Different Routes to Take Medication


The process of administering medication may be a common process, but it is very important because it defines whether a patient gains the desired clinical benefits or whether such a patient will have adverse effects from the medication instead of the intended relief. As such, this process must be taken seriously whether the administration is done by a clinician or by the patient. According to Blythe and Buchan (2016), the route of administering medication is determined by a number of factors such as the nature of the medication and the condition of the patient among other factors. The physician or any other medical expert may define the most appropriate mode of administering the medication based on the prevailing circumstances. In this paper, the researcher will discuss different routes to take medication, looking at both their advantages and disadvantages.


When administering medication, different routes may be taken based on a number of factors. As Thyme (2013) notes, there are reasons why a given medication must be administered through a given route. The following are the different routes to take medication.

Oral Administration

Oral administration is the most commonly used method of administering drugs (Blythe & Buchan, 2016). Patients of different ages and in different conditions often use this method whether they are at home or in the hospital. The drugs in solid forms such as capsules and tablets or in liquid form such as syrups are taken through this form.

  • Advantages. Oral medication has a number of benefits. It is a convenient method of taking medication. It is also economical because the patient or a family member without the need to see a doctor can administer it. As long as one has the drugs and prescriptions, it can easily be self-administered. A patient is offered the opportunity to take a leading role in improving his or her health by being regular and on time when it comes to taking the medicine.
  • Disadvantages. One of the biggest challenges of this route of administering drugs is that gastro-intestinal drug absorption sometimes is unpredictable (Miller & Wirwicz, 2015). The Ph condition of the intestines, especially after taking some meals, may affect the ability to absorb the medication. It cannot be administered properly to unconscious patients. The method may also be less desirable in emergency cases where the physician wants the medication to have an immediate effect on the patient. There is always the problem of patient compliance, especially when the medicine is to be administered by the patient at home where there is no direct supervision.

Rectal Administration

It is a form of medication where the administration route is the rectum. The medicine is released into the rectum, mostly in liquid form, where the blood vessels in the rectum absorb it into the blood system.

  • Advantages. It is an effective form of medication, especially when the patient has a problem in the rectum and it is necessary to have a localized form of medication. It offers an effective way of administering antiemetic for patients suffering from nausea and vomiting (Thyme, 2013). It is also an appropriate approach when administering paracetamol and when treating patients with pyrexia who are unable to swallow
  • Disadvantages. The main challenge when it comes to using this route of drug administration is the low levels of its acceptability. Not many patients often approve of it primarily because of the awkwardness and societal perceptions. The drug administration through this form can only be conducted by a medical expert, and sometimes it may require special instruments. Only limited types of medication can be administered through this approach.

Topical Administration

This form of drug administration entails the direct application of the medicine to the body surfaces, especially the skin or mucous membrane, to treat a problem (Perry, Potter, & Ostendorf, 2016). It involves using gels, creams, foams, ointments, or lotions for treatment. It is often used to manage prophylaxis of angina and hormonal replacement (Blythe & Buchan, 2016).

  • Advantages. It is an effective way of treating localized diseases, especially skin diseases affecting a specific part of the body. When used, the systematic circulation may not be reached to a greater concentration, hence reducing the risk of systematic side effects (MacDonald, 2016). It can be self-administered as long as one has the prescription from the doctor. It is an appropriate form of drug administration when the risk of side effects is high if the drug is taken orally or through injection.
  • Disadvantages. The main weakness of this form of medication is that it may not be effective enough to treat conditions in the internal organs of the body. Sometimes the patient may have severe side effects if the skin reacts to the medication negatively. Care must be taken to understand the nature of one’s skin and its ability to withstand such topical applications.

Parenteral Administration

According to MacDonald (2016), parenteral administration of drugs refers to non-oral approach of administering medication into the body. It involves direct injection of drugs into the body, bypassing the membranes of skin and mucous (Miller & Wirwicz, 2015). Common parenteral administration routes include subcutaneous (SC), intramuscular (IM), and intravenous (IV) modes.

  • Advantages. Drugs taken through this route have 100% absorption rate into the blood system because they are delivered directly to the blood vessels. It also makes it possible to have immediate impact on the body as soon as they are administered. However, if it is necessary to have delayed or slow onset of action, subcutaneous or intramuscular method can be used instead of intravenous method. The method can be used with a patient in any condition, including unconscious patients who are unable to take oral medication properly. Given that a medical practitioner administers the drug, the problem of patient compliance is eliminated.
  • Disadvantages. It is a relatively costly method of delivering drugs because it requires the services of a trained medical staff to help in administering it. The process is painful and as such, some patients often resist this mode of delivering drugs. In the past when patients were forced to share syringes and needles, they would be exposed to viruses or any other pathogens in case proper sterilization was not conducted. Currently, the syringes and needles are not reused, which means that medical wastes are huge. The wastes pose a serious threat to the environment, especially if not disposed in a proper way.

Enteral Feeding Tubes

Administration of drugs through enteral feeding tubes is a rare route that is taken only when the other routes are not effective enough. It involves using the feeding tubes to deliver drugs directly into a patient’s stomach, duodenum, or jejunum (Bonewit-West, Hunt, & Applegate, 2013). A pharmacist should be involved when administering a medication through this approach.

  • Advantages. It is an effective way of administering drugs that should be taken orally when a patient has a problem of voluntarily ingesting food and medicine caused by gut dysfunction and chronic mechanical or neurological dysphagia (Miller & Wirwicz, 2015). It is also an effective way of delivering drugs to a specific localized area within the digestive system for optimal outcome.
  • Disadvantages. This form of drug administration is complex in nature and can only be administered under directives of a pharmacist. It is an expensive method of delivering a drug into the body system because of the instruments involved and the expertise needed. MacDonald (2016) says that medicines administered through this process are rare to find and often cost more compared with other alternatives. The process of inserting the tubes deep into the system may cause physical damage to the stomach or intestinal walls if proper care is not taken.


When taking medication, different routes may be used based on a number of factors. The ability of a patient to take drugs orally, the impact needed from the drug, the specific location within the body where the drug is needed, and the possible side effects are some of the fundamental factors that are often considered when choosing the mode of application. When the right mode is chosen, then the expected clinical impact can be achieved. Some routes are more complex and expensive than others based on the level of expertise needed, the instruments used, and availability of the medicine. Patients in different conditions may require different routes of drug delivery. The factor that should guide the clinician when administering drugs is the ability of the chosen route to have the best therapeutic impact on the patient. The researcher prefers the use of parenteral administration because it has immediate impacts on a patient and it can be used when handling varying conditions.


Blythe, A., & Buchan, J. (2016). Essential primary care. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell.

Bonewit-West, K., Hunt, S. A., & Applegate, E. J. (2013). Today’s medical assistant: Clinical & administrative procedures. St. Louis, MO: Saunders.

MacDonald, R. (2016). Nancy Caroline’s emergency care in the streets. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Miller, M. A., & Wirwicz, D. C. (2015). You can teach advanced med-surg nursing: The authoritative guide and toolkit for the advanced medical-surgical nursing clinical instructor. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.

Perry, A., Potter, P., & Ostendorf, W. (2016). Nursing interventions & clinical skills. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier.

Thyme, J. (2013). Restless Legs Syndrome. Cork, UK: Book Baby.

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