● Define misuse as it relates to over–the–counter (OTC) medicines.
● Understand why misusing OTC medicines can be harmful.
● Identify the steps to take when encountering an OTC medicine misuse situation.
Note: This lesson is based on the foundational knowledge students will have gained about OTC medicines, the Drug Facts label, and dosing devices after completing Lessons 1–3.
● Use vs. Misuse activity slides printable
● OTC Medicine Awareness in Your Community printable
● Computer and projector
● Computer with Internet access for student use
● OTC Medicine Safety’s Family Newsletter printable
Emphasize to students that they should never take medicine without the supervision of a parent or trusted adult.
Set up your computer and a screen to show students the Use vs. Misuse activity slides printable.
Make copies of the printables for each student. If you won’t be showing the Use vs. Misuse activity slides, make copies of this as well.
Step 1: Begin this lesson by prompting an open class discussion:
● Do you think OTC medicines are dangerous if they are misused, or used in a manner other than what is directed by the Drug Facts label or a doctor?
Allow students to offer opinions. Through a show of hands, tally the "yes" versus "no" opinions on the board. Inform students that by the end of this lesson, the class will revisit the question.
Step 2: Help illuminate how students’ preconceived ideas can sometimes cloud the real facts about a topic. Reinforce this idea by showing (or distributing) the Use vs. Misuse activity slides (sun, potatoes, vitamins, ibuprofen). Do not reveal the “Answer” or “Now You Know” sections on each slide. At the end, ask students:
● How are these four items related?
Answer: All are okay when used or stored properly and used in moderation, but when they are not, all can have harmful health effects.
Step 3: Afterward, go back through the Use vs. Misuse activity slides printable and uncover the answers beneath each item.
SLIDE #1: SUN
ANSWER Fifteen minutes of sun per day is essential for maintaining a healthy level of vitamin D, which promotes the retention of calcium, mostly in your bones. Calcium is very important in the development of your bones and teeth. Too much sun, however, may cause skin damage or even skin cancer. To protect against damage from the sun's rays, avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when its rays are strongest; wear protective clothing, and use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, according to the American Skin Association.
Now you know: Use a good sunscreen when outdoors for more than 15 minutes and avoid prolonged sun exposure.
SLIDE #2: POTATOES
ANSWER Potatoes are an excellent source of carbohydrates, which your body needs for energy. But potatoes naturally contain solanine, a toxic ingredient that can cause a number of health problems. Solanine thrives in well–lit environments and is present when you see a green tinge under the potato's skin and experience a bitter taste.
Now you know: Store potatoes in a cool, dark place and be on the lookout for discoloration and bad taste.
SLIDE #3: VITAMINS
ANSWER Vitamins can be purchased over the counter and are widely available. They're easy to access, but can have risks if not used appropriately. They should be taken under the guidance of a parent or trusted adult. Vitamins can be dangerous if they're misused or if a person isn't using them in accordance with the Supplement Facts label on the bottle.
Now you know: Read the label and talk to a trusted adult before taking vitamins.
SLIDE #4: IBUPROFEN
ANSWER Ibuprofen has been used for decades for pain relief and is available over the counter. When ibuprofen is used as directed, it reduces inflammation (swelling) and can reduce fevers. However, large doses of ibuprofen can cause damage to the stomach or intestines.
Now you know: Follow directions on the Drug Facts label and talk to a trusted adult before taking an anti-inflammatory medicine.
Step 1: Discuss how the four items from the Use vs. Misuse activity slides appear safe, but there are specific guidelines for using or consuming them. If you do not follow the safety precautions for proper use and storage, there could be harmful consequences. Explain that when you dig a little deeper, you often discover new information that you might ordinarily overlook. Ask students:
● Can you think of other items you come in contact with regularly that are safe when used properly, but dangerous when misused?
Answers may include: appliances, cars,, cleaning supplies, etc.
Step 2: Explain that students will look more closely at the effects of medicine misuse.
Have students work in pairs to brainstorm possible answers to these questions. If students have access to technology, have them quickly research the answers. What negative effects could result from:
- Not reading and following the Drug Facts label?
- Taking more than the recommended dose?
- Redosing more frequently than directed on the label?
- Using more than one medicine with the same kind of active ingredient at the same time?
- Taking medicines for longer than directed on the label?
- Taking medicines for reasons or symptoms other than what is directed on the label?
Step 3: Once during the discussion of students’ responses, make sure that students understand that all of these scenarios are dangerous because there are very real and potentially dangerous consequences when someone misuses OTC medicines. For example, medicines can lead to nausea, diarrhea, irregular heartbeat, seizures, and even the potential for addiction). The Drug Facts label provides instructions for using the medicine safely.
Step 4: Ask students:
● What is the perception among your friends about misusing prescription or OTC medicines? Answers may include: Misusing prescription drugs is dangerous and can be deadly; no one really gets hurt from misusing OTC medicines.
Once students have completed the questions, ask them to share their answers with the
● Based on the information you've learned while studying OTC Medicine Safety, who do you believe needs to be informed about the dangers of misusing OTC medicines?
Answers may include: parents and guardians so they can keep children safe; younger students so they can avoid dangerous situations; local officials so they develop programs and policies for safe medicine use and disposal
Step 5 : Distribute OTC Medicine Awareness in Your Community printable. Review the two different audiences students can reach (younger students and local officials). Remind students that they need to keep their audience in mind when writing. Discuss these questions as a class:
● What information would be most persuasive for younger students? What is the best way to get their attention and help them remember this information?
● What information would be most persuasive for local officials? What is the best way to communicate this information and other suggestions?
Step 6: Invite students to conduct research for their writing externally. Then, have them complete the assignment.
Step 7: Explain to students that this activity sheet can be used to launch a larger community–wide campaign. A coalition of families, students, and community leaders can show collective support for making their communities and schools safer places for children and their families. A coalition will help to increase and disseminate information within the school and community about the safe use and storage of OTC medicines and the dangers of misuse. Students can work with their families and neighbors to submit a collection of letters to local town officials and leaders that encourage getting the word out about safe medicine use.
Step 8: Assess what students learned about OTC medicine safety. Have them complete the OTC Medicine Safety Post-Assessment Quiz printable. Compare the completed quizzes to students’ assessments to measure the growth of their knowledge.
Now that students have learned about the misuse of OTC medicines, the importance of understanding the Drug Facts label, and the safety precautions for proper use and storage, allow them to apply what they’ve learned in a role playing activity. Hand out the Culminating Student Activities printable and allow students time to work in groups to analyze a few scenes, then create skits that address specific scenarios.
Send home the OTC Medicine Safety‘s Family Newsletter printable so students may continue the discussion at home. Encourage students to discuss what they have learned about the Poison Help number, to post the number in a visible place in their home, and to get family members to save the number in their mobile phones.