Tablets, capsules and dragees

The manner in which  drugs  are taken is often crucial to their successful use. Whether an  active ingredient comes in the form of  a tablet, dragee or  juice  depends on when it is supposed to act in which place and at what point in the body. Around 1.4 billion packs of medicines are sold in Germany’s pharmacies every year, 749 million of which require a prescription.  When the medication is handed over, pharmacists and employees point out special dosage instructions. We have summarized what needs to be considered when taking tablets, capsules & Co.

tablet intake

For tablets that are swallowed, the active ingredient is absorbed in the stomach or intestines. These tablets contain fillers (excipients) such as milk sugar and so-called “disintegrants” that make it easier for the tablet to dissolve.

In order for the tablet to dissolve completely, it must be taken  with plenty of liquid  .

What should you take pills with?

Tap water  or still mineral water  at room temperature is best suited for taking the  tablets  . Warmer water would dissolve the tablet in the mouth or in the throat during swallowing and then trigger an unpleasant gag reflex. Milk  and fruit juices  are unsuitable because they can lead to interactions with the active substance of the medication.

Pills taken with  alcohol  are more likely to result in liver damage than successful recovery.

What is the best way to take pills?

Tablets are best taken with the upper body erect.

If you swallow tablets while lying down or only half upright, there is a risk of choking. Of course, this also applies to all medicines that are taken “orally” (by mouth), i.e. also to dragees, capsules, juices, drops,  teas  or syrups.

In order to be able to take the tablet easily, it is best  to  tilt your head slightly forward (!) . If you put your head back, the drinking liquid can run ahead and the drug can get stuck in the mouth or esophagus.

when to take Note leaflet!

Unless the doctor or pharmacist recommends otherwise, the package leaflet provides information on the  optimal time to take it.  Because one should definitely take into account that while one drug is swallowed on an empty stomach, another must be taken with a meal because of its stomach-irritating effect.

Why not break pills?

Only break tablets if they have a specially designed score line and the instructions for use specify a half or quarter tablet dosage.

Because  not all tablets can be divided:  film-coated tablets, dragees and sustained-release tablets release their active ingredients in a targeted manner and often over a long period of time. The outer layers of a tablet can trap bitter substances that would be released upon dividing.

  • In  the case of film- coated tablets  , the film protects the active substance from attack by gastric acid. The film itself only dissolves in the small intestine and the active ingredient can then be absorbed by the body. So if film-coated tablets are broken, the stomach acid destroys the active substance and the medicine becomes ineffective.
  • The  long-acting retard tablets  must not be divided either; because they supply the active ingredient to the body over hours. If the tablet breaks, the active ingredient would be released suddenly in the body and could act like an unwanted overdose.
  • Dragees  consist of a core and a layer that completely surrounds the core. They are best taken whole with liquid.
  • Capsules  have a gelatin shell that can be hard or soft. The interior of the capsule contains the solid, liquid or paste-like active ingredient. Capsules must also be taken with plenty of liquid.

Tablet splitter from the pharmacy

Sometimes the doctor prescribes only half or a quarter of a tablet. Then the tablet must be divided. The experience with it is universal: Rarely can the drug be divided smoothly. The package leaflet tells you how the respective tablets can best be divided.

In the pharmacy you can also buy a tablet divider that makes it easier to divide the medicine. It is advisable to take a look at the tablets directly when buying the tablets or when filling the prescription. If problems arise when taking the product, they can then be competently clarified on site.

Easier to swallow large pills

With a few tricks, particularly large tablets can be swallowed more easily. A sip of water before ingestion moistens the mouth. The tablet should then be placed as far back as possible on the  tongue  and washed down with plenty of water.

When taking large tablets in particular, you should tilt your head slightly forward (!), as described above  so that the water does not run out of your mouth and the tablet does not rest on your tongue. If the tablets cannot be swallowed at all, another dosage form may be possible.

Not all tablets are swallowed

Some tablets are only effective when they  melt under the tongue. The mucous membrane there is extremely thin and smaller drug molecules can therefore easily penetrate it. In this way, the active ingredient gets directly into the blood and the drug works very quickly.

Such tablets are used, among other things, in the treatment of severe pain or acute angina pectoris attacks.

Letting tablets melt on the tongue – what to watch out for?

In order for the effect to be sufficiently strong, the drug must be in contact with the oral mucosa for a sufficient period of time. Therefore, the corresponding tablets  must not be sucked  , but must  slowly melt.

The tablets that melt under the tongue (sublingual) or between the gums and cheek (buccal) are also called  lozenges  .

You should also note the following tips:

  • Denture wearers should slide a lozenge into the upper cheek pouch above the dentition.
  • Eating and drinking cold drinks with caution is possible.
  • However, you should not smoke with a tablet in your mouth. If medication is prescribed for a mouth or  throat infection  , the pollutants from cigarettes prevent the healing process in the mouth and throat anyway.

Help from the pharmacy

Taking medication correctly is often particularly difficult for older people. Child-resistant fasteners, for example, are sometimes impenetrable when the lid has to be pressed down and turned at the same time with trembling hands. Here the pharmacist can pour the contents into a normal screw-top jar and label it accordingly.

With a push-through aid, tablets can be more easily removed from so-called “blister packs”.

Effervescent tablets: let it effervescent!

Effervescent tablets are dissolved in water and then drunk. In contrast to normal tablets, they contain, for example, sodium carbonate for quick dissolution and flavorings such as berry, lemon or orange aroma.

Effervescent tablets are also  not  dissolved in hot drinks, milk or juice unless the package leaflet expressly states so.

In the case of effervescent tablets, which have an expectorant effect, you should also drink plenty of water frequently between the individual doses. This allows the loosened mucus to be better removed.

When the effervescent tablet  is completely dissolved  , it should be drunk straight away. If you drink it earlier, not all of the active ingredient is absorbed and the desired effect is delayed or does not occur at all. Here, too, the following applies: Your pharmacy will be happy to advise you competently and willingly on all questions relating to medication.


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