Over-The-Counter Analgesics: A Meta-Synthesis of Pain Self-Management in Adolescents

Alfred Habamutaki Kiza*, Renee C.B. Manworren, Xiaomei Cong, Angela Starkweather, Patricia Watts Kelley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: The consumption prevalence of OTC medication ranges between 57% and 78% among adolescents in the United States of America; however, the reasons for self-medication with OTC analgesics have not been systematically examined. Aims: The purpose of this meta-synthesis is to generate new knowledge and theoretical understanding of adolescents’ use of over-the-counter (OTC) analgesics. Design: Qualitative meta-ethnography using Noblit and Hare's (1988) approach. Settings: Participants/Subjects: Methods: We identified qualitative studies in the CINAHL, PubMed, PsycINFO, and ProQuest Dissertation and Thesis databases that addressed OTC analgesic use in adolescents, were published between 2006 and 2018, and were written in English. Themes were extracted from studies meeting inclusion/exclusion criteria and a meta-ethnographic analysis was conducted. Results: Seven studies met inclusion/exclusion criteria. Four themes were identified that described reasons for adolescent use of OTC analgesics for pain management: 1) survival instinct; 2) placebo for stress and anxiety control; 3) accessibility; and 4) consumer socialization. Conclusions: Findings suggest that OTC analgesic use is common among adolescents to treat pain and other non-medically–indicated conditions, such as stress and anxiety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)439-445
Number of pages7
JournalPain Management Nursing
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing


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