The answer to the question of what is self-medication lies in the very definition of the term. It is the use of medications, herbs, or home remedies on one’s own initiative or at another person’s suggestion, without seeing a physician.
It is the practice of taking medications without a proper prescription from a physician.
It is a prevalent practice among persons with minor symptoms or diseases or those who postpone medical or physician visits in favour of self-care.
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This blog will help the readers understand the term self-medication; the reasons for taking medication on one’s own choice, the hazards related with self-medication, and how to avoid self-medication.
What does WHO say about self-medication?
According to the World Health Organization, self-medication refers to “the use of medicinal products by the consumer to treat self-diagnosed disorders or symptoms, or the intermittent or ongoing use of medication prescribed by a physician for chronic or recurrent diseases or symptoms.”
The practice of self-medication is prevalent globally, particularly in nations where pharmacies give pharmaceuticals to consumers without prescriptions and consider all drugs to be OTC (Over the Counter) drugs.
What factors develop the habit of self-medication in people?
Self-medication is impacted by a variety of factors, including individual, organisational, and environmental variables. These determinants include age, education, familial and cultural background, drug marketing, prior experience with the symptoms or disease, prior use of prescription medications, as well as socioeconomic and mental conditions such as anxiety and depression.
In addition, there are several other concerns, such as the high cost of private appointments or lengthy wait periods, and patient dissatisfaction encourages self-care or self-medication. Inadequacies in healthcare delivery systems, particularly in low-income countries, such as inaccessibility, unregulated distribution of medicines, inequitable distribution, a shortage of healthcare professionals, high costs, and patients’ attitudes toward healthcare providers, are some of the primary motivators for self-medication.
Apart from these causes, the media, the Internet, and pharmaceutical companies’ massive advertising play a significant influence in self-medication.
The use of self-medication is on the rise
If a person self-medicates, he is unlikely to be aware of the properties of a drug, such as its dose, activities, or adverse effects, or even how to utilise the medicine. Because the information is unavailable, the individual is uninformed of all elements of medicine. Self-medication is becoming increasingly dangerous. In poor nations, the usage of non-prescription or over-the-counter drugs, such as paracetamol, ibuprofen, and antacids, is on par with prescription-only treatments, such as antibiotics and antidepressants.
OTC drugs are available without a prescription and are utilised in the most widely misused self-medication activities. Prescription drugs, on the other hand, are those that are prescribed by doctors or require a prescription for purchase since they can be hazardous if not taken properly.
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One of the most serious issues is from the misuse or abuse of antibiotics or antimicrobials, which causes antimicrobial resistance, such as the use of antibiotics for viral illnesses.
What are the risks of self-medication?
Self-medication is by no means a perfectly safe activity, especially when it is used irresponsibly. Risks of self-medication include inaccurate diagnosis, delayed treatment, harmful drug interactions, wrong delivery, inappropriate dose, incorrect therapy, masking of a severe condition, and the potential for dependency and misuse.
How to avoid self-medication?
- Determine the source of self-medication, which may be any symptom, sickness, stress, pressure, or mental health disorder.
- Avoid using drugs without a professional practitioner’s supervision. Even contrary to the prior medicine that helped ease your symptoms till the doctor approves it.
- To prevent the use of self-medication and self-care, it is necessary to implement public awareness initiatives and strong regulations.
- Additionally, pharmacies should be prohibited from providing drugs without a prescription.
- Utilize the prescriptions prescribed by medical specialists.
- Never share prescription prescriptions with others, and never utilise the prescription medications of another individual.
- If the prescriptions are no longer needed, they should be stored safely to prevent their misuse by others, or discarded.
It concludes that self-medication is a human activity and that every individual is accountable for their own lives. Consequently, we must all do our part and seek the supervision of a health care expert in the event of symptoms or illness. Know the actual source of that, and never use self-medication as a kind of self-care. Professionals are responsible for ensuring that you receive the correct dose for the correct condition at the correct time.