Do You Need Medication?

Medication has become an integral part of health and wellness. Enter any of the thousands of pharmacies nationwide, and there will be a multitude of medicines and supplements of varying brands to address almost every ailment. At the core, the medication choices are down to 2 areas, namely over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and prescription drugs. Studies show that 90% of Americans use at least 1 OTC drug, while 45% use prescription drugs. Knowing when to choose OTC vs prescription medicine can help effectively manage one’s health.



Over-the-counter drugs are medicines that can be purchased and accessed without a prescription. These are drugs that come in low doses, are mass-produced, and are usually inexpensive. Convenience stores and supermarkets are also allowed to sell OTC medications. OTC medicines are deemed safe to consume when used as directed. These can be taken by mouth or applied topically. OTC drugs address mild to moderate symptoms or health concerns. Common OTC drugs treat pain, colds and viruses, muscle aches, mild skin irritations, gastrointestinal troubles, and allergies. OTC drugs are popular due to ease of access, clear instructions, and the ability for the user to take ownership of mild health troubles.

The role of prescription medication

Prescription medications are more potent drugs that help treat moderate to severe health concerns. These drugs are essential for supporting the long-term health of an individual. Prescription drugs require written approval from a healthcare professional, particularly a licensed doctor. In some cases, pharmacists can dispense prescription medication. Prescription medication is often more expensive due to higher potency, advanced research, and complications in production. Unlike OTC drugs, when misused, these drugs can have addictive tendencies or severe, even deadly consequences. Therefore, prescription medication is only dispensed to patients in set dosages for a pre-defined period, such as a month. Examples include opioids for pain management, antibiotics, antidepressants, sleep aids, and chronic disease management.

When should you choose OTC products?

OTC drugs work best for those who are in good health but are experiencing mild symptoms or health challenges. Headaches, migraines, the common cold, or allergic reactions are common examples. OTC drugs are easy to use and have enough active medicine to ease or alleviate the symptoms. Using OTC medicine requires self-diagnosis or the support of a pharmacist, as inappropriate use can lead to worsening symptoms. Once the issue is mild and does not require the expertise of a healthcare professional, OTC works best.

Do you need a prescription?

Prescription medication addresses chronic issues. For instance, if the individual has been struggling with symptoms for weeks or months, prescription treatment can help. These options are often more potent than OTC alternatives. Prescription medication is also essential after specific circumstances like surgery, sports injuries, or medical diagnoses. Some conditions also require tailored treatment plans. A doctor can construct a medical strategy using multiple prescriptions. The stronger doses in prescriptions can help manage these complex issues more effectively.

Guidelines for OTC medication

Choose the medication that aligns with the symptoms experienced for the best results. Purchase medication that has a strong reputation for ease of use and safety. For the best results, follow the dosage instructions on the back of the product. Even if the medication fails to bring relief, stick to the dosage instructions. Be mindful of interactions with other drugs, food, or alcohol. Follow all instructions diligently and seek medical assistance if symptoms persist or worsen. A doctor can then recommend changing the OTC medication or moving to prescription options.

Choose your medication wisely

OTC and prescription drugs have vital roles in the medical realm. Both serve to treat issues or symptoms ranging from mild to severe. With OTC drugs, self-assessment is vital. Try the recommended dose and monitor symptoms closely for changes. If the issue persists or other symptoms appear, seek medical help immediately. Prescription drugs may be more effective at this point.


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