Crushing medication can be dangerous – here’s why

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When pills are hard to swallow, many people resort to crushing their medication and adding it to a food or drink, without a second thought. This is a common practice when administering medication to very small children and also the elderly who have trouble swallowing large tablets. At face value it seems like a good solution, however there are many reasons why crushing medication may be doing more harm than good – here’s why:

Medication lost

A University of Queensland study in 2018 found that nearly a quarter of a drug’s potency can be lost through crushing. Even with professional drug crushing devices, researchers found that not all the medication makes it to the patient, with significant amounts left behind on the countertop and tools used to do the crushing  Over time, a medication loss like this accrues, potentially leading to poor health outcomes for the patient.

Potential for overdose

Some medications are designed to release their active ingredients slowing as they gradually dissolve in the gut; if they’re crushed, the medication can be swiftly absorbed, potentially leading to an overdose.

Potentially harmful to stomach lining

Some medications have an enteric coating which is specifically designed to stop the medication from dissolving in the gut. This may be because the drug has the potential to irritate the lining of the gut, or conversely, gastric acids in the stomach may reduce the efficacy of the medication.

When you crush one of these kinds of medications you also crush the enteric coating, thereby destroying its protective properties.

Uncertainty of dosage

If you add crushed medication to food or drink and the patient refuses to consume all of the food or drink, how can you tell how much medicine they’ve ingested? You can’t – you have to guess – and guessing is ill advised when it comes to medication.

So what’s the solution?

We now know why we shouldn’t crush medication, however the problem of administering pills or capsules to people who have trouble swallowing still remains.

The safest solution is to have their medication specially made up as a liquid or troche by a fully qualified compounding pharmacy like National Custom Compounding. We do this in consultation with your doctor, ensuring you receive exactly the right medication in exactly the right strength and dose for your health needs.

We can even combine some medications in the one bottle of liquid or troche to make administration even easier and with less fuss.

For more information and no obligation advice contact us on 1300 731 755 or [email protected].

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