ID An Unknown Pill

Ever find a pill in your medicine cabinet and forget what it is and how it got there? To the rescue comes Pillbox, a site that helps you identify unknown pills. Just select a few criteria, like shape, size, scoring and marking, and it tells you what kind of pill it is. Neat!

The National Library of Medicine project is in beta and is not intended for clinical use, so you should verify your findings with a pharmacist.

pillbox.nlm.nih.gov [Official Site]

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  1. Miss Dev (The Beer Sherpa) says:

    This site was very helpful for me just last week when I accidentally spilled several (poorly closed) bottles of prescription meds out of my cabinet. Two bottles were mine and one was my partner’s. I was able to successfully re-sort them into their appropriate bottles and avoid mis-dosing on the drugs.

    Although, he seemed a little upset that I was able to separate my pain pills from his cough medication.

  2. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    I can’t be the only person who finds the slideshows of medication to be oddly soothing and artistic. I started out by looking up some random meds I found last week, but now I’ve totally forgotten about that and I’m just scrolling through the different combination of medications. Such colors and artistry in pill design!

  3. remf3 says:

    I’ve found that many times you can type the imprint of the pill directly in to Google and get pretty good results. I work as an ER nurse and many times have pulled handfuls of random pills out of a patient’s pocket. There are a lot of websites that help kids identify the “fun” pills and they are pretty thorough, including color, shape, scoring and any imprints.

    It’s nice that there is a good pill identifier out there that isn’t associated with a pro-drug use site.

    Another option for people out there is to call poison control. They can help identify pills over the phone and do a pretty good job.

  4. Alvis says:

    No entry for this yellow one with orange speckles shaped like Decepticon head. Oh well, probably just some generic ibuprofen.

    • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

      I thought that was the Children’s Chewable Morphine.

    • ARP says:

      I think you need to go to dancesafe (RIP) to get the information on that kind of pill. My favorite ones (to look at) were ones with a Mitsubishi symbol.

  5. mattarse says:

    Hmm not able to identify these pills with the Mitsubishi logo. How will I figure out what they are…..

  6. outis says:

    This will be a good place for teenagers to identify the random pills they pop as Poison Control is planning on stopping that service due to abuse.

  7. eccsame says:

    You can also call poison control and they’ll tell you what the pill is. I used to do this “in college” before the interwebs existed to figure out which pills were worth swiping from medicine cabinets during parties.

  8. Hank Scorpio says:

    We found an errant pill in my wife’s prescription bottle – must have accidentally gotten in there at the pharmacist. I just popped the numbers on the back into Google to find out what it was (nothing good, just some blood pressure medication).

    • guroth says:

      Just some harmless blood pressure medication… that happens to become deadly once combined with the medication you were actually prescribed!

  9. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    Ever find a pill in your medicine cabinet and forget what it is and how it got there?

    Assuming no one in the household can identify it, why not just throw it away? If it’s been there long enough for everyone to forget what it is (and no one has memory problems) then it’s almost certainly not a current medication.

    I can see taking it to the pharmacy or ER for disposal just to be safe but if it doesn’t match any of the medications you have in their proper containers and there’s nothing to tell you when it expired I wouldn’t take it.

    That said, I can see how the site would be useful in other situations.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      depending on what it is, there might be requirements for disposal

      http://www.jaoa.org/cgi/content/full/108/7/338

      “The WHO has published the following statement regarding the proper disposal of controlled substances:

      Controlled substances must be destroyed under supervision of a pharmacist or the police depending on national regulations. Such substances must not be allowed into the public domain as they may be abused. They should either be rendered unusable, by encapsulation or inertization, and then dispersed among the municipal solid waste in a landfill, or incinerated.”

      not that anyone ever follows that in real life. but considering the amount of stuff i read about pharmaceutical residue in the groundwater, i kind of wish they did

      • Rectilinear Propagation says:

        Yeah, I get taking it somewhere to be disposed of but are you required to tell the pharmacist what it is if you take it to them?

    • CookiePuss says:

      Because you can’t get high if the pill is in the garbage can!

    • guroth says:

      It might be handy for knowing what pills your teenage miscreant is taking without your knowledge.

      • Rectilinear Propagation says:

        Yeah, I agree, but that’s a different situation from you just forgetting what it is.

  10. AT203 says:

    RXList.com also offers info on pill imprints. Although they are not as single purpose as the site in this link.

  11. Murph1908 says:

    This site is useless.

    I have probably two dozen pills here it won’t identify. It might be because of the multipe colors (brown, dark brown, red, blue, and green) but I think the single M imprinted on them would bring up SOMETHING.

    • sir_eccles says:

      Maybe it was a W?

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      It’s in beta, so it makes sense that the NIH wouldn’t have every single medication cataloged. Did you use the option to select two colors? That helps with multi-colored pills.

