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OTC or Prescription? How to Decide Which Option Is Best for You

OTC or Prescription: Over-the-counter or prescription medications — it can be a toss-up deciding which one is best for your specific needs. There are some instances where products are available OTC to serve your needs. In other cases, a prescription is required to address the underlying issue. The answer will often depend entirely on your specific circumstances.

So, how do you go about deciding which option is best for you? Here are six things you should consider when deciding between OTC and prescription.

1. Do Research to Understand Your Options

People often know the issue they’re experiencing but don’t know the best method for treating it. This usually ends badly, by making a rash decision about a medication and hoping that it works. If you really want to see results, though, it might require more than just a trip to the drugstore.

Whether you end up purchasing an over-the-counter treatment or opting for a prescription, it’s important to do research. This will help you understand all the possibilities and choose the right one for you. For example, if acne is your concern, research what acne treatments are available.

What are common treatments for your specific acne concerns? What active ingredients are important to look for? There are several important questions to address, and doing your research will help you find answers.

2. Consider the Costs of Each Treatment

Every treatment comes with associated costs, and this is an important consideration when making your decision. Moreover, the cost of a prescription can sometimes be higher if you don’t have medical insurance. Decide if you are willing to cover the costs of the treatments that appeal the most to you. If the cost is too much of a concern, it may be worth looking into other options.

Whether you’re paying out-of-pocket or with insurance for a prescription, also think about the return on investment. Just because something costs more doesn’t necessarily make it the less appealing choice. Is an OTC medication really going to solve the underlying issue? Or, are you just masking the symptoms? A prescription might cost more, but it could also make your problem nonexistent. You can’t really put a price on that.

3. Determine How You Can Access the Medication

When doing research, make sure you determine how and where you can gain access to a medication. Does your local drug store carry it? Or, will this require a doctor’s visit? Ease of access is important to everyone. Sometimes you’d be surprised at how simple it can be sometimes to get your hands on the product you need.

Prescription medications deter some people away because visiting a doctor feels like an inconvenience. However, it’s worth noting that an in-person doctor’s visit isn’t always necessary to gain access to a treatment. Telehealth companies offer online consultations, providing a more convenient option and saving you the trouble of finding a doctor. The best part? They typically offer lower out-of-pocket costs and accept most insurance.

4. Study Up On the Strength and Dosage of Each Medication

Without the advice of a medical professional, it can be hard to know the strength that your medication should be. But you should have a pretty good idea. The strength of your medicine will depend on things like the severity of your concern as well as your weight.

Many medicine labels have recommended dosages. These may increase with weight or decrease with age. The labels also have warnings to avoid taking too much of a certain medication. You can also look at the strength of other medications you’ve taken in the past. If a medication isn’t working, you might increase dosage or try something different altogether.

5. Understand Side Effects and Possible Risks

Every medication carries a certain amount of risk and has the potential to cause side effects. It’s important to know the possible risks and side effects before starting something new. First off, are you allergic to any medications? A drug allergy is possible with any type of medication, even OTC or herbal. Knowing your health history and factoring that into your decision is crucial.

While side effects are typically things like stomach ache, drowsiness, or dry mouth, risks can be more serious. Common risks include organ damage, especially to the liver. Risks can also increase if you fall within certain categories. For example, some medications aren’t safe to take if you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant. If you’re not the right candidate, a medication can actually do more harm than good.

6. Decide Which Route of Administration You Prefer

If you have a preferred route of drug administration, you can allow that to factor into your decision as well. Just know that when it comes to the medication that works best, you may not always get a choice. At the end of the day, treating the problem may be more important than how it’s administered.

For example, with acne medications, you usually have two choices. You can go the oral route and take pills. Or, you can opt for topical treatments that target acne directly where it’s at — on the skin. You might have a preferred method, but which one will address your skin concerns the best? Consider your preferences and the best treatment option when making a decision.

When deciding on OTC versus prescription treatments, everyone will have their own thoughts and opinions. But at the end of the day, you know your needs better than anyone else. When choosing a treatment, you should be the one who ultimately decides what is best. But don’t worry, with a little research and a lot of thought, you’re sure to make the right decision.

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