Background: OTC analgesics were released for sale outside pharmacies in Norway in 2003. This study assesses indications and frequency of use of these drugs among 15-16 year-old teenagers in Norway after 2003.
Material and method: We developed a questionnaire, which contained 65 questions with one or more response options. This was given to all pupils in the final grade at six junior high schools in a town with 60,000 inhabitants (Drammen).
Results: 367 of 626 (58.6 %) pupils participated. 50 % of the boys and 71 % of the girls had used OTC analgesics during the last four weeks; 26 % of them on a daily or weekly basis. Girls experienced episodes of pain more frequently than boys, but the proportion of episodes treated with analgesics did not differ between the sexes. Headache and muscle pain were common. Half of those with severe headache/migraine used OTC analgesics on a daily or weekly basis. The teenagers reported several reasons for experiencing pain and discomfort, such as long time spent in front of various screens, tight time schedules with physical exercise and friends, drinking too little and much noise in the classroom.
Interpretation: Use of OTC analgesics has increased considerably among Norwegian teenagers. Drug-induced headache may occur as an adverse event. If more effort is made to improve life situations that adolescents perceive as painful and a cause of discomfort, the need for OTC analgesics may be reduced.