SELF MEDICATION…. a negative health trend

Mary Ogunlade

When We consider the amount of money spent on a visit to the doctors, lab tests, drugs, scans, drips, transport and even the time and stress involved, we find that it is easier to just take a walk to the local drug store armed with a list of recommended drugs from friends and relatives. This brings me to an issue that has been of great concern to me, Self Medication and the danger it poses to us all.

Self medication is a human behaviour in which an individual selects and uses a drug or multiple drugs to treat self recognised symptoms. It is also when an individual is involved in the continued use of a prescribed drug for chronic or recurrent disease or symptoms. Drugs commonly self administered are “over the counter drugs” (OTC) such as pain relief drugs, cough syrups, laxatives, antibiotics, dietary supplements and antacids. These drugs are easy to get without a prescription from the doctor and are used to treat common issues at home.

If drugs are appropriately self medicated, they could be beneficial. How? It would make access to medication and relief for patients easy and would take the burden off physicians and pharmacists such that minor health conditions can be treated at home. Like I said, if appropriately self medicated, which is not the case most of the time. There are a lot of risks attached to self medication.

These include;

1. Incorrect self diagnosis: most self medication is done based on the individual symptoms recognised instead of taking a holistic approach to diagnose the condition.

2. Incorrect choice of therapy

3. Incorrect manner of administration (I can just imagine someone using a vaginal insert orally or swallowing a drug to be administered

4.Incorrect dosage: you could be using an inaccurate dosage and when you do not get the desired result, you either use the drug for an extended period of time or you up the dosage used. This can lead to overdosing. Another example is the Amoxicillin capsule which can be used for gonorrhea and some respiratory tract infections. It’s the same drug but the type of infection determines the dosage.

5. Dangerous drug interactions: Imagine taking Viagra while using heart medications… When self medicating, there’s the probability of taking drugs that should Not be used together! Some drugs affect the potency of others, while some may combine to cause adverse effects.

6.undetected underlying medical condition. While treating based on the symptoms we recognise, we miss out on the main cause of illness. I remember a time I had chesty cough for more than a month and was on my second bottle of cough syrup with no improvement. On getting to the clinic, I was diagnosed with malaria, typhoid and low blood pressure. I never would have considered this because all I had was cough.

7.severe adverse conditions that could be recurrent

8.drug dependence, and abuse

9. Antibiotic misuse leading to resistance (this is a story for another day)

10. Expired medications or use of drugs that have passed their therapeutic window. The safety and potency of such drugs are affected.

While self medication might seem wise financially or as a great way to avoid going to a hospital, the adverse effects can eventually get one admitted. To avoid this, we can all follow these simple measures to help reduce the trend of self medication

1. Do NOT share your drugs with anybody. Your drugs are yours, make sure to complete the dosage as prescribed and throw the rest out (no, this does not count as a waste of resources)

2.Dispose expired drugs and drugs you no longer use.

3. Consult medical professionals (Doctors or trained pharmacists) before using any drug

4. Follow instructions for prescribed drugs and do not skip doses to ensure effectiveness and avoid recurrence of disease symptoms.

5. Do not prescribe drugs for others. What works for you may not work for another.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, keeping a clean environment and following other preventive measures to avoid getting sick at all is most important.

Remember, prevention is better than cure.

Mary Ogunlade is a Lagos based Health Educator per excellence and advocate for the SDGs. She is passionate about general community wellness and organising.

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