June 12, 2008

The drugs don’t work, they just make you worse

Filed under: informatics — Duncan Hull @ 3:45 pm
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StampsWhat exactly is a drug? A project I’m currently working on requires a good solid definition, at the very least comprehensible to humans, and preferably understandable by more intelligent, semantically aware computers too. I would like to be able to take some scientific model and ask questions like, “show (or hide) all the drugs in this model”. Trouble is, the word “drug” is such a heavily overloaded term, with many alternative meanings, that it is practically meaningless. Just when you think you have a definition, you can find a case that breaks it. I’m not just being an anally-retentive pedant, well no more than usual anyway. It turns out to be much harder than you might think to define what a drug is. The term drug depends on all kinds of contextual information, dosage, species, legality, intent, social conventions and so on. Here are some broken definitions, warts and all. As you’ll see, the various definitions of drugs don’t work, they just make you worse. (more…)

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