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How to Crush Pills

Crushing Pills Can Be a Safe Solution for People With Swallowing Difficulties


Updated June 09, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

For those who have difficulty swallowing medication, being prescribed pills can be dreadful. Some people have a natural aversion to swallowing pills, especially children. There are few different helpful tools available for those who have trouble swallowing pills.

First, you should know that not all pills are suitable for crushing. Always ask your doctor or pharmacist before crushing medication. Some medication is time-released or cannot be absorbed properly if it has been crushed. You should also ask if it is appropriate for others to crush your meds. As some pills are crushed, residue can be inhaled through the lungs. With some medications, this can cause adverse health effects.

Pill Crushers or Splitters

A pill crusher is the easiest way to crush pills. It works by pulverizing pills into a powder form that can be mixed with food or a drink. Using a pill crusher is very simple and requires little physical effort. Plus, the process is time efficient -- most pills sizes take seconds to crush.

If you are taking large pills that are difficult to swallow and cannot be crushed, a pill splitter may be the solution for you. A pill splitter allows you safely cut a pill in two, making it easier to swallow. You can buy both pill crushers and splitters in drugstores and online.

Mortar and Pestle

Another option is using an old fashioned mortar and pestle. This tool is inexpensive and may be something you already have in your kitchen. Using a small bowl and pestle, you can grind and mash your pills into powder form. This requires a little more physical effort and time than a pill crusher. Using a mortar and pestle is not very user-friendly for those with arthritis or other joint conditions in the hands and wrist, as you have apply pressure as you twist and turn the pestle. Don't forget to thoroughly wash the mortar and pestle after using it for crushing medication.

What Not to Crush Pills With

Some people are tempted to crush their pills by placing them in a plastic bag and bludgeoning them with a hammer or other object, but many things can go wrong. You can lose the medication because of holes in the bags that can be caused by the crushing. Also, medication tends to stick in the corners of bags once crushed, making it hard to get all of the crushed medication. It can take more time to do this than by using a pill crusher or mortar and pestle. Many people find they have more pill fragments than a powder than when using this method.
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