Common Pharmacological Dosage Abbreviations

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  • 0:02 Pharmacological Abbreviations
  • 0:43 General Dosage Abbreviations
  • 2:14 Abbreviations for How Much
  • 3:40 Abbreviations for How Often
  • 6:55 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has taught high school and college biology and has a master's degree in cancer biology.

We are going to look at some of the abbreviations that are used in order to communicate dosage in pharmacology. We will look at how they are used and their meanings.

Pharmacological Abbreviations

Have you ever looked at your prescription and attempted to understand what it was saying? Prescriptions are difficult to understand until you become familiar with the abbreviations that are used when prescriptions are written. Pharmacological abbreviations are a very efficient way to explain how medications should be dispensed to people. There are abbreviations that tell how to administer the medications and dosage for the medications.

We're going to go over several abbreviations for dosage in this lesson. I advise you to create flashcards as we go through this lesson to help you memorize the abbreviations. The abbreviation should appear on one side of the card and the meaning on the other side. Studying these regularly is your best tool for knowing these abbreviations like the back of your hand.

General Dosage Abbreviations

The dosage for a medication tells how much and how often a medication should be given. There are several abbreviations to help communicate this information. The abbreviation for average daily dose is ADD. This is for documentation of medications that are given over time.

Water is abbreviated as aq, which is short for the word aqueous. aq is used for explaining how medication should be taken or what it should be mixed with. Aqueous is close to aquatic, so you may be able to remember this if you think about aquatic parks having water.

The abbreviation D.A.W informs a pharmacist to dispense as written, meaning to not use alternatives or generic forms of a medication. In other words, no changes should be made to a prescription.

If OD is used to mean overdose, the name of the drug will usually follow if it has been determined, and this is usually only seen in the ER. You will have to pay close attention with this abbreviation since it could also mean right eye.

You may have heard the abbreviation STAT before if you have watched any of the medical dramas on TV over the years. It means immediately. This can be an oral order or a written doctor's order. In pharmacology, it lets you know that the medication should be started right away.

Abbreviations for How Much

ad lib is short for as much as desired. It can also be used for medications if there isn't a set schedule for the medicine and overdosing isn't possible, like with gum-numbing agents and certain skin creams.

The abbreviation amp is used for ampule. This is used to let someone know that the medication is given from an ampule, which is already a set dose.

cc means cubic centimeters and is used in measurements for liquid medications that are to be given in small amounts.

gt is the abbreviation that means drop, while gtt is the abbreviation that means drops. This is normally associated with administering medications in small amounts or to the eyes and/or ears.

mL means the same thing in pharmacological abbreviations as it does normally. It means milliliters.

ss is used to indicate one half. It is most likely to appear when half of a pill should be taken.

The abbreviation tab is short for tablet. This isn't something that you write on, but instead refers to a type of pill.

XL is the abbreviation for extended release. This is used for medications that continue to release a dose over time so the effects are evened out for an extended period of time.

Abbreviations for How Often

You should learn now and keep it in mind that a few letters will usually have the same meaning when you see them in an abbreviation:

  • h is used to indicate hour.
  • q is used to indicate every.
  • d is used to indicate day.

There are few exceptions to this rule. alt. h. indicates that something should be done every other hour. This is used to advise how often some medications should be given.

When a doctor wants a patient to take a medication at bedtime, then the abbreviation hs will be used.

The abbreviation qAM means every morning. This lets you know the medication is to be taken once a day in the morning, usually when a person wakes up.

q2h means every two hours. The number in the middle can be changed based on the prescription. q12h is normally the highest that it goes and means every 12 hours.

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