Knowledge and use of over-the-counter drugs in Italy: a survey-based study in the general population

Stephania Chiappini, Franca Ceci, Alessio Mosca, Francesco Di Carlo, Julius Burkauskas, Mauro Pettorruso, Giovanni Martinotti, Amira Guirguis, John Martin Corkery, Norbert Scherbaum, Fabrizio Schifano, Massimo di Giannantonio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: During the past decade the misuse of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines has become a global public health concern especially among young people. In this study, we aimed to identify current trends of OTC consumption and related misuse in Italy, exploring the level of knowledge on their diversion and eventual risk factors in the general population.
METHODS: The study consisted of an anonymous online survey distributed by direct contact and via the internet between June-November 2021 to the general population living in Italy. Descriptive statistics were reported, and regression analyses were performed to identify risk factors for lifetime misuse of OTC. The study was approved by the University of Hertfordshire (aLMS/SF/UH/02951).
RESULTS: A number of 717 subjects responded to the survey and were included in the study. Sample was mainly represented by female (69.3%) students (39.9%) in the 20-25 years age group (30.0%). Based on the survey responses, study participants were divided into two groups according to the presence/absence of OTC abuse/misuse (127 versus 590), which were compared for possible predictors of OTC diversion. Concomitant substances used with OTC were alcohol (8.8%), prescription medicines (6.1%), other OTC (4.7%), and cannabis (2.6%). Multivariate regression showed that the strongest predictor of OTC abuse/misuse was knowledge of the effects of OTC [odds ratio/OR of 2.711, 95% Confidence Interval/CI 1.794-4.097, p<0.001). The probability of OTC abuse/misuse almost doubled when individuals purchased OTC without indication [OR = 1.54, 95% CI 1.02–2.34, p = 0.042]. Finally, education was negatively correlated with OTC abuse/misuse [OR = 0.695, 95% CI 0.58–0.94, p = 0.016].
CONCLUSION: Although, according to our data, the phenomenon of OTC abuse appeared to be limited, increasing attention is needed because of its possible underestimation and high-risk outcomes. Preventive strategies, including a simplified access to information, may play a key role in the limitation of OTC drugs misuse.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-141
JournalCurrent Neuropharmacology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Oct 2022


  • over-the-counter drugs
  • OTC
  • drug misuse
  • drug diversion
  • survey


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