Friday, June 30, 2017

Good Reasons To Stop Self-Medication

Have you ever approached a pharmacist to buy antibiotics without a prescription? The answer would most probably be a ‘Yes’. And, most of us are not surprised, because self-medication has become a veritable epidemic, but the fact that it can be dangerous is somehow Not catching up.
Self-medication is when a person decides to treat themselves without consulting a doctor. This is not only dangerous but can also cause serious problems and in some cases worsen the situation. Today over 7,000 drugs and drug combinations are available in the world and many of these have been released for general use and are sold directly as over- the-counter or OTC drugs. On the other hand, medicines that are available only with a prescription are called prescription medicines.

Most OTC drugs usually fall under the category of pain relievers, cough remedies, anti-allergies, laxatives, vitamins, tonics, antacids etc. The term “responsible self-medication” is often used to stress the responsible use of OTC medicines by patients with healthcare professional support, where necessary.

Due to various sociocultural and economic factors, self-medication is a very common practice in India. However, the benefits of the same are much lesser than the potential dangers one might face as a result of self-medication. Let’s take a looks at the benefits and dangers of self-medication.

Dangers of self- medication
Self-medication is not only risky, but can also prove to be life-threatening in some cases. If you want to self-medicate, you should be able to recognise the symptoms that you are treating and should be confident that your medical condition is suitable for self-medication, and you should also be able to choose an appropriate medicine, and finally, you must also be able to follow the directions for use of the medicine as stated on the product labelling.

Now these are big asks. Not everyone is capable of ticking all the above boxes. This makes self-medication particularly dangerous. The doctor or a health professional is responsible for interpreting both signs and symptoms of an illness and the side effects of a medicine.

Patients can’t decide by themselves which medicine to take for what symptoms and what are the contraindications or side effects. For example, you may decide to self-medicate for a headache and this medicine interacts with another medicine that you are taking for a chronic issue and you land up in the ICU due to the two medicines interacting.

Here are some potential risks that can be posed by self-medication:

1.     One may misdiagnose
2.     Wrong dosage
3.     Allergic and adverse drug reactions
4.     Drug interactions and resistance
5.     Contraindications
6.     Mask a severe illness
7.     Make a mistake in identifying the right drugs
8.     Taking the right medicine at the wrong time

Lay persons don’t know that people vary greatly in their sensitivity or reaction to drugs and that an appropriate dose for one person may not be appropriate for another and may actually be dangerous. This situation is further worsened in many countries around the world where the regulatory mechanisms controlling drug sale are weak and most drugs including certain prescription medicines are available to the lay person without a doctor’s prescription.

It is important that you realize that self-medication can prove to be extremely dangerous for your health and may also be responsible for making an illness worse; so, one should consult a doctor before self-medicating to avoid any kind of medical emergencies and fatalities.

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