What's your next move when you're experiencing a fever, headache, or mild ailments? There is a high chance you either take the medicines from an old prescription or grab your smartphone and search the internet for remedies and suitable medicines. Voila! You come across options make a purchase based on the recommendations consume the medicine and eventually feel better. However, in reality things can get quite complex when it comes to finding the disease and the solution. Well, what you have done now is called self-medication. So, basically it refers to the practice of using medications in an attempt to alleviate their discomfort in response to pain or distress caused by a medical condition. Rather than seeking assistance from a healthcare professional, many individuals resort to using drugs as a means of managing their symptoms. Many people choose self-medication because it is a practical and convenient option. There are several reasons for this preference, such as the cost-effectiveness, time-saving nature, and ease of access. Additionally, busy schedules often limit the amount of time individuals can dedicate to visiting doctors.
Self-medication does more harm than good. At first glance, it may seem innocuous and even go unnoticed for some time. However, there is growing evidence suggesting that self-administered medications may be a contributing factor to the rise in pathogen resistance (antibiotic resistance), which is causing concern among experts. There is also increased waste of resources and other side effects. If the people using it knew enough about the dosage, timing, side effects, and effects of an overdose, it would be safe.
The main reason for the adverse effects of self-medication is due to wrong self-diagnosis, incorrect choice of OTC drugs, and successive therapy—failure to comprehend allergy reactions; less or excessive dosage.
Dr Shelja Chauhan, BAMS, PGDCR
Healthcare professionals can play a major role in reducing self-medication among people. Doctors and pharmacists should have a healthy relationship with patients and guide them accordingly. Doctors ought to promote patient education regarding their illnesses. This can ensure the appropriate use of medicines by patients. The pharmacist can also educate patients about the dangers of self-medication and discourage its practice. They need to stop administering any prescription drugs without a prescription. If necessary, the pharmacist should refer the patient to a doctor after recognizing the signs of the disorder. It should be the responsibility of all to stop others from taking inappropriate self-medication. For lay people, can't recognize whether it's the right drug or not, but health professionals should strive to create an environment where any layman should ask the other person whether they got proper guidance before using the medications. The general public should be informed about self-medication, its negative effects, and what to do if you discover someone using it. Thus, rethink your decision before self-medicating.
Dr. Sauparnika Soman, Doctor of Pharmacy intern, College of Pharmaceutical Science, GMC Kannur
Here are the other opinions of some health-care professionals
Dr. Aiysha Marwa, Doctor of pharmacy intern, College of pharmaceutical science, GMC Kannur
Dr.Neha Kulkarni, MPT, India ( Mumbai), Orthopedic Physiotherapist
Akanksha Nigam is a final-year Bachelor of Pharmacy student at Integral University, Lucknow.
Arpita Meher is an MBBS student at Tbilisi State Medical University.
"I'm against this idea of self-medication because it's a very common practice in India. If I get a cold or cough, I will be doing self-medication instead of contacting a doctor and taking antibiotics. In case I'm ill or have some infection by myself, I can get amoxicillin or any other antibiotics by going to the pharmacy shop. But the thing is, when I talk about rural areas, like my native place in Uttarakhand, doctors are not available everywhere. Even if they're getting a high pay scale, they are not ready to serve in rural areas. It may be due to this lifestyle, which is very hard to thrive in. We're not getting anything—not any shops or hospitals nearby. Even if you want to go to the hospital, it's like you have to trek for half an hour, and then reach the hospital. I'm talking about very rural areas like my native place in Uttarakhand and not cities like Nainital or Bhimtal, where you can find doctors. There is just one primary healthcare center in Bhimtal, as far as I know. However, Bhimtal is a developed city. So if we talk about my village, where I live, there is no primary health care center nearby. Even if the pharmacy is not open; there is no pharmacy nearby. To get into the pharmacy shop, an individual has to travel, let's say, 9 to 10 kilometers. So the thing is that here, the pharmacists are trained in such a way. So after the diploma, they have to serve again, where the pharmacist is trained in PHC and other hospital centers and district centers as well, where they learn about giving injections and these IV drips, dispensing medication, and everything else that is part of a pharmacy internship. So they're trained in such a way that in cases of emergency, when they're not doctors, the pharmacist can prescribe medication in that case, but that's not the scenario everywhere, right? When you're giving self-medication, like when you're taking it, like when I'm self-prescribing myself as a pharmacist, I know I'm taking medication by myself, and the people who are going to the pharmacy shop just to save a few pennies, and have the logic of " Why should I go to the doctor if I can get the medicine from a pharmacist?". It works the same most of the time; what happens is that we develop resistance, and as pharmacists, we talk about finishing the course. If the medication is for five days, please do that. Otherwise, what will happen after two to three days is that if you stop taking the medication, the body will develop resistance against it. And now, a common practice that is seen in general is that we store the medication. If I have a fever, I will take medication. Let's say I am suffering from an infection, and my doctor gave me the medication. Now that I'm feeling well, I will stop taking the medication and store it in my room. And let's say after a few times, after some time, I'm still suffering from the same problem. Now I know that, I was suffering from that problem. So the doctor gave me this medication. I can take that medication again without getting checked by the doctor. The reason may be different. My physiology is different, and it is changing every day with each moment and each second. And even if you're suffering from a fever, it is not necessary, as you are suffering from a fever due to this particular condition. There can be several factors that contribute to your fever. So self-medication is not a good thing. I will never promote this thing until there is some emergency, like the one in Uttarakhand, right? No doctors, not even a pharmacy shop, are nearby. So what will a person do? So he or she is left with no choice. But the good thing is that pharmacists are trained in this way. They work on PHC, and they get to learn everything. So that is the exceptional thing that happens here. I'm not sure about other states though."
Himani Negi, B. Pharm, Kumaun University, Nainital, is the Desk Editor of MedBound Times.