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What are the Different Ways to Take Medicine?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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There are many different ways to take medicine, although most may be familiar with just a few of these. It’s common to swallow a pill or take some liquid medication, but taking meds orally isn’t always practical or the best way to administer a medication. To this end, medical researchers have developed quite a few methods to take medication to serve a variety of purposes.

For many over the counter meds, it’s most common to take medicine orally. Oral meds can come in various forms including different types of pills and liquids. New methods that are taken orally but aren’t swallowed whole are various melt in the mouth meds, which may absorb into mouth tissues and not be processed through the stomach. Sometimes medications will work faster and are more effective if they don’t have to go through the gut first.

Sometimes, a common medication people would take orally needs a different delivery system. Vomiting with fever for instance, could mean a person can’t keep a fever reducer down or needs anti-vomiting medication. Numerous medications are taken anally, via a suppository. Though many people don’t care for suppository medication, it can be a good alternative when oral meds cannot be tolerated.

A number of lotions and creams exist that are called topical. These are usually directly applied on the area that needs the medication. For instance, certain steroids and other anti-itch medicines are impractical if taken orally and need to be applied directly to the area that needs treatment. Though occasionally skin conditions require oral medications, in many cases topical treatments are enough to resolve the condition.

Another way to take medicine is through a skin patch. This is called a transdermal method. An adhesive patch with various drugs is absorbed directly by the skin. Some forms of transdermal meds include pain medications, nicotine for those quitting smoking, and birth control.

Some people take medicine through inhalation. Common inhaled meds include those that treat asthma. Some development in this area by researchers may make other drugs available through inhalation, including insulin used to treat diabetes. While many of these meds are inhaled through the mouth, others may be inhaled through the nose. Numerous allergy medications exist that are taken nasally, and there are few nasal sprays to treat things like poor letdown of milk in mothers of infants.

One of the more common and quickest ways to take medicine usually requires a doctor or nurse’s help. Medication may be delivered intravenously (IV) or by infusion. IV drugs go directly into the bloodstream, which can make them work quickly and be most effective. Injections or shots are another way to take medication and these may be injected into muscles, under the skin, directly into bone marrow, or into the blood stream.

The various delivery systems for medication can make it easier for people to take medicine in a form that is tolerated well. Whichever method is employed to take medication, doctor’s instructions or those instruction for over the counter meds should be followed closely. When unsure about how to take meds through the various delivery methods, get clarification from a doctor or pharmacist before using them.

The Health Board 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.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By anon998539 — On Jun 29, 2017

Can anyone tell me what the medical term is for administering medication rectally? It is not peri rectal that I am thinking of.

By anon311114 — On Dec 29, 2012

If you let a pill melt under your tongue, is this more effective than swallowing it whole?

By BrickBack — On Jan 11, 2011

Moldova-I know that the patch is becoming a more common way for people to take medication. It is most commonly used for nicotine addictions but it is also used to treat conditions like diabetes as well as chronic pain.

As a matter of fact, I heard of a case of a man that suffered from chronic pain who had to take pain medication in the form of a patch.

Unfortunately the patch dosage was defective and the medication went straight into his system and the dosage became lethal.

I personally rather have medication in the form of pills because that is what I feel most comfortable with.

By Moldova — On Jan 09, 2011

I know that there are a lot of ways to take medication. For example you can take birth control in pill format or you can also receive injections for birth control as well as a patch that offers medication into your system based on the dosage on the patch.

Medication can also be given through an IV drip like when the hospital administers pitocin in order to induce a women’s labor.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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