How Long Does It Take For Medicine To Work (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 2 – 4 Weeks

Medicines are chemicals or compounds used to cure, halt, or prevent diseases. Medicines can also be used to ease medical symptoms or help in the diagnosis of illness or any ailment. Advances in medicines have enabled doctors to cure many diseases and save thousands of lives across the globe.

These days, medicines are prepared from various sources. Some are prepared from substances found in nature whereas others are synthesized in a laboratory by mixing several chemicals. Few medicines are even biologically engineered by inserting genes into bacteria that make them produce the desire substance to prepare the medicine.

However, just taking the medicine is not enough. Most medicines do not show their effects immediately. It can take several months or even years for certain medicines to show the effect on one’s body. Thus, it can be said that there is no fixed time interval as to when will the medicine start working. Every person is unique and will have a unique reaction to the medicine given to them.

How Long Does It Take For Medicine To Work


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How Long Does It Take For Medicine To Work?

When a person thinks about medicines, the most obvious answer that comes to mind is pills. However, medicines can be delivered in several different ways such as liquids that can be swallowed, drops that are put into ears or eyes, creams, gels, or ointments that are rubbed onto the skin, inhalers, tablets, injections, etc.

No medicine can be sold unless it has first been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The makers of the medicines test all new medicines and send the results to the FDA.

A dose of medication will reach a peak, or maximum, level in 30 minutes to 4 to 6 hours after it is taken. But certain medicines for severe ailments can take several days to show effects. The peak time varies for different drugs. The time between taking the medication and reaching the peak level can vary greatly from few hours to several months or even years.

The time taken by the medicine to start working depends on the specific medicine and the form it is in. For example, the time for the medicine to start working will vary depending on whether the medicine is in tablet, liquid, capsule, or slow-release form. Eating before a dose may also affect how long it takes for the medicine to work inside the body.

Forms of medicineTime
Medicines in liquid form4 – 6 hours
Medicines in slow-release form4 days – 2 weeks

Why Does It Take So Long For Medicines To Work?

Medicine does not always work instantly. For certain medications, it takes even years to show their effects. However, common prescription medicine prescribed by general practitioners shows their effects in about 2 – 3 weeks which can be said as the time most medicines start working.

A medicine’s half-life is the time it takes for its level in the blood to be reduced by one-half. The half-life of each medicine depends on how quickly it is broken down and gotten rid of from the body. How a medicine should be taken depends on the drug’s half-life.

Medicines with short half-lives ideally should be taken several times a day whereas medicines with long half-lives have more stable levels over several hours. This lets the medicine be taken less often. Also, as the person becomes older, changes happen in the body. One loses water and muscle too. Also, one’s kidney and liver may not pass the drugs as quickly through the system as they used to do when the person was younger.

Thus, medicines act differently in older people and may take a comparatively longer time to work and show their effect. One must always keep in mind that even if one starts feeling better, one should not stop taking the prescribed drug unless the doctor says so. It is important to complete the entire dosage of medicine as prescribed by the doctor.


No two medicines are the same. There are minute differences in every medicine that is prepared. They are numerous medicines available to treat common ailments but one cannot generalize and categorize them by the time they start working and showing their effects.

Every person reacts to medicines differently and what might work for one might not work in the same way for everybody else. One needs to be at the right dose for at least 2 – 3 weeks for the medicine to start working. If one has doubts regarding whether the medicine is working, it is best to speak to one’s doctor.



Last Updated : 23 February, 2024

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