3 Sites To Help You Identify Unknown Drugs

Guy McDowell 30-07-2009

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 Read More that Jackson recommends.

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  1. bob
    August 3, 2009 at 8:32 am

    No. But i've taken loads during my youth and always had a great time and felt safe doing so.

    Ecstasy related deaths compared to alcohol and tobacco related deaths?

    • Andrew
      August 3, 2009 at 9:32 am

      I think you both are missing the point. Most people who use these sights are people who take a lot of drugs and get confused about what is left in the medicine cabinet and whether it should be thrown away. Some middle class parents of the hyper sneaky kind may use it to identify what their kid has in their room. Good for them it shows they give a damn. Unfortunately they are probably the ones who will punish the kid and then forget about it. If the kid is using they would love for somebody to sit down and in a genuine way give them some support.Most times they never get that and their parents are too busy arguing or divorcing to be looking up drugs on the web.
      If you love your kids talk to them about drugs and alcohol and don't be a hypocrite.

    • Guy McDowell
      August 3, 2009 at 11:55 am

      Bob: Dead is dead.

      Andrew: I agree with your point. As the ads say, talking with your children is the anti-drug. I also agree that the sites are primarily for prescription drugs that one might have, or come across in an elderly loved ones home.

  2. bob
    August 2, 2009 at 7:59 am

    E rocks.

    • Guy McDowell
      August 2, 2009 at 9:49 am

      Have you ever seen how E is made? Would you go into your basement, pour a bunch of household cleaners and over the counter drugs on the rat poop covered floor and lick it up? That's basically what you do when you take Ecstasy.

      • Skeptical
        August 4, 2009 at 1:39 pm

        Wow. That is not what I basically do when I take ecstasy.

        • Guy McDowell
          August 4, 2009 at 3:53 pm

          Ask to see where your ecstasy is made.

        • Orlando
          August 10, 2009 at 3:19 am

          Guy, you are wrong. Have YOU ever seen how E is made?

          Synthesizing MDx of any kind takes not only ingredients that aren't found in the household, let alone in a basement with rat poop. It actually takes a skilled chemist with proper glassware magnetic stirrers and other equipment well outside of my knowledge or understanding.

          If you're talking about crank, you are correct. But get your facts straight. The chemicals required to synthesize MDx aren't that easy to obtain and are very watched.

        • Guy McDowell
          August 10, 2009 at 5:30 pm

          Seeing how the majority of Ecstasy doesn't even have MDMA in it anymore, because crank is cheaper and easier to produce, I think my facts are straight.
          Also, based on the report I read and various sites that talk about how to make ecstasy at home, it doesn't sound that hard to do. Plus I'm sure the criminal element making this stuff isn't serious about health concerns and clean production environments.

      • kenna
        October 6, 2009 at 8:42 am

        Okay, I took your advice Guy and I asked to see where it was made. Well, apparently "X" is made on farms because the 1st guy I asked assumed that I could afford to take some pigs somewhere on a trip (probably Jet Blue because they have "in flight" yoga in first class which leads me to believe that they would have no problem with a bit of rutting in coach). So, I asked a 2nd dude who replied "Why are you a pig?" which I am not because I only have two tits. But, now that I think about it he may have said that because it truly is that dirty where it is made. Either way I was unsuccessful in getting to go to where it is made so, in lieu of that... how did you say it was made again? And can mouse poop be used instead of rat poop?
        Poppa Tab

  3. uziah
    August 2, 2009 at 1:00 am

    you can just call a pharmacy!

    • Guy McDowell
      August 2, 2009 at 9:47 am

      Good point! Are they legally obligated to report controlled substances though? I don't really know. I wouldn't want my child charged if I could deal with it in the home.

      I don't have a teenage son, so that part of the article is purely hypothetical.