Why Do I Have to Inject My Medication? And Why Medications Come in Different Forms Like Tablets, Liquids, Ointments, and Injectables

Prescription medications come in all different forms: pills, syrups, nasal sprays, creams, inhalants, injections, and more. Prescription Injectable medications are liquid drugs that are injected into the body using a needle and a syringe. These types of mediations can provoke feelings of intimidation and nervousness in patients who may wonder, “Why can’t I take my medication in pill form?” The way a medication is administered is determined by the diagnosis, the part of the body being treated, and the way the medication works inside the body.  

Why Do Doctors Prescribe Injectable Medications?

Some medications, when taken orally, are not absorbed well by the body. For example, insulin for the treatment of diabetes cannot be taken orally because it is destroyed in the stomach and the digestive tract. In this case, injectable insulin is useful because it enters the bloodstream quickly and is more effective. Prescription injectable medications are commonly prescribed for patients diagnosed with a chronic disorder, like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer.

Types of Injectable Medications

Injectable medications can be administered in different ways, according to the instructions outlined by each medication. The three most common types of injectable medications include:

  • Subcutaneous: Subcutaneous injections are administered into the fat layer underneath the skin, and allow for slow even absorption by the body. Common subcutaneous injection sites include the abdomen and the upper arm. 
  • Intramuscular: Intramuscular injections are administered deep into the muscle layer and are absorbed faster than subcutaneous injections. Common intramuscular injection sites are the upper arm, the outer thigh, and the buttocks. 
  • Intravenous: Intravenous injections are administered directly into the vein, eliminating the need for the body to absorb the medication.

Some types of injections can be self-administered at home, while others require administration by a healthcare professional. Injectable medications that need to be administered by a healthcare professional can be administered by a doctor, registered nurse, or, in some states, a pharmacist. Typically, subcutaneous and intramuscular injections can be self-administered by the patient, while intravenous injections require administration by a healthcare provider.

Tips for Injecting Medication

Before self-administering an injectable medication at home, practice with your doctor or pharmacist. Ask your doctor if your medication is available in an auto-injector pen, which may be easier to administer compared to a syringe. 

Below are some tips that may help make the injection process easier:

  • Consider using a numbing cream or place an ice cube at the injection site for one minute before injection.
  • Move the injection site (at least 1.5 inches from the previous injection site) to avoid developing scar tissue, which can make it more difficult to inject your medication.
  • Reward yourself after each injection. This may help you overcome the nerves that can oftentimes accompany injection. 

Make sure that you are well-versed in the standard injection technique before injecting your medication, including maintaining the cleanliness of your hands and the injection site and how to properly dispose of the needle and syringe. 

If you have questions about your medication or how to administer your injectable, talk to your doctor or your pharmacist.