    • ARP says:

      Did you get those pills from a guy who wears big jeans and puffy vests (even in the summer) and wears a sideways visor? If so, those pills won’t show up on the NIH website.

    • rockasocky says:

      I think those light brown M pills are outdated, I think they were replaced with the blue ones sometime in the 90s.

      P.S. I felt the need to comment because I don’t think anyone else picked up on your joke.

    • TheWillow says:

      I laughed.

    • OnePumpChump says:

      I admit, I didn’t get it at first.

      I might have been thrown by the photo having pills with Ms on them.

  12. B says:

    I just ask Burton Guster.

  13. wonderkitty now has two dogs says:

    When I worked in a pharmacy, parents would come in about once a month wanting to ID a pill they found it their kid’s stuff. It was literally the only time we did pill IDs- never because someone found a random pill.

    Kind of funny. Most kids had nothing that could get them high. The worst was identifying a heart med pill.

  14. guroth says:

    There’s an app for that!

    Epocrates on the iPhone can help you identify pills as well as providing other medical information.

  15. gigwave says:

    http://www.drugs.com/pill_identification.html This worked better for me on a quickie search of two drugs I take.

    • RxDude says:

      That’s the one I use.

    • selianth says:

      Yeah, I’ve been using that one for a while now. I often keep 1-2 doses of my blood pressure meds in my purse in the same bottle where I keep my ibuprofrin/tylenol. But, my pharmacy has changed sources for their generics several times recently, and doctor has changed my dosage a couple times, so sometimes my spares are way out of date and I don’t remember exactly what they are. So any kind of pill ID site is useful for me.

  16. ChuckECheese says:

    I teach this ‘skill’ to people receiving training as caregivers or managers of assisted living. I used to let the students volunteer an anonymous pill that I would ID for the class using rxlist, NIH, and others. I quit taking volunteer pills from the audience after one student gave me Geodon one month, and Oxycontin the next.

    This skill also comes in handy when you have a gf who weirds you out by suddenly ‘falling asleep’ during sex and a couple weeks later you find the dog sniffing at a pill on the floor and you want to know what it is and find out it’s Soma and you have to break up with her. Just sayin’.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      i’m guessing the breakup was because she didn’t have a prescription for it? i mean if it was a legit use for pain or whatever then that doesn’t seem grounds for a split

  17. chaelyc says:

    Parmer.org has always been a good resource for “oops I forgot which medicine I put in my pillbox” situations, too. I’m sort of known for carrying one of everything (mostly headache & allergy meds of varying benefits) in a little pillbox but after a while outside of the original bottle all oblong white pills start to look alike.

  18. lordargent says:

    I’m a little scared at how many pills people are popping, maybe in six more years when I hit my 40’s, I’ll have more pills to take.

    /all I ever have is painkillers (leftover oxy from dental work) that I never finish the cycle for because I hate feeling spaced out.

    • webweazel says:

      When it comes to painkillers, as I understand, you do not need to “finish the cycle” like you would need to for, say, an antibiotic. You just need to take them if you are actually experiencing pain. Two days or two weeks, as needed.
      Do save the leftovers. You never know when they may come in handy for some future ailment or injury, like a burn or sprain.

  19. Mcshonky says:

    Very good idea to consume pills not in a bottle of unknown origin and unknown expiration of potency.

    I don’t know why I’m still sick I took a pill I found.

    Throw it out PROPERLY, don’t flush it down the toilet or sink.

  20. sendbillmoney says:

    I used to see occasional Yahoo Answers questions where someone (likely a teenage idiot who raided the parents’ meds) would describe a pill and ask for information on it. Now these budding pillpoppers can go here and do their own research!

    /Cool story, bro
    //Useful for parents trying to identify the pills they found in Junior’s room, I guess

  21. frob23 says:

    I often get severe migraines. I do not have a prescription for any migraine pain medication so I end up taking several large doses of over the counter painkillers to get through the day until I can get home.

    One day, in the recent past, I was at my daily limit of acetaminophen and was still in unbearable pain. A coworker of mine offered me a handful of his pain medication. Well, 4 pills but still. He assured me that they contained no acetaminophen. I took a couple and then thought about looking them up online (yeah, not the smartest, I know). It turns out they all contained very high doses of acetaminophen. It put me up to about 5.5g for that day… which is well over the 4g safe limit. I ended up calling poison control and explaining the situation.

    They were very professional and kind. Although the woman did give me a stern reminder to not just take random pills if I didn’t know what they were. She gave me some advice about things to watch for but told me I probably didn’t need to get to the emergency room at that time. And she warned me about taking anything else, at all, for at least 48 hours.

    Anyway, that event was scary enough (for me) that I always double check everything I take. Sometimes even the person who takes a pill might not know what is in it.