Can I Crush This Medication?


My elderly mother has a hard time swallowing her medicine. Can I just crush her pills and mix them into her food? Or can she chew them? That depends on what she is taking. Some medicines are specially prepared to deliver the medicine to your body slowly, over time.

If these pills are crushed or chewed, or the capsules are opened before swallowing, the medicine may go into the body too fast. This can harm you. For example, an 83 year-old woman was taking Cardizem CD (diltiazem) for high blood pressure. The capsule was too large to swallow so she chewed it. The woman became weak with a very slow heartbeat, and had to be hospitalized.

Many gradual-release medicines have names that end with:

  • CD - controlled dose
  • SR - sustained release
  • CR - controlled release
  • TD - time delayed
  • ER - extended release
  • TR - time released
  • LA - long acting
  • XL - extended release
  • SA - sustained action
  • XR - extended release.

But beware! Other letters may be used to mean gradual release, and some pills that should not be crushed or chewed may not have any letters at the end of their names. Tell your mother's doctor or pharmacist about her difficulties with swallowing the large pills. There may be another form of her medicine that can be crushed, or a different pill that is smaller. There may also be a liquid form of the medicine. Don't crush or chew medicines before finding out if it's safe!

Created on July 1, 2004

Medication Safety Alerts

FDA Safety Alerts

Show Your Support!

ISMP needs your help to continue our life saving work