What is an 'Antidote' in Medical Terms?

Antidotes were created to heal individuals. Antidote Health was created to heal our broken healthcare system. This is how.

What is an 'Antidote' in Medical Terms?
Reviewed by Dr. David Zlotnick, Chief Medical Officer at Antidote Health

Antidote, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is a remedy to counteract the effects of poison. It is made up of two words: anti and didonai, which means “to give” in Greek. In its most literal sense, an antidote is the opposite of what was given before. Just as antidotes were created to battle the effects of toxins and heal individuals, Antidote Health was established to heal a broken healthcare system. 

What is an antidote?

King Mithridates VI, ruler of the ancient Kingdom of Pontus, wanted to avoid the fate of other kings of his time (120–63 BC), including his father, conveniently named Mithridates V, who was poisoned and killed. According to some sources, Mithridates V was assassinated by his wife, who took control of the kingdom until one of her two sons was ready to lead. Mithridates VI suspected that his mother favored his brother to serve as king. When he started feeling ill after eating, he was convinced that his mother was trying to get him out of the way. 

Mithridates VI escaped to the woods, where he searched for a way to make himself immune to all poisons. The legend goes that while in the woods, the future king, who was fascinated by toxicology, would create elixirs for himself with small and non-lethal doses of poisons. By doing so, he slowly built up his tolerance to deadly concoctions and created, what might have been, the earliest known antidote.

After taking power and becoming one of the most successful rulers in the history of Pontus, King Mithridates the Great was facing defeat at the hands (and swords) of the Romans. With the boots of Roman soldiers approaching, he reached for a toxin that he kept exactly for moments like this. He tried to end his life by drinking it – but failed. 

While the authenticity of this story is somewhat questionable, the idea of using poison to defend against poison stuck. To this day, the practice of building tolerance to poison by consuming it is called Mithridatism. 

Prevention, as in Mithridates’ example, is one of the ways in which antidotes can help. Others reverse or mitigate the effects of toxins. Antidotes help in different ways, including limiting the absorption of toxins, counteracting toxic effects, or enhancing detoxification. 

Okay. But is this still relevant today?

Very. Actually, the number of deaths from poisoning in the U.S. tripled in the last 20 years, becoming the leading cause of unintentional injury death in the country. Most cases of poisoning in children are caused by cosmetics and personal care products and household cleaning substances. In adults, poisoning is often associated with pain killers and other drugs (think, the opioid epidemic). 

What are some examples of antidotes?

The growth of poisoning cases (and causes) has increased the need for more advanced antidotes. Some common examples of antidotes include: 

  • Antidotes that are administered to counteract the effect of blood thinners and stop any excessive bleeding during surgery. There is a major risk of blood loss in patients who receive anticoagulants (such as Heparin and Warfarin). 
  • The antidote sodium thiosulphate (STS) is sometimes given to people to counteract the effects of cyanide. 
  • When patients with G6PD deficiency produce abnormal amounts of methemoglobin (oxidized hemoglobin that cannot deliver oxygen) due to chemical exposure, they are given vitamin C as an antidote. 
  • The Opioid Epidemic: Naloxone is a safe and widely-used opioid antidote. It reverses or blocks the effects of opioids and can restore breathing in people overdosing on opioid drugs.

Antidote Health, treating a system  

Antidotes treat individuals. Antidote Health was created to treat both individual health and the healthcare system. The truth is that Americans pay much more than we get in return when it comes to medicine. Millions of Americans have no insurance or are underinsured, and cannot afford to receive quality care. Even the insured suffer from flaws in the system that can and need to be fixed.

These include: 

  • Dependence on location: Healthcare in the U.S. is very much location-based. The gap in the mortality rate between Americans living in rural and urban areas is dramatic and only getting worse. While 1-in-5 Americans live in rural areas, only 9% of physicians in the country practice in rural communities. 
  • Dependence on time: Even though visit times have been getting shorter and shorter, seeing a doctor is time-consuming. From taking time off of work to commuting to and from the doctor’s office, and the visit itself, healthcare takes time – and you are always expected to find time for it. That leads many to neglect their health and avoid seeing a clinician. 
  • Dependence on income: Americans spend more money on healthcare than any other developed country in the world. Healthcare in this country is becoming more expensive at an alarming rate, widening the gap in access between the haves and the have-nots. Whereas American men in the top 1% outlive the average man in all other countries, American men in the bottom 1% share life expectancy with a person in Sudan
  • Dependence on work: While connecting healthcare to work is a great way of keeping talented workers in a company, it tampers with Americans’ flexibility, prevents them from starting their own businesses, and makes them overly dependent on their workplace.

These are only some of the major problems with the current American healthcare system. Other issues include disorganized care, which leaves your medical records scattered across different networks, long waits to see doctors, and more. 

By introducing the most advanced AI to healthcare, Antidote Health is able to save time, minimize human error, and operate a telemedicine platform that enables you to see a certified clinician at your convenience and from the comfort of your home. Seamlessly integrate your medical needs into your daily life, with no need for insurance. At Antidote Health, everything you need is included in our affordable monthly subscription plans

No high deductible, no hidden fees, no outrageous bills. 

Just like Mithridates, who used poison to treat poison, our “Antidote” uses the experience of health professionals who are familiar with the current system to heal it, making healthcare accessible, affordable and hassle-free. It is possible. You deserve better than what you’re currently paying for. Join Antidote Health today and take control of your health.

Image credit: Wellcome Library, Londo. 3 Drug jars for Mithridatum. October 25, 2014. JPG. Wellcome Images. http://wellcomeimages.org

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