Self-medication can best be described as taking of drug(s) or substance(s) on one’s own initiative, or on the advice of another person, without prescription from a licensed medical doctor. Self-medication is very common in our society, which put a lot of people at risk of adverse drug reaction or shortened lifespan. Self-medication may seem like the right thing to do at first but one needs to consider the side effects of such uninformed actions. So, it is always best to talk to a medical professional (doctor) and ensure that the drug is right for you before taking any medication.

People tend to self-medicate in an attempt to deal with depression, pain (physical or emotional), or emotions with the help of drugs, alcohol and other substances, and without the guidance of a doctor. Some substances that are commonly abused are:

  • Over-the-counter medications e.g. Paracetamol
  • Dietary supplements e.g. Apetamine
  • Recreational drugs e.g. Marijuana, Cannabis
  • Opioids e.g. Morphine, Heroin, Codeine
  • Psychostimulants e.g. Cocaine, Amphetamines
  • Alcohol

The risks of self-medication include:

  1. Individual can make incorrect self-diagnosis
  2. Nonchalant attitude towards or delays in seeking appropriate medical care and interventions
  3. Masking of severe diseases: some take medications to alleviate symptoms but while you may think taking medication to alleviate symptoms is beneficial, it can often mask (cover up) symptoms of an underlying condition. The underlying condition may worsen and get complicated over time.
  4. The individual is at risk of potential adverse drug reactions
  5. There can be worsening of medical condition
  6. Dangerous drug interaction
  7. The individual is at risk of drug dependence and abuse
  8. Severe allergic reactions
  9. Premature death
  10. Increased health cost if condition worsens

These are the reasons why we must avoid self-medication at all cost.

Ways in which we can avoid Self-medication include:

  1. Visitation to the hospital for periodic medical checkup for early diagnosis and treatment of illness. Also, visitation to the hospital if you have any complaints.
  2. Having a personal/family licensed physician that you consult when matters about one’s health arises.
  3. Following instructions given by healthcare professionals.
  4. Improving the understanding of label and leaflet accompanying the medication.
  5. Attending behavioral programs to understand stress management, techniques and gain confidence.

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