Major Forms of Drug Administration

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  • 0:20 Enteral vs. Parenteral
  • 1:10 Enteral Forms
  • 2:44 Parenteral Forms
  • 5:18 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

There are so many different ways a drug can be administered onto or into the body! Learn the most important ways and methods in this lesson, including many of the most common enteral and parenteral routes.

Enteral vs. Parenteral

If you go to the doctor's office and are given some sort of medication, you're most likely going to be given that medication via a tablet or as some sort of shot or injection. Those are just some forms of drug administration, of course, and this lesson will cover many more. But they are really good representations of two of the general methods of drug administration: enteral and parenteral.

Enteral, in this lesson's case, implies administration of a substance via the alimentary canal. The alimentary canal is just a more technical term for the digestive or gastrointestinal tract. The word enteral comes from 'enter/o,' which means intestines.

Parenteral is then a route of administration of a substance into an organism other than through the alimentary canal. To remember these two differences, I think of it this way. The word enteral gives its definition away. 'Enter'-'al' has drugs 'enter' the 'al'imentary canal. By default, parenteral is everything else.

In that spirit, let's go over the major forms of drug administration.

Enteral Forms

Look, you have two natural ways by which something can enter the alimentary canal. One is your mouth and the other one is the place you sit on. Realizing this, let's go over some of the different ways we can administer medication enterally.

Rectal administration is the insertion of medication into the rectum. This can either be something like a liquid or a suppository. A suppository is this semisolid form of a drug that melts once it reaches body temperature, and the drug is then absorbed by the surrounding tissue.

On the other end of the digestive tract, oral drug administration mainly refers to medication that you take by mouth in order to have it take action in, or be absorbed by, the stomach or intestines. So, stuff like pills, or tablets, or syrups and the like would count towards oral administration!

However, you can take drugs orally, that is to say by mouth and have them be absorbed into the body in the mouth itself. If you've ever taken a sublingual tablet, then you know what I mean. This tablet dissolves in the mouth and is absorbed by the tissues of the mouth.

Similar tablets placed between the gums and cheek exist as well, a form of administration called buccal (cheek) administration. The word sublingual means 'under the tongue.' 'Sub-' means under, like a submarine moves under the water, and 'lingual' means pertaining to the tongue. Think: 'lingua' is close to language, for which you need a tongue to speak, in most cases.

Parenteral Forms

`Now, the word 'parenteral' implies a route or form of drug administration that is anything other than an enteral route or form. This includes topical medication and inhalation medication in addition to others. Some people like to split topical and inhalation administration away from the other parenteral forms. However, this lesson isn't about such nuances. Let's examine the non-enteral forms of drug administration.

Topical medication includes things like liquids and ointments that are administered onto a body surface, like the skin, in order to treat that area only. For instance, if you have a rash from poison ivy, you might rub an anti-itch cream to stop the itch in that specific area.

Please make sure to note that topical medication is not the same thing as transdermal medication! Transdermal comes from 'trans-,' which means through, and 'derm-,' which means skin. So, it's delivered through the skin.

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