Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Medicine vs. Drugs

Sometimes my brain gets all tangled up when I try to decide if I should use the term 'medicine' or 'drugs.'

For example, my mom has been telling me for years that when I write about giving free drugs to HIV+ patients, I should use the word 'medicine' instead of 'drug.' Ok, point taken. In writing, I can usually remember to do that, but when I'm showing a foreign tour group around, it often slips out: We give free drugs to HIV+ patients. They know that I mean prescription medicine, but I would just like to use a term that they are more comfortable with.

I use the word 'drug' because that's the word Nigerians use. It has just entered my everyday vocabulary.

Recently I have come to understand that although 'medicine' can be used as another word for 'drugs,' it also has the connotation of witchcraft/charms/juju in Nigeria.

It's a real challenge to choose the best words to communicate to my audience. One day I'll have to come up with a list of different English terms used by Americans, Brits, and Nigerians. Good communication requires a great deal of thought.


Sandi said...

Uh-oh! Have I caused confusion in your life? Perhaps you could use the term "meds." It's a term commonly used in the States for any manner of medication.

An interesting example about using the word "drugs" is a guy who had gone to a Mexican border town to buy his medications. When he came through the border checkpoint and was asked what he bought, he said, "Just drugs." (Maybe he said it flippantly). He was detained for a long while as the border agents determined that all he had were his medications, a common purchase of many snowbirds, and not illegal drugs.

So, for whatever it's worth, that's my wisdom for the day!

PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

The word drugs sounds A-OK to me in the context you were using it in.

PS (PSanafter-thought) said...
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Mary Beth said...

Mom, I appreciate your attention to details! I probably wouldn't have noticed it if not for you.