Self-medication is a very common practice these days. People who have once been to a doctor and prescribed a medication assume that it is suitable for similar symptoms in other people or themselves, with no regard to their health or the limitation of the medication.
Self-medication is defined as the use and selection of medication by people to treat self-diagnosed and self-recognised conditions. While people assume it is beneficial for the patient to receive immediate medication to relieve symptoms, it is far from safe to rely on incomplete knowledge. There can be potential side-effects of self-medication that can be dangerous for health; read on to find what these side-effects are:
- Wrong diagnosis
for people who are not licensed medical practitioners, it is easy to misdiagnose the symptoms as something else and give completely wrong medication. Some diseases can have overlapping symptoms and may need completely different medication; however, novices can confuse the symptoms and take the wrong medication for it. Examples of such diseases can include common infections, that are easy to confuse.
Not only is wrong diagnosis troublesome in terms of treatment, but it can also cause delay in the correct diagnosis which can be a serious health condition. Moreover, patient’s health suffers needlessly when the diagnosis is wrong.
- Wrong doses
another common problem with self-medication is to take the wrong dosage. When someone takes self-medication, they may be taking more or less than the recommended dosage and in both cases it is harmful. In case of someone who takes less than the recommended dosage, they are going to under-treat the disease and still have symptoms. This will in turn prolong the disease and increase the side-effects of medication, along with its cost.
On the other hand, giving a high dose of a certain medication can also be harmful for health. Medicines do not have a dose proportional effect on disease, i.e. higher the dose, the quicker it is treated. People can have adverse reactions that can even be fatal if the dose is higher than recommended.
For non-medical people, it is easy to overlook the contraindications of certain drugs. For instance, for people with gastritis aspirin is contraindicated as it can worsen their gastritis. However, when someone is self-medicating, it can be easy to overlook these contraindications and something as small as an over-the-counter painkiller can cause health problems.
- Long-term side effects
Certain medications have long term side effects. Examples include steroids that are used commonly by our people, especially those living in the peripheries, as well as by traditional healers for common ailments without considering their long-term consequences. Steroids have some long-term side effects like their effect on bones, immunity and skin. Non-medical people when self-medicate with drugs like these create problems for themselves in the long run.
Moreover, doctors suggest that for people who suffer from chronic diseases like diabetes, self-medication can be injurious to health as they do not know which medication can worsen their condition. Other long-term side effects can occur in expectant mothers who can self-medicate without knowing what effect the drug might cause to the child. This practise is also quite common in far-flung areas where medical facilities are not very accessible, and people are not very educated.
It is imperative that steps are taken to educate the people, especially young mothers and expectant ladies, about the dangers of self-medication, as well as, which drugs are safe for use in pregnancy. Aspirin, a common over-the-counter pain medication should not be used in pregnancy, however, people can mistakenly use it for their aches and pains. Every year many children are born with congenital deformities that are the result of using the wrong medication and avoidance of this practice can therefore prevent deformities in children.
Self-medication with antibiotics can lead to resistance: indiscriminate use of antibiotics without proper diagnosis and culture studies can lead to antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance occurs when microorganisms can no longer be treated by certain drugs and need other antibiotics or higher doses. Globally, the burden of antibiotic resistance is increasing day by day, and one of the major reasons for this is self-medication. Already in our country we are finding drug resistance to prevalent diseases like typhoid and E.coli related urinary tract infections.
The incidence of self-medication with antibiotics is alarmingly high and legislations need to be made to control and restrict public access. Antibiotics should not be sold without prescriptions and their public access should be instituted.
Common examples of irresponsible self-medication include: use of cough syrups as sleep aids, skin bleaching steroids, use of antibiotics and anti-malarials. People opt for self-medication because it is instant and there is no expense of going to the doctor. However, in the long run they can suffer from serious and severe health issues, damage their health irrevocable and even end up with permanent disabilities.