How Long Does It Take For A Pill To Digest? Factors Responsible & 9 Alternatives

Usually, it takes around 30 minutes for a pill to start working on your body. Two fundamental processes which best describe pill digestion time are the dissolution of a drug into gastrointestinal fluid and the permeation of a dissolved drug through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream. Other factor includes the type of pill, formula, dosage, kind of drug, age, weight, gender, time of day taken, physical activity, stress level, and other medications.

Sometimes, when we take a pill, we wonder how long it might take for the pill to get absorbed and digested in our bodies. Be it a hard tablet or gel capsule, every pill works the same way it gets absorbed into the blood and distributed around the body.

Any pill you take reaches its peak and then gradually falls as it eliminates from the body.

Depending on the kind of pill you take, the result of absorption into the body and the time taken to show its effect will differ accordingly.

Let’s take a deeper look into how a pill digest into your body and how different pills might take more or less time to digest.

How does a pill digests in your body?

When you take a pill, different organs process the ingredients before releasing them into the bloodstream.

It might take shorter or longer for a pill to digest based on various factors like:

  • Different formula
  • Different dosage
  • Different kinds of drug
  • Different types of pills

A person’s metabolism also plays a crucial role in taking time to digest a pill. Someone with a higher metabolism may digest a pill slightly faster than those with low metabolism.

How do pills enter bloodstream?

Once you take a pill, it goes into the gastrointestinal tract, where it’s broken down. As it enters the stomach, it’s broken down by the acids present in the stomach and then passes through the liver, finally entering the bloodstream.

Depending on the dosages breakdown and the pill, it might stay longer or for a shorter duration in your bloodstream.

Often, when a pill has a special coating, it might take longer to get absorbed as the coating protects the drug from stomach acids.

For example, a pill like aspirin will dissolve much faster than a pill with a gel coating.

Factors influencing time taken for a pill to digest

Several different factors are considered when wondering how long a pill takes to digest in our body.

These factors work together to give you an estimate of the overall time required, which is why doctors ask all kinds of personal questions to you before prescribing medications.

Factors determining the time taken for a pill to digest are:

  • Age
  • Weight
  • Gender
  • Time of the day taken
  • Physical activity
  • Stress level
  • Stomach content and PH level
  • Other medications
  • Taken on an empty or full stomach

The doctor will mention when to take your pills. The way medicine is taken will affect the rate at which it travels throughout the bloodstream.

Another factor is the kind of pill you take and how difficult or easy its solubility is in your body.

Generally speaking, a pill might take somewhere around 20-30 minutes to dissolve in your body, and it might be faster or slower, depending on the factors mentioned above.

How different pills take time to digest

A variety of different types of pills are laid out on different wooden spoons to show their differences .

Different kinds of pills also influence the time taken to digested and absorbed into the bloodstream.

A vast majority of people go for the two most popular pills options in tablet form and capsules. This is because both of them do the same job of providing medication to your bloodstream.

 TabletCapsule
1)The making of tablets requires compressing one or more powdered ingredients to form a hard and solid pill.  The capsule includes an outer shell and encloses medication in powder or jelly form.  
2)Tablets usually have a special coating of sugar or similar substances, making the compressed medication take time to dissolve and enter the bloodstream.  The drug in the capsule enters the bloodstream faster than the tablets as the medicine enters the bloodstream after the shell breaks.  
3)They’re comparatively less expensive and have more shelf life.  Capsules are slightly expensive and don’t have a longer shelf life.  
4)Difficult to swallow.  Easier to swallow.  
5)They come in one hard compressed form.They are either hard-shelled or soft gel.


We can see the difference between both and how long each takes to get absorbed in the bloodstream.

Capsules are much faster and easier to digest in the stomach and take effect by getting absorbed in the bloodstream. It’s all possible because of the way a capsule is designed with a light shell enclosing the drug inside.

However, the outer shell (hard or soft gel capsule) also makes a difference in determining the time taken to get digested.

Hard-shelled capsule

These capsules are two halves joined together, where one half sits inside the other to form a closed capsule.

The inside is filled with a dry powdered drug or in liquid form. The hard-shelled capsule with liquid medication is known as a liquid-filled hard capsule (LFHC).

