On Drugs

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 48 (6):551-564 (2023)
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Despite their centrality to medicine, drugs are not easily defined. We introduce two desiderata for a basic definition of medical drugs. It should: (a) capture everything considered to be a drug in medical contexts and (b) rule out anything that is not considered to be a drug. After canvassing a range of options, we find that no single definition of drugs can satisfy both desiderata. We conclude with three responses to our exploration of the drug concept: maintain a monistic concept, or choose one of two pluralistic outcomes. Notably, the distinction between drugs and other substances is placed under pressure by the most plausible of the options available.

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Sam Baron
University of Melbourne


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