How do you Identify an Unknown Pill

Best Online Pill Identification Tools: Medications come in various shapes, sizes, and colors, and if you take them often, it’s not uncommon to find yourself staring at an unfamiliar pill (maybe somewhere around the house), wondering what it is and whether it’s safe to take.

How Do You Identify an Unknown Pill
How Do You Identify an Unknown Pill

Whether you’ve discovered a stray pill in your medicine cabinet or stumbled upon one outside its packaging, you need to identify it to ensure it’s safe to take and there are various options you can use, all of which can be helpful. We will explore these options below.

Of course, you already know that it is dangerous to take a pill you aren’t sure about, your best chance is to consult a doctor or a pharmacist to help you identify the pill but in situations where they are out of reach, what do you do? Let’s find out.

How Do You Identify an Unknown Pill?

You can identify that pill you just found around the house by doing any of the following:

Examine the Pill’s physical characteristics

The first step you should take in identifying an unknown pill is to carefully observe its physical characteristics. Note down details such as:

  • Color: You should observe the color of the pill. Pills come in a variety of colors, and they can be differentiated by their colors. Look for any patterns or variations in color on the pill’s surface.
  • Shape: Take note of the shape of the pill. Pills can be round, oval, oblong, square, or have other distinctive shapes.
  • Imprints or markings: Look for any imprints or markings on the pill. Imprints are alphanumeric codes, symbols, or logos engraved on the pill’s surface. They are also used to differentiate pills.
  • Texture or coating: Check the texture or coating of the pill. Some pills have a smooth coating, while others may have a rough texture. These are also differentiating factors.

These features can give you important clues about the pill’s identity. For instance, imprints and markings often contain alphanumeric codes that can be cross-referenced with databases. If it’s a pill you are familiar with, you will identify it through imprints or markings.

Use Online Pill Identification Tools

The internet is a treasure trove of resources, and several online tools can assist you in identifying unknown pills. Websites like, RxList, and the Pill Identifier tool by the National Library of Medicine allow you to enter details about the pill and generate potential matches.

There is a trick about using online tools to identify pills, the more information you give to the tool, the better the result you will get, so when using any online tool, provide as much information about the pill as possible.

Best Online Pill Identification Tools

Pillbox (National Library of Medicine)

Pillbox is an online tool provided by the National Library of Medicine. It allows users to identify pills based on various criteria, including shape, color, size, and imprint.

How it works:

You input the characteristics of the pill, and Pillbox will generate a list of potential matches along with images and additional information.


Pillbox is considered a reliable tool because it is maintained by a reputable health organization. Pill Identifier has a comprehensive online pill identifier tool that allows you to search for medications based on imprint, shape, color, and score.

How it works

You just need to enter the available information on the pill, and the tool will generate a list of possible matches, including images and details about each medication.

Accuracy is very reliable for pill identification.

RxList Pill Identification Tool

Just like others, RxList allows you to search for medications using various criteria such as imprint, shape, color, and size.

How it works

All you need to do is input the characteristics of the pill, and the tool generates a list of potential matches with detailed information.


RxList is a reputable source for drug information, and its pill identifier is also reliable.

Other online identification tools like WebMD Pill Identifier and Epocrates Pill Identifier are also reliable and you can use them.

Consult a Pharmacist or Healthcare Professional

If online resources don’t give you conclusive results (if you used the tools above, they will give you results), reach out to your local pharmacist or healthcare professional. Pharmacists are trained to identify medications and can use their expertise to help you determine the pill’s purpose and potential side effects.

Check the packaging:

Sometimes, an unknown pill might be a stray from a prescription or over-the-counter medication you already have. Check the packaging of your existing medications for any missing pills. This can happen if you have recently started or stopped a medication.

Utilize mobile apps

In our digital age, there’s an app for almost everything, including identifying pills. Smartphone apps like Pill Identifier and Epocrates allow you to snap a picture of the pill, upload it on the app, and receive information about its potential identity. Most of these apps have extensive databases and are a quick and convenient solution.

Some mobile apps that you can use to identify a pill include

  • GoodRx – Save on Prescriptions
  • Medisafe Medication Management
  • Lexicomp
  • WebMD
  • ID My Pill
  • Round Health
  • FamilyRx
  • Pillboxie
  • CareZone
  • Pill Identifier by

Consider professional testing

If you are still uncertain about the pill’s identity at this point, then make use of any available professional testing services. Some companies offer pill identification services that involve laboratory analysis to determine the composition of the pill accurately. While this is a more thorough approach, it may cost you money but if the situation is extreme, this is the right way to go about it.

It is the most accurate way to identify a pill – professional testing will give you the best result among all the methods listed here.


If you are not familiar with any pill you find around the house or office, don’t panic, you can use the different methods listed above to identify it. Whether you choose to use online tools, consult a healthcare professional, or use mobile apps, any of the methods will give you good results, they are all an approved approach to identify a pill so they are safe to use.



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