Modes of Administration

The way in which a drug affects the mind and body is determined by the way in which it is administered.  Drugs must, eventually, enter the bloodstream to have an effect.  How long the drug lasts (determined by the drug itself and how it enters the bloodstream), how fast it acts (how direct the route to the bloodstream), how the drug acts (specific effects tied to the type of drug), and intensity of the effect (how much of a drug is consumed and whether or not the drug is “cut” with other substances) are all factors that contribute to the way in which a drug affects the mind and body.

Let’s look specifically at how fast a drug acts which is directly impacted by mode of administration.  There are five ways someone can ingest or consume a drug, listed in order of slowest to fastest acting.

  • Transdermal (absorption through the skin, e.g., nicotine patch)
  • Anal/rectal
  • Oral
  • Inhalation
  • Injection

Injection provides a direct route to the bloodstream, while the transdermal mode of administration requires an indirect and much slower process.  There are various risks associated with the various modes of administration as well. For example, injection drug users are at increased risk for transmission of diseases such as hepatitis and HIV.