Do you self-medicate? Read on!

Ever found yourself feeling a little sick or having subtle symptoms like a headache and the first thing you do is to visit that nearby “chemist” to buy cheap medicines you hope would give you relief? Well, you’re guilty of self-medicating and you just might be making things worse.
 Self-medication is a worrisome habit amongst ordinary people that needs urgent attention. Many people do not consult a qualified pharmacist or a doctor when they start feeling sick. They ask a friend, a relative or a neighbour or even worse they go online to medical chatrooms or “google” their condition. More and more medicines are available from drugstores, off the street or online, without a doctor’s prescription and this trend has now become accepted in our busy lifestyle.

Common health issues like headache or body pain can be treated quickly with a painkiller but in some cases they may mask more serious illnesses. The earlier an illness is correctly diagnosticated, the better the chance of recovery: this self-medicating habit has caused people to adopt a reactive approach of waiting for their mild headache to deteriorate before going to the doctors.

What is Self-Medication?

Self-medication refers to practice of using drugs or other medications to self-administer treatment for ailments physical or psychological without consulting a medical doctor. It also includes adopting unorthodox means of self-enhancement without the consultation of licensed medical personnel. The medications in question are often called ‘non-prescription’ or ‘over-the-counter’ (OTC) and are usually available without a doctor’s prescription through pharmacies and drugstores.

Why do people Self-Medicate?

There are many reasons that lead people to self-medicate such as financial constraint, fear associated with a medical diagnosis, lack of time, religious belief etc… There are many habits such as taking painkillers to ease stress, cannabis or codeine/cough suppressant to help with depression, drugs to sedate or stimulate, multivitamins to help boost the immune system or drugs for weight gain or loss. People have always sought out easy solutions to their medical needs.

In developed countries, drug administration must conform to strict medical standards but the case is different in many African countries, where ethical standards are not fully respected. Some medical experts are of the view that illiteracy and poverty especially in the rural areas are increasing the rate of self medication in Nigeria. This is worsened by the behaviour of undisciplined pharmacists, doctors and regulatory agencies charged with the responsibility of giving health-care and sound medical advice to patients.

The dangers of Self-Medication

● Drug addiction: Continued use of drugs without prescription leaves you vulnerable to addictions. For example, if taking ibuprofen relieves you from headaches or migraines, there’s every chance that you will continue to take it every time, whether sick or not, because you’re enjoying the sedative effects that taking it gives you.

● Drug on drug interaction: Taking one drug and then taking another, probably for the same reason, that you want immediate relief can sometimes leave you with no relief at all. This is because different drugs interact in various ways and can in some cases negate each other, leaving you as sick as before, or compound each other leaving you with high toxicity levels.

● Overdose: A drug overdose can easily result from ignorance or assumptions of the required dosage of a particular drug. Some medication take a while to give effect, especially if past their sell by date, and you might be tempted to up the dosage because you’re not getting the desired effect as indicated. A drug overdose can be very harmful to your health and may even result in death in the absence of medical intervention.

● Drug sensitivity: Another reason why you should avoid self-medication is sensitivity to certain drugs. People have different tolerance levels to certain medications, so a drug that works well for one person might not work well for the other. Drug sensitivity may result in allergic reactions and adverse side effects where you lack knowledge of your medical history. It is also important to be aware that drug sensitivity changes over time because your body immune system reacts in different ways to both the drug and the ailment. The immune system could get stronger or weaker relative to the illness or could stop responding to a particular drug. It is also worth pointing out that common virus or parasite strains evolve over time.

How to avoid self-medication
Self-medicating can cause serious problems, so it is important to set up an appointment with a doctor when symptoms occur. A medical doctor is trained to accurately diagnose the ailment and provide appropriate medication to treat a condition. Allow a doctor to determine the cause and a treatment plan that is appropriate for you or a loved one. A doctor may order additional testing to provide a final diagnosis. If deemed necessary, a medical professional will prescribe medication along with clear dosage instructions to prevent an overdose or limit the risk of dependency.

So, if you or a loved one are experiencing pain, discomfort or are feeling ill for an extended period of time, then it is time to visit a trained medical doctor.

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