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What is an Agonist?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 17, 2024
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Agonists are chemicals or chemical reactions that help to bind and also alter the function of activity of some type of receptor. The function of an agonist is different from that of an antagonist, which does bind receptors but does not alter the range of normal activity. The impact of an agonist may be beneficial to the function or cause an outcome that is not desirable.

An adrenergic agonist can be in the form of some type of natural adrenaline or a synthetic drug that is used to stimulate and produce some type of reaction. Drugs of this type are sometimes used to help stimulate movement and reactions in muscle groups that have been damaged in some manner. At other times, adrenergic drugs are utilized as antagonists; that is, the drugs are administered as a means of temporarily inhibiting one or more reactions.

In terms of muscles, an agonist usually describes a muscle or group of muscles that produce various types of movement based on the rate and frequency of the muscle contractions. Agonist muscles normally cross over structures of the skeletal system as part of their function. In most cases, the agonist muscle will cross a joint of some type, often involving a tendon or network of tendons. As the muscle responds to some type of stimulus, it begins to contract and release. This tension is what helps to stimulate the interrelated activity of the muscles and tendons, and results in some type of movement.

The main function of an agonist in any situation is to cause some specific type of reaction. A receptor agonist will modify the scope of the reaction that is generated by the receptor. When this is result of the administration of carefully prepared dosages of synthetic medication, there is a good chance that the reaction is intentional on the part of the caregiver and is integral to the success of dealing with some type of specific ailment. However, since agonists may also produce a reaction other than the intended response, the patient will be monitored closely to determine how he or she responds to the synthetic agonist.

Some agonists are very broad in the range of movements they may trigger, while others are more focused. The physician’s decision of which chemical or drug to utilize during the course of treatment often depends on the type of movement desired and the muscle groups involved in the process of creating the desired movement. As with many types of medical treatments, it is normally a good idea to inform the physician of any over the counter and prescription medications that are currently taken regularly, as some of them may interfere with the proper function of the agonist.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseGeek, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
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Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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