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Think Twice! Self-Medication Can Harm You and Loved Ones

09-Feb-2015.By: ENIFOME Emmanuel

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Give it to the myriad of health issues that have ravaged the African continent in the last two decades, talking about diseases like Malaria, Cholera, Typhoid and others, it is worth noting that there is a remarkable improvement in the health consciousness of Africans, particularly amongst people living within the Urban and Semi-urban areas.

Especially with the more recent outbreak of Ebola in some Western African countries, including Nigeria. There is a general consciousness of people making an effort to prevent themselves from any of such diseases or infections by leading a healthy diet and lifestyle. A more proactive approach is being observed amongst people living in the cities; at least more than how it was several decades ago.

However, the same may not be said about people living within the rural and semi-urban areas. These people still live on adoption of the reactive approach of waiting to be ill or infected before taking steps to get themselves healed. Amazingly, some people who have health insurance still carry out this act. More worrisome is the fact that the often taken steps are even more damaging to their health than the illness itself. One of such dangerous acts is self-medicating.

Self-medication is a worrisome habit amongst Nigerians that must be addressed as a matter of urgency. Although, a number of simple health issues like headache or body pain have been treated with a carefully and accurately self- administered medication, this habit has caused more harm than good for the health of the nation and people, and should be regarded as a national crisis.

From the worker who take painkillers to ease stress, or the individual who takes cannabis or codeine/cough suppressant to help with depression, to sedate and stimulate, multivitamins to help boost the immune system, drugs for weight gain or loss, people have always felt the need find a quick easy and cost friendly solution, which has resulted in self-medication.

For an average man on the street, little may be known about the effects and implications of Self-medication, especially in the rural and semi-urban communities of Africa. Buying medicines from a drugstore without a doctor’s prescription has become a wrongfully accepted lifestyle, and its effects are deadlier than the instant relief aim. No thanks to the stressful hustle and bustle lifestyle of people living in these environments.

What is self-medication?

It is the use of drugs without prescription from a physician that helps an individual to reduce, or eradicate pain, and stress both physically, and emotionally. As Wikipedia puts it, Self-medication is a human behaviour in which an individual uses a substance or any exogenous influence to self-administer treatment for often unmanaged, undiagnosed physical or psychological ailments.

Drugs commonly used to self-medicate

  • 1.Viagra
  • It is commonly used for men with erectile dysfunction, the common side effects of Viagra may include headache, upset stomach, diarrhoea, urinary tract infection, and flushed skin, can also lead to painful erection that can last for hours, a Viagra drug interaction with nitrates and alpha-blockers can lead to low blood pressure which can cause stroke and heart failure.
  • 2.Sedatives,
  • Sedatives usually used by people with sleeping disorder to help them sleep, they are central nervous system depressant. The wrongful use of sedatives can cause short term memory loss, reduced alertness, diminished reflexes, and sleepiness.
  • 3.Codeine
  • People who usually self-medicate with codeine often overdose on it and drink up all of its content at a time, the abuse of codeine can cause depression and even death.
  • 4.Antibiotic/ Painkiller
  • In Nigeria, painkillers and antibiotics chief’s the list of medications, many self-medicate on, making it mentioned as a probable cause for the incidence of certain antibiotic resistant bacterial infections in places like Nigeria.

Why do people engage in self-medication?

Studies have shown low finance and self-experience with drugs are the leading cause of self-medication, hospital healthcare services are too expensive, and most people claim that with the experience from some symptom of illness, they can easily detect the type of illness and treatment procedure on their own with spending some much money for consulting a physician and treatment, poverty on the other hand hinders people from affording those health care services. Another fact is that experience with some common disease, malaria and headache. Another factor is the easy availability of these drugs at the drug vendor.

What are the consequences of self-medication?

Although, self-medication can help give access to drug and diminish the cost of getting health care, potential consequences of self-medication can include: purchasing substandard, or counterfeit drugs, delay or lack of medical advice, meaning that an individual will not be able to make any health informed decision.

There is also the possibility of an inaccurate dosage and drug abuse, polypharmacy and drug interaction. Some of the major consequences are that it can conceal several other severe illnesses as a result of a wrong choice of therapy or treatment, and can lead ultimately to death.

It is also worth mentioning that a person can ruin his or her life with self-medication as wrong usage of drugs could result in an aftermath effect that may even cause more problems than the original cause of using the drugs. There are quite a number of conditions that need an expert analysis and an appropriate treatment plan.

It may also cause the user to eventually become dependent after a long period of practice and even results in addiction to a legal or illegal drug.

Self-medication can result to addiction in the long run. People who self-administer drugs at any given opportunity often get too used to such drugs to the point that the body begins to get too acquainted to the drugs and require more and more of it in order to react to the purpose with which the drug was used. This sometimes can consequently lead to the body not being able to function normally without the drug or an overdose of it.

Ways to avoid self-medication.

In conclusion, the first step is to change one's attitude from the wrong healthy living to the right one, always contact your healthcare provider, to guide you plan a schedule for a regulate checkup, right drug prescription and right dosage when ill, and although self-medication can give you immediate relief of distress, its dangers to the body will always be far greater.

Seeing the doctor is very important because your doctor knows your condition, medical history and what the precise medications are for you and will be able to advise you on exact dosages you need and when to take them.

Also, do not allow mental or emotional distress prompts you to self-medicate. If for any reason you are emotional or psychological issues, pay your therapist a visit and ensure you get the appropriate diagnosis and treatment. Do not attempt to treat yourself. There are severe dangers to self-medicating and they can harm you and your loved ones.

Fun facts!!!

Humans are not the only ones who self-medicate, animals do it too, to prevent or treat diseases, they eat toxic plant, insects, and non-food like charcoal and clays to help with poisoning and parasites. Animals like dogs are known to self-medicate by eating grass to induce vomiting, the wild chimpanzee is known to roll the Aprilia plant into a capsule like form in their mouth to treat intestinal nematode parasites.


Last Updated: 13-Jul-2017 10:09 AM

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