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Pill Identification

Expert Pediatrics Q&A


Updated May 20, 2014

Teenage girl (13-15) pouring out pills into hand, rear view
SW Productions/Photodisc/Getty Images
Updated May 20, 2014
Q. I found a few pills in my son's pocket when I washing his clothes. One was a small round blue tablet that said AD on one side and 10 on the other. There were also several small round red tablets that had three C's on them surrounding a '+' sign. What could they be? Phyllis, Phoenix, Arizona.

A. Unfortunately, many kids abuse drugs. And these days, it goes far beyond 'traditional' drugs, such as marijuana, alcohol, ecstasy, cocaine, heroin, etc.

Today, kids also abuse cough medicines, glue, and many prescription medications. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 'commonly abused classes of prescription drugs include opioids (often prescribed to treat pain), central nervous system depressants (often prescribed to treat anxiety and sleep disorders), and stimulants (prescribed to treat narcolepsy, ADHD, and obesity),' such as:

  • oxycodone (OxyContin)
  • propoxyphene (Darvon)
  • hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
  • meperidine (Demerol)
  • diphenoxylate (Lomotil)
  • pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal)
  • diazepam (Valium)
  • alprazolam (Xanax)
  • dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine and Adderall)
  • methylphenidate (Ritalin)

Abusing Adderall

Using this pill identification wizard, and searching by Shape/Color, if you enter 'round' and 'blue' as you described for the pill you found, the long list of pills includes only one with markings that are also the same as the one you found. Adderall 10mg tablets includes the markings 'AD' on one side and '10' on the other.

While some kids take Adderall when it isn't prescribed for them simply to help them concentrate and to do better and school, most others take it to get high, either getting it from a friend or buying it at school. Teens either swallow them or grind them up and snort them for a quicker effect.

Abusing DXM

Restarting the pill identification wizard, and again searching by shape and color, this time for a 'round' and 'red' pill, the list of pills again identifies your pills. Although there are many round, red pills, only one, Coricidin HBP Cough & Cold Tablets, has the C C + C markings that you described.

Although it is just a cold and cough medication, many teens actually abuse dextromethorphan (also called DXM), which is found in these little red pills. Coricidin HBP Cough and Cold is also known as 'triple C' and in addition to dextromethorphan, it also contains an antihistamine. Large doses can cause teens to have hallucinations and other serious side effects. There have even been reports of deaths from kids abusing DXM and Coricidin.

Next Steps

Now that you have found the pills and you know what they are, it is going to be time to figure out what to do about it. If you don't think that a meeting with your child will go well or you don't feel comfortable talking to him about this, you might schedule a visit with your Pediatrician and/or a child psychologist for more help.

Did you already suspect that your child was abusing drugs? This drug abuse screening quiz can help you see if your child has any of the warning signs that might indicate that he is using drugs.

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