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‘Respectable Addiction’ – A qualitative study of over the counter medicine abuse in the UK.

‘Respectable Addiction’ – A qualitative study of over the counter medicine abuse in the UK.

  1. jon-q
    Background and aims

    The sale of over the counter (OTC) medicines from pharmacies represents an opportunity for people to self-medicate and manage their own symptoms. However, some OTC medicines have the potential for being used incorrectly or abused, and there have been increasing concerns about risks associated with some medicines. The primary aim of this study was to describe and understand current issues relating to OTC medicine addiction by investigating the experiences of individuals affected by OTC medicine addiction in the United Kingdom (UK), pharmacists and medicines counter assistants (MCAs), and key UK stakeholders. Additional aims involved exploring the role of the internet, pharmacy involvement, and different types of medicine use.


    Qualitative, semi-structured interviews were undertaken with three purposively sampled groups. Firstly, 16 key stakeholders from organizations and employment related to OTC medicine addiction were interviewed including representatives from pharmacy organisations and businesses, industry representation, medical addiction interest groups, addiction and eating disorder charities, clinical perspectives from public, private and voluntary treatment services, and academia; secondly, 10 pharmacists and 7 MCAs were interviewed, representing different locations (England, Scotland and Wales) and pharmacy ownership types (multiple, independent, rural, city); thirdly, 25 individuals were recruited via two UK on-line medicine addiction support groups (Overcount and Codeine Free).

    Semi-structured qualitative interviews were undertaken by telephone and in-person and audio recorded, save for one participant who requested email/text-based communication. Interviews were conducted during 2009 and 2010 and all were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. Analysis involved a process of constant comparison, with initial open and descriptive coding, and subsequent axial coding, with refinement of emergent themes. University of Sheffield ethics approval was obtained.