Tablets are made from granulate or powder ingredients that are tightly pressed together during manufacturing to make a hard pill. Typically, these medications will contain one or two active ingredients and then several excipients, which are additives and substances that help to hold the pill together. Tablet pills may then have more additives and non-active ingredients than liquid capsules.
Tablets can be either coated with a sugar or film coating, or uncoated. Uncoated tablets are rougher, may be more difficult to swallow, and often leave a bad taste in the mouth when swallowed. A coated tablet generally goes down easier and with less aftertaste.
The coating on tablets can do more than just mask the taste; some pills are coated with a substance that protects them from the gastric acid produced in the stomach so they will not be broken down until they reach the small intestine. The journal Informed Health Online reports that tablets are fairly easy to make and they can keep for long time.
Tablets may also be easily abused. They may be swallowed and taken in higher doses more often than prescribed or without a prescription altogether. Tablets may also be chewed or, perhaps more frequently, crushed and the resulting powder can then be snorted, smoked, or dissolved in liquid and injected. This can be very dangerous as it bypasses the intended release method of the tablet; instead of the active ingredients being absorbed through the gastric system slowly, they now are sent straight into the bloodstream. If the drug has any time-release functions, these are circumvented, increasing the risk for a potentially fatal drug overdose.
The additives and excipients may also have negative side effects when taken in this manner. Many of these non-active ingredients are not meant to enter into the bloodstream at all, and introducing them in this manner may have life-threatening consequences. Tablets may contain artificial flavorings, colors, and preservatives that individuals may react to as well.