How to Identify Unknown Pills and Medications

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Did you find a pill on the ground and you don't know what it is? You may have received a new prescription from your pharmacist and want to confirm that it is the correct medicine. There are several easy ways to identify pills, tablets, and capsules, all of which can be done safely online.

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Each tablet is unique

If the drug is not a good counterfeit , the identification process is very simple. By law, each FDA-approved tablet, tablet, or capsule must be different from the others. This is done on purpose to facilitate the identification of each tablet.

The design of the tablet is a combination of:

  • The shape
  • Pattern (two-tone, striped, speckled, etc.)
  • Colors)

Each tablet will also have a unique identifier. They can include a combination of numbers and letters or the name of a drug. In some cases, you can also see the logo.

Use an online pill identification tool

Once you have identified these elements of the drug in question, go to the Pill Box on the web. It is run by the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, making it an online source you can trust.

Pill Box is an easy-to-use tool for entering pill design elements. Begin by typing the print you see, then choose the color and shape that best matches the tablet you are looking at. The tool also allows you to enter the size of the tablet and if it has scores, but this is not required.

You will then be presented with the results of the pills that match the description you provided. From there, you can view photos, find out the name of the drug and what it is used for.

Tip: If the tool does not produce any results, recheck the print. Some letters and numbers are difficult to distinguish, especially on very small tablets. Use a magnifying glass if necessary.

Still can't identify the pill?

There are several reasons why the pill ID might not recognize the pill you have. Most likely it is not an FDA approved drug. This means that you may be looking for an illegal drug, a fake, or even an alternative remedy.

You can take it to your pharmacist and ask for help. If you don't want to do this, throw it away. However, it is important to dispose of medications properly .

Do not simply throw it away, because another person or animal could find it and swallow it, which can cause serious problems.

As tempting as it may sound, don't flush pills down the toilet, either. Rinse medications can contaminate nearby waterways that you use every day for drinking and bathing. Water treatment systems cannot remove all chemicals from water. It also has a significant impact on the environment, including fish and wildlife.

Your best bet is to take the pill (and any unused medication that you no longer need) to a collection point authorized by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). These DEA collection points are located throughout USA; you can use its online search utility to find a nearby public repository.

Don't take an unfamiliar drug

You should never take a pill that you have not prescribed or that you cannot buy without a prescription (OTC). It is even less advisable to take the drug if you don't know what it is. It is always best to speak with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any medication.

Various medications, dietary supplements, and alternative remedies can cause serious health problems, even when approved for use or without a prescription. By taking an unfamiliar pill, you risk drug interactions, complications from your current health condition, and unregulated counterfeit drugs.

The FDA is a great resource for advice on how to take your medications safely. Just remember, if you don't know, don't swallow.

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