We often pop pills for common ailments like fever, colds, cough and headache, without bothering to consult a doctor. Self-medication, even for minor ailments, could lead to medical complications. Alarge number of potent drugs such as pain relievers, cough remedies, anti-allergies, laxatives, antibiotics, antacids and vitamins are sold over the counter (OTC). Self-medication with OTC medicines could cause allergy, habituation and addiction. For example, excessive use of vitamins can cause hypervitaminosis, or vitamin poisoning. Antimicrobial resistance is a worldwide problem, particularly in India where antibiotics are often available without a prescription. The dangers of self-medication could include these:
• Misdiagnosing the illness:
Aminor health issue which could be resolved easily with the doctor’s advice may become a major problem over time. Symptoms may subside temporarily with self-medication, but it would become difficult for a doctor to correctly diagnose and treat later.
You could become addicted to prescription drugs such as antacids, cough syrups and pain relievers.
• Allergic reactions:
Some antibiotics such as penicillin or sulpha drugs can cause severe reactions in the body for some people. These could be fatal.
• Insufficient dosage:
Incorrect dosage of medicines will not cure and will prolong recovery. On the other hand, overdosage may damage liver, kidneys and other organs.
• Indiscriminate use of antibiotics:
These could, over a long time, lead to antimicrobial resistance. Consequently, the antibiotic may become ineffective when taken in future.
• Risk of stroke: The most commonly misused medicines are painkillers. Analgesics can induce gastritis and can also increase risk of stroke by four times in patients with high BP.
• Drug interactions: Some herbal drugs and medicines may cause drug-to-drug interactions and adversely affect the body.
• Self-medication by pregnant women: This could adversely affect the unborn child causing congenital anomalies and birth defects. Unlike other facets of self-care, self-medication involves the intake of drugs, which have the potential to be beneficial or harmful. Their improper use can have serious health implications, especially among children, the aged, and in people with special physiological conditions such as pregnancy and lactation.