Pharmacy World & Science

, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 243–250 | Cite as

Medicine-taking behaviour and drug-related problems in adolescents of a Swedish high school

  • Michael Westerlund
  • Jan-Olof Brånstad
  • Tommy WesterlundEmail author
Research Article


Objectives To examine (1) which over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drugs adolescents most frequently use and for which ailments or diseases, and (2) which DRPs adolescents have experienced, as well as if and by whom these problems were resolved. Setting A high school in Helsingborg, Sweden. Methods A self-completion questionnaire was designed and used in students with a median age of 17 in late 2005 and early 2006. To enable students to identify DRPs they may have experienced, the questionnaire contained a list of DRPs in lay language. The questionnaires were distributed by the teachers to be completed by the students in the classroom. Main outcome measures: Self-reported prevalence of OTC and prescription drug use and experienced drug-related problems. Results A total of 245 students (99%) took part, 138 females and 107 males. OTCs had been used occasionally by 37.7% of the girls and 62.6% of the boys, while 10.9% and 6.5% respectively were daily users. Analgesics were the most frequently used OTCs. DRPs had been experienced by 31.1% of the female and 19.6% of the male students, the most common of which was therapy failure (too little or no effect), accounting for 46.5% of the girls’ and 38.1% of the boys’ OTC DRPs. Eighty-five percent of the problems with OTCs had been resolved, half of them by the teenagers themselves. Prescription drugs had been used occasionally by 31.9% of the female and 29.0% of the male students, while 28.3% and 26.2% respectively reported using such drugs on a daily basis. Antibiotics were the most frequently taken prescription drugs. DRPs related to prescribed drugs were reported by 32.6% of the girls and 10.3% of the boys. The most common DRPs were side effects, accounting for 34.8% of the girls’ problems, and therapy failure, experienced by 28.6% of the boys. All the boys’ DRPs were reported to be resolved, but only 75% of those of the girls. Physicians were stated to have resolved the problems in 41.4% of the cases. Conclusions There is a need to develop the interface between pharmacy practitioners and adolescents, as the study has demonstrated frequent use of OTCs and prescription drugs as well as a high prevalence of DRPs in adolescents. The reasons for therapy failure, which was the most common problem, should be further explored and measures taken by pharmacists and physicians to minimise it.


Adolescents Drug-related problems Medicine-taking behaviour OTCs prescription drugs Sweden 



We would like to thank the students and teachers of the Olympiaskolan in Helsingborg, Sweden, who made this study possible, and in particular the teacher Ms Anna Petersson for her kind assistance.


The study was funded by Olympiaskolan, Helsingborg, Sweden.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Westerlund
    • 1
  • Jan-Olof Brånstad
    • 2
  • Tommy Westerlund
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.OlympiaskolanHelsingborgSweden
  2. 2.Apoteket ABStockholmSweden
  3. 3.Research and DevelopmentApoteket ABHelsingborg and StockholmSweden
  4. 4.Social Medicine, Department of Public Health and Community MedicineGöteborg UniversityGoteborgSweden

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