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Dangers of Self Medication

Dangers of Self MedicationA large number of people, when they fall sick, do not consult the physician. We have often heard of people who self-medicate. When some have a fever, cold, cough, constipation or indigestion, they either obtain a medicine from their shelf, or may consult a neighbour who may be having some tablets left over from his previous illness, and readily spares them.

In other instances, your friends or even total strangers volunteer advice on medicines to take like he or she is a medical authority or expert physician. Almost everyone you meet has an excellent remedy for whatever ails you.

The concept of self-medication is common amongst people. Self-medication refers to the use of drugs to treat self-diagnosed symptoms, disorders or the intermittent or continued use of a prescribed drug for chronic or recurrent disease or symptoms. Some people generously throw in names of antibiotic and other powerful drugs from their limited capacity of knowledge. But little do they realise the side effects of self-medication, the harmful side effects it bears, and the repercussions that follow afterwards.

“I believe some times, some of us are fond of this. When we have a headache, what we do is to grab a pack of the popular dose of paracetamol or the likes. But, after having a consultation with my physician, I realise that there are health implications for self -medicating without prior consultation with a medical expert, because not all ailments are what we think they are” Miss.Anthonia Osai, a marketer said in a chat.

Often at times experts have warned that there are many dangers associated with self-medication, including death. Some people do not know about the harmful effects of abusing drugs or the down side of prolonged use of self-prescribed medicine.

Self-medication, even for minor ailments, could lead to medical complications. A large number of potent drugs such as pain relievers, cough syrups, anti-allergies, laxatives, antibiotics, antacids and vitamins are sold over-the-counter. Self-medication with over the counter medicines could cause allergy, habituation, and even addiction.

Furthermore, self-medication does not tell the patient about the dosage of the drug, the strength of it, its composition, how the drug needs to be taken, and its side-effects or reactions, if any.  Self-medication also to a certain extent stems from our age old myths and traditions. That coupled with ignorance and lack of awareness about healthcare leads to many problems. Some also resort to self-medication to avoid medical expenses without realising that these habits will cause more damage in the future, premature death or disability. A minor health issue which could be resolved easily with the doctor’s advice may become a major problem over time.

In a study on the prevalence of self-medication among the people in Mumbai, India, it showed that 85% respondents practice self-medication. The respondents found self-medication to be time-saving, economical, convenient and providing quick relief in common illnesses. The most common indications for self-medication were headache, body ache, cough, cold, sore throat, dysmenorrhoea and fever. Analgesics, antipyretics, and antibiotics use was high in numbers. It is learned that apart from the local chemist shops and pharmacies, most people also embarked on self-medication using information gathered from the Internet as well as friends, and old prescriptions.

Self-medication is a human behaviour in which an individual uses a substance or any exogenous influence to self-administer treatment for physical or psychological ailments. The most widely self-medicated substances are over-the-counter drugs used to treat common health issues at home, as well as dietary supplements.

Thus, to avoid or minimise the dangers of self-medication, firstly, experts have advised that people should be educated about the dangers of indiscriminate use of drugs. Secondly, the physicians should be more judicious in prescribing, while insisting only on drugs made available by the pharmacy. Thirdly, a proper statutory “Drug Control” measure must be put in place, rationally restricting the availability of drugs to the public. These would definitely reduce the incidence of drug-related mishaps, and help in maintaining good health of the individual and society at large.


By Gabriel Ifinnwa


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