TikTok's Method For Splitting Pills Without A Pill Cutter Has Mixed Results

Remember that time a giant pill was sitting in front of you on the table? You had to take it because your doctor recommended that you do but you just couldn't seem to make yourself swallow the thing because, well, swallowing pills makes you want to gag. 

Splitting pills in half or even four is a common practice among people, and they do it for different reasons. Gag reflex worries aside, people split pills to save money, and sometimes when they can't find the right dosage at pharmacies. If you've ever done it, you probably used a regular pill cutter — those triangle-shaped devices with a protective casing that make the job look so neat and tidy. Or maybe you've tried wrestling with a tablet held up in your fingers and ended up making a mess when the pill broke in somewhat of a half but also scattered everywhere around you.

Thanks to TikTok, apparently there's yet another ingenious pill-splitting method you can try using your fingers; but the hack has left health professionals raising their eyebrows. You might be better off trying TikTok's 'silly little walk' trend instead. The new pill-splitting method shows various influencers placing large oval or round-shaped pills on the table and simply placing the thumbs of both of their hands on either end of the tablet and pushing down (gently). The pills magically split in half (half-ish in some videos). 

Pill splitting is a dangerous business to start with

Have you ever noticed that some pills come with a pre-marked indentation right in the middle that indicates where the pill is supposed to be cut in half? While it's okay to assume that tablets with a score line could be split, it's still not recommended if your pharmacist or doctor hasn't specifically instructed you to do so. According to pharmacist Alison Miller (via Cleveland Clinic), "Splitting a pill can be dangerous. That's where the discussion needs to start."

The new TikTok trend showing users splitting their tablets using their thumbs had mixed results. Some got it right (at least based on what we could see) while others missed the mark. Pharmacist Dr. Ethan Melillo, who goes by the handle millennialrx on TikTok, actually shared a reaction video capturing his sentiments around the method. While he looked apprehensive about the whole thing from the start (and also seemed impressed when one user appeared to get the job done accurately), he added, "It's probably just best to get a pill cutter, especially if you're older, too." 

Precision is a lot more important than you think when it comes to pill splitting and the general sentiment was that winging it with the "thumbs down on the edges of the pill method" might be a TikTok health trend that's riskier than you realized

Some pills should never be split in half

TikTok mixed results aside, some pills should never be split, according to Miller, time-released pills being one of them. Such pills are designed to release their medication slowly throughout the day. "Splitting this sort of pill can lead to the entire dosage being dumped at once — and that can be very unsafe," added Miller. It's also important to wear gloves and never split more pills than you need. You don't want to risk contaminating the cut-open tablets. 

The size, shape, and makeup of the pill matter too. If it's too small, unevenly shaped, has a tough outer shell, has liquid (gel-like consistency), or beads inside, you should be steering clear of trying to break the pill in half. With the small and uneven pills, the concern would be that you won't split the pill properly and could end up scattering particles of it all over. With the tough outer shell or capsule pills, you'll be messing with the contents inside the pill that were meant to be swallowed easily and could perhaps even disrupt the way they were supposed to be absorbed in your system. 

Pill cutters are your best option for splitting pills (that also means no butter knives, teeth, and other sharp objects). But " ... it's always best to talk to your doctor or pharmacist first. There may be ways to get the proper dosage into one pill that works, which is preferred," explained Miller.