Back before the COVID-19 pandemic, getting most medications could be a massive hassle. First, you had to make an appointment with your primary care physician — if you had one. Otherwise, you had to wait in a long line at an urgent care clinic. When you finally got a prescription, you had to pick it up and pay at your pharmacy. If you were lucky, they didn’t surprise you with a huge out-of-pocket cost.
Now, we live in simpler times. You can get everything from potato chips to sofa beds delivered to your doorstep the same day. Thankfully, many prescriptions have come along for the ride. With a few simple clicks, you can make an appointment with a healthcare provider and get diagnosed online. Costs are more transparent, and in many cases, home medication delivery is available. Here are the major categories of pills that are safe and available online.
1. Birth Control and the Morning After Pill
Emergency contraceptives have been available over-the-counter for a while. But standard morning after pills like Plan B One Step and Next Choice (levonorgestrel) aren’t typically as effective as other birth control options. This is especially true for women over 165 lbs. They also only work until about three days after intercourse. If you weigh up to 195 lbs or need more time, you can get a prescription for Ella (ulipristal) online. It’s more effective in women with higher BMIs and works for up to five days after sex.
You can also get regular, monthly birth control pills prescribed online. This includes a huge range of combination pills (containing estrogen and progestin) and progestin-only pills. Progestin-only pills are safer for people at risk for blood clots and certain other medical issues. Both regular oral contraceptives and emergency contraceptives are safe to have prescribed online. It’s also possible to get emergency contraceptives at any time and save them for later use.
2. Depression and Anxiety Medications
Online healthcare providers can screen for depression, seasonal affective disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, anxiety disorders, and more. If it’s medically appropriate in your case, they can prescribe medications like SSRIs or SNRIs. These medications are taken daily and can prevent or control your symptoms. Controlled substances, like benzodiazepines or the stimulants contained in adderall, aren’t usually available for online prescription. For conditions that require these medications, you’ll need to seek other treatment.
Mental health conditions often benefit from a combination of medication and therapy. If you are seeing a therapist, consult with them before seeking online medications. If you have severe symptoms or might be at risk for suicide or self-harm, do not rely solely on online prescriptions. If you need crisis response for a mental health issue, call 911 or call or text the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988. The Lifeline is free and confidential.
3. Erectile Dysfunction Meds
Around 40% of men experience symptoms of erectile dysfunction by age 40. Fortunately, pills like Viagra and Cialis are readily available with an online prescription. Some are taken daily, while others are used only as needed — usually between 2 hours and 30 minutes before sexual activity. Be aware that ED can sometimes be a symptom of an underlying condition like hypertension or diabetes. Treating the primary condition may make your ED go away without additional medication.
While most ED meds are generally safe, they can have some surprising side effects. These might include headaches, backaches, hearing loss, vision changes, or redness of the skin. There is also the possibility of a rare and dangerous side effect called priapism, where an erection lasts too long. If you have an erection that lasts for more than four hours, you need to go to the hospital. Untreated priapism can lead to scarring, damaged penile tissue, and worsened ED symptoms.
4. STIs, UTIs, and HIV Treatments
Many common sexually transmitted infections can be treated at home with online prescriptions. In some states, you can even order an STI test kit online and ship your materials in for analysis. Home testing — if it’s allowed in your area — is available for conditions like gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis. Once you get your results, an online provider can prescribe pills and other medications. You can also speak with a provider to get a diagnosis and prescription for a urinary tract infection.
If you’re worried about preventing HIV, you can get pre-exposure prophylaxis, aka PrEP, online. PrEP does, however, require HIV screening every three months. Some providers may not be able to send and receive home test kits from certain areas, like Alaska and Puerto Rico. The good news is, unlike most STI testing, home HIV testing is commercially available over-the-counter throughout the U.S. If you are diagnosed with HIV, you will need to get care in person.
5. Antibiotics and Refills for Chronic Conditions
Antibiotics can be used to treat a number of conditions, from acne to urinary tract infections. They’re also good to bring along if you’re traveling internationally or going on an outdoor adventure. Special travelers’ antibiotics kits are available with an online prescription, to treat common conditions like travelers’ diarrhea. These kits are also useful for people who live off the grid or in remote areas far from healthcare facilities.
If you have a chronic condition like migraines or hypertension, you may be able to get medications and refills online as well. Note that you may still need regular care and management besides just your prescriptions. For example, if you have chronic migraines or headaches, you could need regular monitoring for possible neurological issues. If you have hypertension, you’ll need to check your blood pressure frequently and speak with a healthcare provider regularly. You may also need to make certain lifestyle changes.
Care is More Convenient Than Ever
With so many options for online diagnosis and treatment, it’s easier than ever to get the care you need. But it’s also important to remember that not everything has an instant solution. If you’re experiencing symptoms of what might be a serious medical condition, it’s important to get the proper treatment. When in doubt, always make sure to speak to a healthcare provider. For anything urgent or emergent, go to the ER or call 911.