When I was a kid, every time I had to take an Ibuprofen my grandma would crush it with a spoon and mix it in with chocolate icing to allow me to consume it without gagging on a whole pill. To this day I have difficulties swallowing pills without tricks I’ve learned, but I’ve always been fearful of crushing pills since pills are usually time-released to dissolve in the body over a certain amount of time for best absorption. Wondering if this is truly the case, or if it’s certainly OK to crush pills (and if so, which ones?), I decided to do a little research and find out for myself. Here is what I’ve learned.
It is not OK to crush pills that are time-released, since they are designed to be swallowed whole and be absorbed and dissolved in the body over time. Taking a pill and crushing it sends it straight into dissolving mode and there is a chance that your body will be unable to utilize the whole pill. So if it is time-released (it should say so on the label, or in part of the advertising) you should be swallowing it whole to allow it to work best for your body.
Chewable pills, however, are just fine to be crushed. Usually they have a pleasant taste anyhow so there should not typically be issues with consuming them. Crushing herbal supplements (unless they are spicy like garlic or Cayenne pepper) is usually OK, just be careful with higher concentration herbal supplements that may burn your mouth when they come in contact with your tongue in crushed form.
According to the Nurses Drug Handbook, all time or delayed-release capsules should never be crushed, as they are designed once again to be released into the body, dissolved and absorbed over time rather than all at once. Furthermore, the handbook suggests that crushing pills and many medications can break the enteric coating, which is supposed to protect the GI tract from becoming irritated. Also, it warns that crushing some pills can release a carcinogenic or teratogenic effect on the body when crushed and create potential harm to the body.
The best way to see if it is OK to crush your pills is to call your Pharmacist. They can alert you not only to the potential dangers of crushing your particular medication, but give you options for taking the pill more successfully, like what beverages you can take it with, or if you can cut it in half, or if it can be slipped into food and then taken whole. It is recommended never to crush a pill without the OK of your doctor or pharmacist to make sure you are not causing yourself undue harm.
Common drugs that should not be crushed according the Nurses Drug Handbook include Accutane, Nexium, OxyContin, Prevacid, Prilosec, Sudafed, Ritalin, Dulcolax, Wellbutrin, Triaminic, and there are many others, either over the counter or otherwise. So talk to your doctor or pharmacist before you consider crushing your pills for the safety of your own health.