How to Identify a Pill by the Number on It

by Candace Webb
Imprints are used on pills to assist in their identification.

Imprints are used on pills to assist in their identification.

Taking medication when you are not sure what it is can be dangerous. Finding strange pills in your teenager's bedroom can be scary, too. Although most pills are kept in prescription bottles that are clearly labeled, there may be instances when you need to find out what a pill is and what it is used for, and the only information you have is the pill itself and the imprint numbers/letters on the pill. Talking to your local pharmacist or going online are both valid methods to use in identification.

Items you will need

  • Pills
  • Telephone
  • Computer
  • Internet Access
Step 1

Take the pill into your local pharmacy during off-peak business hours. The pharmacist will look the pill up using the imprinted number and be able to tell you what it is, the strength and what it is used for.

Step 2

Ask family members or coworkers if they recognize the pill by its imprint. Someone may have dropped it and will immediately recognize it, once you bring it out and ask about it.

Step 3

Search online. Many pill identification websites will use the number imprint of the pill to identify it for you. Be sure to choose a site that provides a photograph of the identified pill type so you can double check it with a visual inspection against the photograph.

Step 4

Call the poison control hot line number in your area. Read the imprint to them over the phone. The poison control help desk should be able to identify it, using the center's reference manual. Poison control is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can discover what a pill is any time day or night if you can see the imprint clearly enough to relay it to the center.


  • If checking online, be sure to check it against more than one site to be sure it is an accurate identification.
  • If you have poor eyesight or you are reading the imprint in poor lighting, use glasses or a magnifying glass to be sure you are reading the imprint accurately.
  • In 2010, the U.S. National Poison Hotline number was 800-222-1222.


  • Double check any online or over-the-phone identification process by taking the pill into the pharmacy for a hands-on identification. Mistakes in medication can be dangerous.

About the Author

Candace Webb has been writing professionally since 1989. She has worked as a full-time journalist as well as contributed to metropolitan newspapers including the "Tennessean." She has also worked on staff as an associate editor at the "Nashville Parent" magazine. Webb holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism with a minor in business from San Jose State University.

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