Dose and Dosage of Medications

Coloured capsules and tablets
Science Photo Library / Getty Images

Although people often use dose and dosage interchangeably, these terms have very different meanings.


According to the AMA Manual of Style, which is the definitive guide on medical writing and style, dose and dosage are very different:

A dose is the quantity to be administered at one time, or the total quantity administered during a specified period.

Dosage implies a regimen; it is the regulated administration of individual doses and is usually expressed as a quantity per unit of time.

Furthermore, the AMA defines drug doses as follows:

"Drug doses are expressed in conventional metric mass units (eg, milligrams or milligrams per kilogram), rather than in molar SI units. Moreover, certain drugs (such as insulin or heparin) may be prepared as mixtures and have no specific molecular weight, thereby precluding their expression in mass units. Although other drug dose units such as drops (for ophthalmologic preparations), grains (for aspirin), and various apothecary system measurements (eg, teaspoonfuls, ounces, and drams) may be encountered clinically, these units generally are not used."

In other words, a dose is simply an amount (think weight) of a medication which is administered at one specific time. Whereas, a dosage is the dose, or amount of drug, attached to a time frequency.

A dosage guides a drug regimen.

Tylenol Dose and Dosages

Different types of Tylenol (acetaminophen) come in different doses. Choice of which specific type, or dose, of Tylenol, depends on the condition being treated. Dosages also vary by the condition being treated.

Here are some different dosages of Tylenol dosages:

  • For minor aches and pains, take 2 tablets of Regular Strength Tylenol (dose 325 mg each tablet) every 4 to 6 hours as needed (q4 to q6 PRN). Do not exceed more than 10 tablets in 24 hours, and if the pain persists for more than a day or two, see a physician.
  • For more severe aches and pains (like a bad headache), take 2 Extra Strength Tylenol caplets (dose 600 mg each caplet) every 6 hours as needed (q6 PRN). Do not exceed more than 6 caplets a day. If pain persists for more than a day or two, see a physician.
  • For arthritis pain, take 2 Tylenol Arthritis Pain caplets (dose 650 mg each caplet) every 8 hours as needed (q8 PRN). Do not exceed more than 6 caplets a day.

Other Examples

Glucophage (metformin) is an oral prescription medication commonly used to treat type 2 diabetes. A common dosage of Glucophage for people newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes is one 500 mg. (the dose) twice a day (the interval).

Each tablet of Tylenol PM contains 500 mg. (the dose) of acetaminophen, for pain relief, and 25 mg. (the dose) of diphenhydramine, a nighttime sleep aid. The drug facts label of this over-the-counter medication recommends that adults and children over age 12 years take a dosage 2 tablets at bedtime (the interval).

Content edited by Naveed Saleh, MD, MS, on 1/30/2016.


AMA Manual of Style, Oxford University Press, 10th edition, 2007.