words are countable and non-countable nouns
A pill is a small, rounded object that contains medicine. It is swallowed. Pill is a less general term than drug, medicine or medication. We can use it this way to talk about both vitamins and medications:
Grandpa takes a lot of pills in the morning to stay healthy.
Finally, we look at the word drug. A drug can be a substance in medicine. But drugs are also made, sold and bought for recreational use. Alcohol and marijuana are examples.
Some drugs and medicines require a doctor’s approval for use. Those are called “prescription drugs.”
I hope this helps you to understand how to use these words, Zafer.
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And that’s Ask a Teacher.
I’m Jill Robbins.
Dr. Jill Robbins wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.
Words in This Story
prescription – n. a written message from a doctor that officially tells someone to use a medicine, therapy, etc.
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