National Consumers League targets teens with education around the risks of misusing OTC pain medications

WASHINGTON — The National Consumers League on Friday launched a national multimedia campaign aimed at educating teens and young adults about the risks of misusing OTC pain medications.

“When it comes to safety and health, teens often think they know more than they actually do,” stated Sally Greenberg, NCL executive director. “We have found teens as young as 13 years old, uninformed and self-medicating with OTC medications. And, while many teens do look to their parents and other adults for counsel and instruction about using OTC medications, many adult consumers aren’t properly using the medications themselves, setting a bad example for their children, and putting themselves at risk of serious health consequences.”

According to a survey released by NCL, nearly as many American teenagers (75%) as adults (84%) have used OTC pain medications in the past year. Approximately two-in-three of teen respondents (64%) said they have used an OTC pain medication in the last six months, most commonly for headaches, sports or exercise-related pain and muscle aches, or menstrual pain.

The survey also found that the incidence of use of OTC pain medications daily or several times per week is 15% among 13- to 15-year-olds, and 21% of 16- and 17-year-olds report using OTC pain medications at least several times a week.

NCL is launching, an interactive site for teens to educate them about the safe use of OTC pain medications. TakeWithCare addresses some of the most common misconceptions about the safety of the medications: the importance of reading and following labels, taking the labeled dose and consulting with parents and healthcare professionals. 

NCL also has created new OTC safety curriculum for its LifeSmarts program, a national consumer education competition and in-classroom aid for middle and high school students, and is today releasing the research about teen use of OTC medications that was used in the development of the new site. For more information about the survey, click here.

“The opportunity to educate teens about proper OTC pain medication use exists when they are young and have the potential to form better habits than their adult counterparts,” commented Rebecca Burkholder, NCL VP health policy. “As teens age and enter adulthood, they are using OTC pain medications more frequently and with increasingly less adult supervision. While we were pleased to see that the majority of teens are consulting a parent or guardian about such medication use, the goal of TakeWithCare is to instill good habits across the board.”


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