You Should Never Cut These Types of Pills in Half

orange pills against a black backgroundTaubin via Flickr

If you are on a prescription medication, you are probably already the owner of a splitter, a device that halves pills when you feel you don’t need to take the full dosage. Though this can be a healthier, more cost-effective option to taking the whole tablet, it can also leave you with some very spotty and potentially dangerous results.

Recently, Rachael Ray invited a physician on to her show to set the record straight on the common practice of halving pills. Though the doctor says that it makes perfect sense to cut some tablets, it also comes along with quite the caveat.

You see, chopping those tablets into halves or thirds can seriously mess with the effectiveness of the medication, at times giving the user too little or too much of the active ingredient than what was intended. A bit of a scary reality, especially if you are splitting in order to reduce side effects like drowsiness or dizziness!

But, before we get in too deep, let’s first go over the types of tablets that you should never, EVER split:

  • Coated pills
  • Gel Caps (we think that one goes without saying!)
  • Extended release tablets (these will generally come with an ‘ECR’ label on the packaging)

Straight-forward enough for you? Well, we have to say that it’s a bit trickier than just taking those three into account, but, don’t worry, there’s a much simpler way to determine which pills can be safely cut.

Basically, if a pill comes “scored”—with a defined line down the middle—then it is almost always safe to cut in half.

Now, the ones that do not come scored are much riskier. The doc explains that, in these tablets, the active ingredient could just be “floating around” on either side. This means that, if you’re taking a sleeping pill, for instance, and don’t want the maximum effects, it’s probably not a great idea to split it in half if it isn’t scored.

The doctor uses a delicious blueberry muffin to illustrate her point here. If you cut one of the pastries in half, it’s impossible to get an equal amount of berries on either end. You can think of the active ingredient in a tablet the same way—if you cut it when it’s not meant to be cut, you won’t know how to monitor your dosages.

blueberry muffin split in halfRachael Ray Show
Of course, some pills are completely safe to cut, or were even made with splitting in mind. Nonetheless, it’s best to always consult your doctor or pharmacist first. It’s much safer than guessing, especially if you’re dealing with your more heavy-duty medications.

To hear the doctor’s full scoop on pill splitting, be sure to click on the Rachael Ray Show’s video below. I know I’ll always think twice about cutting tablets from now on!

What do you think of this doctor’s pill-splitting advice? Have you ever had an adverse reaction from cutting a non-scored tablet? What’s your favorite type of pill splitter? Tell us all about your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below!