Can Airport Scanners See Pills?

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Going through airport scanners can be daunting and time-consuming, especially when people are rushing to catch their flight. Some people must travel with medication for health reasons, or simply prefer to have pills for pain or headaches on hand. But will airport scanners be able to see these pills?

Airport scanners can see pills contained in plastic pill bottles or metallic packaging. The baggage scanners see the outline of the items, such as pills, and the full-body scanners can detect pills under multiple layers of clothing. However, the specific drugs cannot be identified in the scanner.

Can Airport Scanners See Pills

Airport scanners can see the pills people travel with, but cannot identify more than that. For instance, the scanner won’t be able to tell what legal or illegal drugs are. Usually, pills are stored in carry-on bags that must go through the baggage scanners.

Although the scanners cannot detect precisely what pills are there and what materials they are made of. However, the scanners show the security staff that the items are pills by seeing the shape and color.

These scanners basically act as an x-ray to check if there is anything dangerous or prohibited in the bag. When a bag goes through airport baggage scanners, the outline of all the objects is seen on the computer.

Can Airport Scanners See Pills Through Containers

Usually, over-the-counter medication is provided in plastic bottles or packaged in foil blisters. Of course, if the person cannot identify specific things, the bag must be separated and perhaps physically searched. The scanners can also see the pills through almost any container.

Airport scanners can detect both. Drugs in lead pill bottles will not be seen in the airport scanners, but the lead bottle may be flagged as something interesting, as lead bottles for pills are not that common.

Airport scanners can see the outline of pills under other materials and items in the carry-on luggage. Different shapes and colors appear on the screen where obvious things are identified, and the bag is moved through to the other end of the scanner.

However, body scanners, another type of airport scanner, usually cannot detect pills or drugs stashed in body cavities. However, if someone has forgotten to take their pills from their pockets, they might be seen through the body scanner.

How Do Airport Scanners See Pills

In the USA, there are two leading scanners at airports: baggage and full-body scanners. The old baggage airport scanners that worked as metal detectors had one obvious problem – they couldn’t detect anything harmful or suspicious made from plastic or concealed in plastic.

Full-body scanners are sometimes used at certain airports to do an extensive scan of people going through security. The new and currently used baggage scanners work on an X-ray system and can detect plastic. They capture images of the items in the bags as they pass through the scanner.

The main goal is to look out for harmful and dangerous items like weapons or explosives, but also drugs. Although there are different scanners, these specific full-body ones are millimeter wave scanners.

Different Airport Scanners That See Pills

They use a specific type of electromagnetic wave to see all the different items, from knives to drugs. They are safe for people to go through. These scanners can detect pills under numerous layers of clothing. Another type of full-body scanner was the backscatter X-ray scanner.

This type of scanner is also able to detect drugs on a person, but not in a person. However, this method received quite a bit of backlash as many thought it was too invasive and revealed too much of the body. Now, it has mostly been replaced with millimeter wave scanners.

The millimeter wave scanners have successfully seen if pills have been strapped on a person or are stashed in pockets. The other alternative is to have a more invasive “frisk” by one security personnel, which could also result in the scanners detecting pills, but the probability may be less.

In some countries, refusing to go through the scanner would result in quite a rigorous body search. The main problem with detecting pills with airport baggage scanners is that the difference between certain types of pills, like mints or drugs, cannot be seen using an x-ray scanner.

However, other methods like CT scanners could pick up minor differences in densities between pills. Therefore, the security staff would notice if certain drugs are mixed with others in the same container.

Overall, airport scanners can not specifically pick up on what drug is present; some sensors highlight pills as targets. The staff will do a physical and visual assessment if any suspicion is raised.

Do Airport Scanners Affect Medications

Some people may be concerned about whether the x-ray scanners’ radiation would change their medication or make them lose their effectiveness. The scanners’ radiation is very low, so most medicines are safe.

Even medications that include insulin or red blood-cell boosters should be okay, as the radiation dose is so low. Pills can even be sent through the scanner more than once, and there should be no change or effect on the drugs.

Why Should Airport Scanners See Pills

People may wonder why it is essential for airport scanners to detect pills, especially ones that are perfectly safe and are Doctor prescribed. The reason is that drugs can be transported in airports via baggage or strapped on a person under many layers of clothing.

Interestingly, the airport security team is not on the lookout for illegal drugs and substances. It is their job to report any suspicious items they see over the scanners or on a person.

However, they are not looking into every bag that has a box of pills in them, as people are generally allowed to travel with over-the-counter medication or pills that they need chronically. The security using airport scanners are used for precisely that – security.

The primary purpose of the scanners is to detect anything harmful to the other passengers and the aircraft, which is where detecting something like explosives would be more critical than pills. The law enforcement of a particular country and the customs section are responsible for finding and reporting illegal drugs.

Can You Hide Pills Through Airport Security Scanners?

Firstly, if the pills being carried are prescription or standard drugs, there would be no reason to hide them from the scanners. Secondly, you cannot hide that medications are in your bag when they go through airport scanners, but staff cannot know the pills’ specific type, color, or purpose.

Some states do not require you to have medication in their prescription bottles, but these rules vary across states and countries. However, the regulations regarding traveling with medication state that prescription pills should be in their prescription bottles or containers and should not be more than the quantity required for personal use.

To be safe, people should not carry pills for more than 90 days through the airport scanner. Also, when pills go through airport scanners, they are recommended to have a label, like the name of the medicines. A bag of unidentified pills going through the scanner may raise some red flags.