Routes of Drug Administration


A route of drug administration is the path by which a drug or other substance is brought into contact with the body. Drugs are introduced into the body by several routes. When administering a drug, the nurse should ensure that the pharmaceutical preparation is appropriate for the route specified.

Route Advantages Disadvantages 




  • Most convenient
  • Usually least expensive
  • Safe, does not break skin barrier
  • Administration usually does not cause stress









  • Inappropriate for patients with nausea and vomiting
  • Drug may have unpleasant taste or odor
  • Inappropriate when gastrointestinal tract has reduced motility
  • Inappropriate if patient cannot swallow or is unconscious
  • Cannot be used before certain diagnostic tests or surgical procedures
  • Drug may discolor teeth, harm tooth enamel
  • Drug may irritate gastric mucosa
  • Drug can be aspirated by seriously ill patients









  • Same as oral route, plus
  • Drug can be administered for local effect
  • More potent than oral route because drug directly enters the blood and bypasses the liver





  • If swallowed, drug may be inactivated by gastric juice
  • Drug must remain under tongue until dissolved and absorbed
  • Drug is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream







  • Same as sublingual


  • Same as sublingual






  • Can be used when drug has objectionable taste or odor
  • Drug released at slow, steady rate


  • Dose absorbed is unpredictable








  • Provides a local therapeutic effect



  • Limited use





  • Provides a local effect
  • Few side effects
  • Maybe be messy and may soil clothes
  • Drug can enter body through abrasions and cause systemic effects




  • Prolonged systemic effect
  • Few side effects
  • Avoids gastrointestinal absorption problems


  • Leaves residue on the skin that may soil clothes




  • Onset of drug action faster than oral


  • Must involve sterile technique because breaks skin barrier
  • More expensive than oral
  • Can administer only small volume
  • Slower than intramuscular administration
  • Some drugs can irritate tissues and cause pain
  • Can produce anxiety




  • Pain from irritating drugs is minimized
  • Can administer larger volume than subcutaneous
  • Drug is rapidly absorbed
  • Breaks skin barrier
  • Can produce anxiety




  • Absorption is slow (this is an advantage in testing for allergies)


  • Amount of drug administered must be small
  • Breaks skin barrier




  • Rapid effect


  • Limited to highly soluble drugs
  • Drug distribution inhibited by poor circulation




  • Introduces drug throughout respiratory tract
  • Rapid localized relief
  • Drug can be administered to unconscious client


  • Drug intended for localized effect can have systemic effect
  • Of use only for the respiratory system