With LFHCs, it’s possible to contain more than one drug recommended by the doctor when dual action is required, or the capsule needs to have a more extended-release function.

Soft-gelled capsule

Soft gelatin capsules contain medication suspended in gelatin or a similar substance and covered with a seeming gel coating capsule.

They are digested faster than hard-shelled capsules.

Vegetarian vs. non-vegetarian capsules

If there was a chance you weren’t aware of this, now is the right time to make yourself familiar with two different kinds of shells used for capsules.

Non-vegetarian capsulesVegetarian or vegan capsules
The traditional capsules (hard and soft gelatin capsules) are formed from gelatin, a common ingredient in medicines and food products formed by boiling the skin and bones of cows and pigs. These are commonly termed non-vegetarian capsules because of the gelatin used to make the shell of the capsules.On the other hand, are vegan capsules are formed from plant-based cellulose. They are 100% made from plant extracts. Usually preferred by people who wish to adopt a vegan lifestyle or vegetarians whose religious sentiments are at stake using gelatin-made capsules.
They are cheap to produce and help a lot of people like those who have arthritis. Side effects include indigestion, upset and bloated stomach, hypersensitivity, exposure to toxins. It might even lead to kidney or liver damage.They might be a bit costly but are entirely natural and have no side effects on your health. These are also free from preservatives, sugar, starch, or any other kind of additive. Because of their vegan shells, they are a bit easier and faster to digest than other capsules.


9 alternatives to pills

While pills usually come in two different popular ways to be consumed, like tablets and capsules, there are other alternatives to get the medication to affect you.

1. Liquid

Liquid medicines, typically known as syrups, are common, too though mostly recommended to kids.

The medicine’s active part is combined with a liquid to make it easier to take and better to absorb. Different kinds of liquids are available, and some even come without added color or sugar now.

2. Topical medicines

These are lotions, ointments, or creams applied directly to the skin, getting absorbed and taking their effect.

They come in tubs, bottles, and tubes. The active part of the medicine is mixed with another substance to make it easier to apply to the skin.

3. Suppositories

Not to be swallowed active part of the medicine is mixed with a substance. It’s pressed into a bullet shape which is then inserted into the bottom. Once it’s inside, it then dissolves and starts working.

These bullet-shaped tablets are made from substances like gelatin or cocoa butter. They are easily dissolved by the warmth of the body once inside. They usually treat the area where you put them, like the rectum or vagina.

4. Inhalers

Inhalers are easy to use but sometimes come with a spacer which allows you to inhale more slowly, increasing the amount that reaches the lungs. There are dry powder or soft mist inhalers.

The medication directly reaches your lungs and starts taking effect immediately, which is why it’s a preferred medication for those with asthma. The only important part is knowing how to use your inhaler correctly and if the prescribed medication is reaching you.

5. Injections

Injections are administered by nurses in hospitals but can be given by a family member at home. The critical part is where to inject, and it depends on the kind of medication.

  • Subcutaneous or SC injections are given just under the surface of the skin.
  • Intramuscular or IM injections are to be given into a muscle.
  • Intrathecal injections are to be given into the fluid around the spinal cord.
  • Intravenous or IV injections are to be given into a vein.

6. Implants

They are usually known as hormonal implants are used on women and work as a preventive measure against pregnancy. It’s placed under the skin of a woman’s upper arm and prevents pregnancy for up to 3 years.

The implant contains a synthetic progestin hormone that suppresses the pituitary gland, stopping the ovaries from releasing eggs. It makes the cervical mucus thicker, preventing sperm from reaching the egg.

7. Patches

Common usage as nicotine patches is applied on the arm of the person who wishes to give up smoking. Different brands have different dosages of nicotine in their patches, so consult a healthcare provider before choosing to buy one.

You’re supposed to use one patch each day and change it the next day. A nicotine patch is supposed to provide the highest level of nicotine in the bloodstream within 5 to 10 hours of correct application.

8. Buccal or sublingual tablets

These look like regular tablets, but in reality, they aren’t to be swallowed. Buccal medicines are to be held in the cheek so the mouth lining absorbs the active ingredient.

Sublingual medications work in the same way but by putting underneath the tongue. So, they’re pretty fast absorbing.

