Oral Medication Therapy

The most common way people take medications is orally (by mouth). Depending on what your doctor has prescribed you, the medication you are taking will be swallowed, chewed or placed under the tongue to dissolve. Medications that are meant to be swallowed travel from your stomach or intestine into your bloodstream and then are carried to all parts of your body.

Tablets should always been taken with a drink of water and not another type of drink. For example, taking certain pills, such as Lipitor and Viagra, with grapefruit juice can cause potentially dangerous side effects. Additionally, milk can block the absorption of some antibiotics, such as Ciprofloxacin. Your healthcare provider or pharmacist will tell you if you should take your medication on an empty stomach or before or after eating.

This is very important since food in your stomach and intestine can interfere with your medication dissolving and passing into your bloodstream. Make sure to follow the directions on your prescription very carefully. Additionally, do not break, crush, or chew any capsule or tablet before swallowing. Many medications are long-acting or have a special coating and are intended to be swallowed whole. If you are not sure, ask your pharmacist. If you have trouble swallowing your medication, tell your doctor and pharmacist. They may be able to provide you with a liquid form of the medication or a pill that is smaller and easier to swallow.

As with any medication therapy, there are associated risks and potential side effects of the intrathecal medication delivery system. Please speak with your physician for more details.


Liquid medications are good for children and adults (especially older adults) who are not able to swallow tablets or capsules. Many liquid medications, including both prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs, are made for children and are flavored to mask the taste of the medication.

Before measuring the proper dose of liquid medication, make sure to shake the bottle as some of the medication may have “settled” at the bottom. Most often, you will be told to measure the medication using a teaspoon. To a doctor and pharmacist, this means 5 ml (milliliters) of medication. Many household teaspoons are different sizes and hold more or less than 5 ml. Therefore, you might get too much or too little medication on your spoon.

Measure your liquid medication carefully! Ask your pharmacist for a spoon, medicine cup, medicine dropper, or a syringe without a needle meant specifically for measuring medications. Your pharmacist can show you how to properly use these. Many over-the-counter liquid medications come with a small medicine cup attached to the top of the bottle. If the medication has been prescribed for an infant or young child, make sure to speak with your pediatrician about the proper dosage, or amount, of liquid medication for your child.

Sublingual and Buccal Medications

Certain medications are placed under the tongue (sublingual) or between the teeth and the cheek (buccal). These medications are absorbed quickly into the bloodstream through the lining of the mouth and are used to relieve symptoms almost immediately. Some examples of sublingual medications are Nitro-stat and other nitroglycerin preparations used to treat angina (chest pain) and Suboxone (bupronorphine with naloxone) used to treat addiction to heroin and narcotic painkillers.

Other Forms of Oral Medication

Although most oral medications are swallowed, some are released in the mouth by chewing, dissolving slowly or melting on the tongue. Many of these medications are sold over-the-counter. Chewable tablets should be chewed until they have dissolved completely. They are not meant to be swallowed. Examples of chewable tablets include Tylenol Chewable and many brands of children’s vitamins.

Chewing gum medications have a minimum time that they must be chewed to assure that the entire amount of drug has been released, often up to 30 minutes Lozenges are meant to be “sucked” on like hard candy and allowed to dissolve slowly in your mouth. They should not be swallowed. Softchew medications are meant to melt in your mouth or to be chewed.