The Reason Why Some Medications Are Prescription-Only and Others Not

prescription medications
You may not be aware of why some drugs, like opioids and opiates, can only be purchased with a prescription while others are readily available to you without one. Keep reading to learn why this difference exists, and what it means for patients.

You probably already know that you need a prescription to get some medications, but you can get others off a store shelf with no prescription required. The kind you can buy with no prescription is referred to as an over-the-counter medication. That’s because you can buy it without having to ask a pharmacist to get it for you.

Why are some medications prescription-only? 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other entities are always monitoring various drugs. They judge a drug that’s about to hit the market to see whether it has any legitimate medical purpose to warrant it being available.

If it doesn’t, it’s likely that the government will see fit to outlaw it. Drugs like methamphetamine, heroin, or cocaine are all examples of drugs that the government feels have no medical use.

Drugs that entities like the FDA feel have the potential for misuse are usually given a prescription-only status. Once a drug gets this designation, it will be stored behind the counter at a pharmacy, where you can only get it with a prescription. This is a way for it to be kept away from individuals who might use it to get high or for other illicit purposes.

The potential for addiction

Drugs like opioids are highly addictive and they are given the designation ‘prescription only’ because of this reason. If someone wants to use such a medication to get high, or overuse it when managing severe pain, it’s best that those drugs are kept away from these individuals.

Some pharmacies have even decided that it is best to keep such drugs in a locked safe to avoid thieves from gaining access to large quantities. Sadly, with the opioid epidemic raging in some parts of America, these prevention methods are becoming increasingly necessary.

Sometimes, Designations Change

Occasionally, a drug will have an over-the-counter or a prescription-only designation which changes as time goes on. For example, Laudanum, which was made with a heroin derivative, was once legal and sold by pharmacists. It is no longer made because of its high potential for addiction. Products containing cocaine were once sold regularly with no prescription required before doctors became aware of how addictive it was.

Drug designations are always changing and developing, but one thing remains certain. It is unlikely all drugs will ever be sold on an over-the-counter or prescription only basis. The two designations will remain as a way of trying to keep people from becoming addicted or getting themselves into trouble with various drugs.

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