If you’re wondering if airport scanners can see pills, the answer is yes, they can see the pills that you are traveling with.

This is regardless if the pills are contained in plastic pill bottles, or contained in any other non-metallic and metallic objects.

However, a passenger has the right to refuse to have any pills or other medication they are traveling with X-rayed, and can instead opt for a visual inspection instead.

Of course, this must be requested before the pills or any other medication is sent through the X-ray tunnel.

Hiding Pills From Airport Scanners

Except for liquid medication in your carry-on, as it’s completely legal to fly with pills in both your checked baggage and carry-on bags in unlimited amounts, there is no need to hide pills.

Additionally, as the TSA’s main concern is detecting potential threats and keeping passengers safe, even finding illegal pills is not something that officers look out for.

Airport Scanner X-Ray Image Example
What the contents of luggage look like to an airport scanner

Of course, it would be beyond foolish to even attempt to travel with and hide illegal pills, considering the consequences.

However, it’s interesting to know that despite airport scanners being very high-tech machines that have no problems finding pills anywhere a passenger may attempt to hide them, the TSA is not concerned with finding illegal pills in the first place.

You Don’t Have to Declare That You Are Traveling With Pills

The TSA does not require passengers to present their medication or even notify an officer about any medication they are flying with.

However, if you are traveling with liquid pills, these are subject to additional screening.

Additionally, at the start of the screening checkpoint process, you should inform the officer that you are traveling with medically required liquids.

Quantity of Pills the TSA Allow

The TSA does not specify a maximum limit that you are allowed to travel with.

As long as the pills are screened, you are able to bring an unlimited amount with you.

A very large amount of pills
As long as not in liquid form, there is technically no limit to the number of pills you can fly with

The exception to this are pills in liquid form.

If you intend to travel with liquid pills in your carry-on baggage, they must not exceed 3.4 ounces/100ml.

Medically required liquids are exempt from this rule and are allowed to exceed 3.4 ounces/100ml in your carry on.

Pills Don’t Have to Be in Prescription Bottles

While the TSA does not require any medication to be in prescription bottles, state laws about the labeling of prescription medication apply.

What Happens if Illegal Pills Are Found

There’s clearly a big difference in traveling with and going through airport security and scanners with legal pills that are part of your medication and illegal pills.

Airport Full Body Scanner
This millimeter wave scanner is used for detecting objects concealed underneath a passenger’s clothing

While TSA officers don’t actively search for illegal drugs, if illegal drugs are found, including illegal pills, the officer is obligated to inform local authorities.

It is then up to the police to decide how they want to handle the matter and what will happen next.

Airport Scanners Can’t Actually Detect Drugs

Airport scanners are unable to outright detect drugs.

Instead, they create detailed images of a passenger’s luggage and belongings, which TSA agents may decide to investigate further if they spot something that looks suspicious.

This also means that airport scanners cannot outright detect a specific drug.

Airports use backscatter scanners, millimeter-wave scanners, and cabinet x-ray scanners to perform full-body scans and check a passenger’s luggage.

Travel Management Consultant | Website

Robert is an expert in commercial air travel with decades of experience in the travel industry, and has spent countless hours in airports and on planes for work.

He therefore has an unrivaled understanding of everything related to commercial air travel.

Whether you need help navigating the complicated TSA regulations or want insider tips on how to find the best deals on flights, Robert has the expertise and experience to help our readers.

Robert's knowledge and insights have been led to him either being quoted or mentioned in major publications, including Insider, Trip Savvy, ZDNet, and Bored Panda

You can contact Robert at travel@executiveflyers.com