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Medical Dumps for Writers: Medications and their Uses

Medications are commonly used in literature for a variety of reasons, but a lot of the time they get used wrong, which can pull anyone with some medical experience out of the story entirely. This list of common medications is a perfect reference for the medications your character might use in their story.

Pain Relief


Standard over-the-counter medications. Acetaminophen is the generic name for Tylenol in the US and paracetamol in the UK. It is used for fever relief. Typically comes in pill form OTC. Can be injected via IV in clinical settings.

Ibuprofen and Naproxen are NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), which means you use them for pain from inflammation (sore muscles? that’s an ibuprofen, not a Tylenol. Sprained ankle? probably Naproxen). These are pills OTC, can be injected via IV in clinical settings.


Also called Toradol. An injectable NSAID stronger than Ibuprofen and Naproxen. I think it might also come in pill form, but I’ve only had experience in IM injection with this medication. Most adults require two doses, which means it goes in the gluteal muscle. One dose can go into the arm. It feels like a burning sensation while injecting, turns into injection site soreness for about a day.



A short-acting medication that causes a decreased level of consciousness. It is given via IV. It’s a form of conscious sedation, meaning the doctor is talking to you and you’re awake, but you’ll never remember it. It takes 15-30 seconds to activate and lasts for 5-10 minutes. I’ve seen this used for quick procedures that you don’t want to go completely under for, like relocating a joint or setting a bone back in place.


Plan B

Take within 72 hours (preferably 24) of unprotected sex to delay ovulation. Side effects afterwards include cramping, nausea, and a heavier period. Fun fact: insertion of a copper IUD within the same time period also acts as a Plan B.

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