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mdmaReally, I’m not sure how this topic came to mind. Perhaps it was listening to a story on talk radio about the scourge known as MDMA, also known as Ecstasy. Nasty stuff. Most of it is also filled with meth, in case you were wondering.

I guess that got me to thinking,  “If I found a pill in my kid’s bedroom, how would I go about figuring out what it is?” I suppose the easiest answer is to just ask them. But easy doesn’t make for a good article. My quest began.

I found three really interesting free sites to identify prescription drugs, and one that is free…but only to medical professionals and students. Let’s take a look at them, shall we?

drugs-com-logoThe layout of this site is very nice. I can figure out exactly how to do what I want. I can identify unknown drugs, find out more about them and see what they might not interact with very well.

First I hit the Pill Identifier. Ha! The first line in the text reads, “Worried about those capsules you found in your teenager’s room?” Apparently I’m not the only paranoid and invasive parent out there. Let’s see what turns up.


I’m just going to give it some random information to work with and see what happens. I gave it the parameters of maroon and round. Hmmm….3 results. Docusate sodium-senna, Marinol, and Phenazopyridine hydrochloride. 2 of the 3 came with pictures which would help me to further verify what the pill is. Let’s look at Marinol.


You can go further to find out what the drug does. Aha! Check this out. “Dronabinol is a man-made form of cannabis (marijuana is an herbal form of cannabis).” I knew the little punk was up to no good. Wait ’til he gets home from school. Oh, yes, this is a hypothetical story. Sorry about that. Got a little carried away.

There are other fine features on this site to help you answer your questions about drugs. You can go through a list of drugs from A to Z, search for drugs based on the condition they treat, and of course, there is a community which you can join to interact with other people interested in how drugs interact with their health.


rxlistRxList does pretty much the same thing as, but in a bit different way. In addition to the ability to identify unknown drugs and identify prescription drugs based on the condition they treat, RxList also adds informational slideshows and a pharmaceutical dictionary to help you understand some of those fifty-cent words.

Lets take a look at RxList’s pill identifier and see what more trouble I can get my hypothetical teenage son into. Odd, maroon is not a listed colour. Well, let’s try red and round. Phreaky pharmacy Batman! There are 50 results ranging from over-the-counter medicines like Acetominophen to the anti-depressant Wellbutrin. Yet, Marinol isn’t listed. Hmm. Well, we can conclude that using both of these sites is going to give us a better chance of identifying that mysterious pill.


The RxList search results don’t show pictures for each pill either. That could make narrowing it down a little more difficult as well. In order to see a picture of the drug, you have to click on it’s name, then when the drug information page comes up, you need to click on another link to see the images – if there are any.

Overall, it’s still a very good resource.


PDRHealth_logoThe real-world book, the Physicians Desk Reference (PDR), is now online. Unfortunately, the service costs a fair bit of money to access. Fortunately, it is free to access for medical professionals and students within the United States of America.

The PDR is the defacto standard for helping doctor’s and nurses find out all they need to know about almost any drug in existence. Yes, it uses a lot of medical jargon, so it may take a while to understand if you are not so inclined. Nonetheless, if you can break the code of medicalese, there is so much to be learned from this online tome.

However, Thomson Publishing has put together a bit of a layman’s site for those that want to find out more about what they are putting in their gullets everday. It isn’t quite as extensive as RxLink or, but, like all good research, it is another resource to help you confirm or deny what you are learning.

It is kind of nice that they breakdown medicines into three categories though: prescription, over-the-counter, and herbal medicines. Herbals aren’t specifically identified on the previous two sites.

PDRHealth does go beyond just medicines and looks at surgery and clinical trials as well. All are apart of a well-managed health care plan, in my opinion.

Hopefully, this breakdown will help you to be more involved in managing your health care and starting conversations about drugs, both good and bad, with your family. After all, it’s just like that six-inch philosopher GIJoe said, “Knowing is half the battle!”

What medical websites do you look at?    Here’s ones The Best Reference Sites For Medical Students The Best Reference Sites For Medical Students Read More that Jackson recommends.

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