9. Gummies

They’re small candy types of chewable medicines that fulfill the critical deficiency, like vitamin gummies. They come in various flavors, sizes, and colors. They have a lot of benefits like:

  • Providing beneficial nutrients and popular amongst vegans, older adults, and pregnant women.
  • They’re pretty flavorful and works wonders for children.
  • Easily chewable, which is suitable for those who have difficulty swallowing pills

But it also has some adverse effects:

  • It might have added sugars, sugar alcohols, or food colorings. Consuming this added sugar might increase your daily intake of sugar and lead to obesity.
  • It might have different amounts of nutrients than listed.
  • Since they’re tasty and colorful to look at, it also becomes easier to snack on them, leading to overconsumption.

But in the end, gummies tend to have a faster absorption rate and start taking effect in a matter of minutes compared to traditional pills like tablets and even capsules.

Fast-acting pillsAll-day relief pills
When it comes to fast-acting pills, let’s understand how these work by taking one as an example which is a pain relief medicine. There are fast-acting pain relief pills that are a combination of aspirin and caffeine.Then there’s another category of pills that work better for an extended time. Pills like Naproxen relieve headaches, muscle aches, tendonitis, dental pain, and menstrual cramps.
Used to treat minor aches and pains such as headaches, toothache, menstrual cramps, or muscle aches. This kind of medication works fast, so it’s needed to be taken immediately upon the first sign of pain.It’s a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug and works by blocking the body’s production of certain natural substances that cause inflammation. A medical condition like arthritis may take up to two weeks of taking this drug regularly until you get the full benefit.


How long do pregnancy pills take to work?

A young woman is about to take one of her birth control pills.

Any type of birth control pill is taken orally and is 99% effective in preventing unwanted pregnancy. It prevents ovulation and makes it harder for the sperm to reach the egg.

The type of birth control pill you want to take depends on your cycle and when you wish for them to work:

  • Progestin-only pills, also known as mini-pills, work immediately if the person takes it between days 1 and 5 of their menstrual cycle. These pills will take two days to work if the person has a short cycle or starts taking pills after five days. 
  • A combination pill, if taken within five days of the period starting, is immediately effective. If started at any other time, it will take seven days to work. 

FAQs

What if I puke after taking a pill?

If you throw up after an hour or two of taking your pill, it has almost wholly absorbed in your body, so you don’t need to worry. If you throw up within minutes of taking a pill, you should consider taking another pill because it most likely didn’t have enough time to start getting absorbed.

Can you poop out a pill right after taking it?

Sometimes when we take capsules, the hard outer shell doesn’t get absorbed. It is coming out in the poop, giving an illusion of the medicine not absorbed by our body, but it’s just the shell. So, before you conclude, get your poop examined or talk to your doctor about what you’ve observed.

How long does it take for a pill to get out of your body?

Upon taking a medication, it might take a few hours or even a few days for the drugs to leave your body altogether. Depending on the dosage of the medication might take longer or shorter.

Which medication route has the slowest absorption rate?

The absorption of subcutaneous injection is slower than the IV route, and it needs absorption similar to intramuscular injection. The reason is that subcutaneous tissue has a few blood vessels, and the injected drug is diffused very slowly at a sustained absorption rate.

It’s highly effective in administering vaccines, growth hormones, and insulin, which requires continuous slow-paced delivery to your body over time at a low dose rate.

Which medication is absorbed most rapidly?

Lipid soluble drugs diffuse most rapidly. Small molecules tend to penetrate membranes more quickly than larger ones. Weakly acidic drugs like aspirin are more readily absorbed from an acid medium (stomach) than are weakly basic drugs.

However, whether a drug is acidic or basic, most absorption occurs in the small intestine because the surface area is larger and membranes are more porous.

What are the most essential characteristics of a drug to be absorbed after oral administration?

When a person takes a drug orally, it should survive the low pH and potentially degrading enzymes in the gastrointestinal tract before it’s to be absorbed into the bloodstream.

To summarize

The absorption of medication in a pill depends on many factors, which is why it’s always safe to follow a doctor’s prescription.

They are professionals who consider all the different factors that contribute to helping you receive the best prescription for your current health.

Although the usual time has taken for a pill to start showing its effect is around 30 minutes. Still, different pills work faster or slower on a human body depending on their type and dosage for your doctor’s guide for the best treatment for you.