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Last Updated
October 27, 2014
Acetaminophen Safe Use > Overview
Overview | College Resource Guide | Teen Influencers | Seniors

Acetaminophen is found in more than 600 different medicines — both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, fever reducers, and sleep aids as well as cough, cold, and allergy medicines. Acetaminophen is safe and effective when it is used according to the label directions, but taking too much acetaminophen can be harmful.

NCPIE is pleased to be a founding member of the Acetaminophen Awareness Coalition. The Coalition is made up of leading health, healthcare providers, and consumer organizations. The American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and U.S. Food and Drug Administration serve as advisors to the Coalition. The goal of the Coalition is to educate consumers and patients about how to use medicines containing acetaminophen appropriately and to help change behaviors that could lead to an unintentional acetaminophen overdose. Through outreach to healthcare providers, patients, and consumers, the coalition works to ensure that acetaminophen is used only as directed or labeled. The Coalition is the official sponsor of the Know Your Dose campaign.

Click here for important information about pediatric dosing of acetaminophen.

NCPIE has developed a series of public awareness/educational programs that integrate tailored messaging, free downloads and useful links to external resources on the safe use of acetaminophen-containing products (OTC and Rx). The educational materials described below can be used either online or in a variety of settings (community outreach, school-based, etc.):

  • The Acetaminophen Safe Use College Resource Guide can be used as a stand-alone or in conjunction with NCPIE's existing Taking Action to Prevent & Address Prescription Drug Abuse A Resource Kit for America's College Campuses. NCPIE convened project advisory teams consisting of individuals with expertise in advocacy, outreach, health communications and safe use of medicines of particular relevance to college-age youth to provide input into the development of these resources.

    The downloadable handouts in the resource guide are designed to equip peer educators and campus leaders – residence assistants, peer health educators, campus leaders in student government, Greek life or campus clubs, and captains of athletic teams among others — with timely and practical informational resources and programming ideas to help ensure that college students become Acetaminophen-Savvy so they:

    • Know the facts about safe use of medicines that contain acetaminophen.
    • Understand the consequences of potential overdose.
    • Learn about the importance of reading and following dosing directions on the Drug Facts OTC label.
    The Acetaminophen Safe Use College Resource Guide provides the tools to educate students in college dorms, student health center, campus organizations, classes and other places where students congregate. These materials are ideal for all healthcare professional students to use to educate fellow students, community outreach programs and externships required as part of their curriculum.
  • The Acetaminophen Safe Use Program for Teen Influencers provides teen influencers — parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, community and school-based healthcare providers and others with basic tools and information about using acetaminophen safely. The acetaminophen safe use program is a stand-alone program and can also be combined with the Maximizing Your Role as a Teen Influencer: What You can Do to Help Prevent Teen Prescription Drug Abuse. The project advisory team members involved in the development of this program include educators and healthcare professionals involved in secondary education.

    Specifics include being able to teach teens to:

    • Always read the label to learn about the active ingredients in a medicine before taking it.
    • Ask a parent or guardian to examine the medicines in the medicine cabinet at home and to use a color marker to highlight acetaminophen as the active ingredient to make it easily identifiable if it is not already highlighted on medicine packaging.
    • Never take more than one medicine at a time that contains acetaminophen.
    • Never take more than the recommended dose of acetaminophen or take it for longer than directed on the label, unless directed by a healthcare professional to do so.
  • The Acetaminophen Safe Use for Seniors program is an online educational module on safe use of acetaminophen products targeting older adults and caregivers This program was developed with input from a project advisory team with expertise in advocacy, outreach, health communications and safe use of medicines for/to older adults.

    This program is integrated into NCPIE's Medication Use Safety Training for Seniors™ program site, located at www.mustforseniors.org and can be used by as a stand-alone or in conjunction with the MUST for Seniors™ program. The Acetaminophen Safe Use for Seniors program can be used by older adults, caregivers and healthcare professionals for self-education and to present this information in their communities (for example, at a senior center, place of worship, library, pharmacy or doctor's office).

    While medicines are an important and often necessary tool for living well as we age, there can be risks associated with using all medicines, especially for older adults. Older adults use more medicines—prescription, over-the-counter (OTC) and supplements—than any other age group in the U.S. Older adults often use multiple medicines increasing the risk of drug interactions. The Acetaminophen Safe Use for Seniors program gives older adults and their caregivers basic information about why and how medicines can affect us differently as we age and what can be done easily and safely to reduce the risks.

These programs were developed with support from McNeil Consumer Healthcare Division of McNeil-PPC, Inc.