Have you just picked up your prescription and want to confirm the pharmacist dispensed the correct drug? Perhaps you’re caring for an elderly parent and need to know you’re giving them the right pills at different times of the day. In some cases, you may come across an unknown pill on the street or even in your mailbox.
Whatever the scenario, learning how to use a pill identifier to recognize a pill can keep you and your loved ones safe—especially at a time when potentially deadly fentanyl pills are popping up all over the country. In many cases it’s possible to use the following identifiers to determine what pill you may be dealing with. If ever in doubt, do not take the pill. Instead, speak with your pharmacist or doctor first to get a professional opinion.
When Would You Need to Identify a Pill?
There are various situations in which you may find yourself needing to identify a pill for safety reasons:
- Finding a pill in a child’s room or on the street
- Caring for an elderly relative or administering medication for a sick friend
- Cleaning up a spill in your bathroom or medicine cabinet
- When picking up a prescription drug from a new pharmacy to confirm it’s correct
- Placing your pills in an organizer or travel container
No matter what the circumstances, there may come a time when it’s lifesaving to identify a pill correctly. Here’s how to identify medicine and pharmaceutical pills when they’re not in a marked container.
Learn the Signifiers of Pills
Provided the pill isn’t counterfeit, it’s fairly straightforward to identify a pill based on three components:
Pattern refers to whether the pill is lined, two-toned, speckled or has other unique visual features. These attributes may separate it from another of the same shape and color. Every legal pill also has a unique identifier. The pill identifier is a combination of letters and numbers on the pill itself.
Use Pill Identifiers
Use the information you gain from examining the pill and looking at the identifier. Then, go online and use a pill identifier by code tool to determine which medication you’re dealing with.
Once you’re on a site that’s FDA-approved to identify pills, you’ll be prompted to put in some information about the pill in question. This may include identifying its shape or color or inputting the pill identifier by code (sometimes called an imprint). The best way to do this is to start by typing in the imprint code. Then, select the color and shape that best match the pill you have in front of you.
After inputting the drug information, you should be given a list of search results to choose from. The list contains all FDA-approved pills that match your description. You’ll be able to view photos of the pills to reference as a comparison with your own. Read the names of each one and what they’re used for to help you narrow it down.
If your search doesn’t turn up any results, consider checking the identifier code again and retyping it. With such small font, it’s easy to misread or simply make a mistake when inputting the letters and numbers.
Some of the most reputable online pill identifier resources are:
If you still can’t determine what you have, don’t consume the medication.
What Are The Risks of Consuming an Unknown Pill?
It may seem like common sense, but you should never consume a pill unless you can identify it. Depending on what the unknown pill is, it could interact with other medications in your system. You also could experience unpleasant side effects that may be hazardous. This may occur if it’s a medication that’s unsafe for you to take, such as due to a preexisting condition.
For some individuals, certain medications are dangerous because of their existing medical conditions. In extreme cases, consuming an unknown pill may lead to significant health consequences or even death.
If you can’t identify it, bring it to your doctor or pharmacy to get a professional opinion. It’s critical to have a clear determination of what you’re dealing with. If you decide not to take the pill you can’t identify, don’t throw it away or flush it down the toilet. Medication needs to be properly disposed of so animals or children don’t accidentally consume it at a later date.
It may seem harmless to flush a pill down the toilet, but you must remember that flushed drugs can make their way into public water supplies. This includes groundwater and nearby lakes and streams. Water filtration systems may not remove all chemicals found in water, meaning your medication may eventually impact someone else. Medications on the FDA’s flush list are exceptions that can’t be safely stored at home or taken to a collector. Fentanyl patches are one example.
The FDA provides suggestions for the safe disposal of unused medications. These include:
- Take-back programs offered by authorized DEA collectors
- Disposing of a ground-up medication mixed into dirt or coffee grounds — it should be sealed in a container or plastic bag
- Recycling facilities — for inhalers or empty pill bottles
If you follow the steps on the second bullet point, the container or sealed bag can be thrown in the trash. Once you’ve identified an unknown pill, be sure to follow the FDA guidelines for its proper use or safe disposal.
Support For Medication Addictions
Are you struggling with pill identification in your home due to a prescription medication addiction or abuse problem? At FHE Health, our compassionate team of healthcare professionals may be able to help. Together, we can develop a treatment plan to help you get your life back on track. Call us today at (833) 596-3502 to find out more.