Dangers of Self-Medication

3 min reading time

We have all been guilty of self-medication at some point, from popping painkillers to taking cough syrups, or just taking pills to relieve anxiety without a proper prescription. 

Self-medication is ‘the use of drugs to treat self-diagnosed disorders or symptoms, or the intermittent or continued use of a prescribed drug for chronic or recurrent disease or symptoms. The ease and rate at which this is being done are alarming, especially with over-the-counter medications.

People can self-medicate to relieve the pain they are feeling at the moment without necessarily considering the health implications such as an allergic reaction, overdose, or getting the wrong drugs for an ailment.

Although, self-medication of minor injuries and minor illnesses helps reduce the overall burden on the healthcare system and is a common practice; the long-term effects of self-medication can be life-threatening if done without medical consultation. 

The dangers of self-medication are:

1. Wrong diagnosis

With self-medication, it’s pretty easy to give an incorrect diagnosis of one’s illness based on the perceived problem or medical history without the involvement of a licensed professional.

This subjective judgment can lead to a wrong prognosis of the ailment (deteriorating the individual’s health), taking the wrong drug, and prolonging the ailment if a medical professional is not consulted on time.

2. Drug abuse

Self-medication can cause drug abuse, especially with the treatment of minor ailments such as cramps, headaches, or body pains. Quick access to over-the-counter medicine makes this much more prevalent. For instance, it’s easy to get painkillers from a pharmacy.

The immediate relief received from the consumption of these drugs can lead to an overdependence on them even when they are not needed. Substance dependency can cause addiction those who repeatedly smoke marijuana can experience chemical imbalances in their brains and lung damage from the smoke.

3. Allergic Reaction

Drug allergies can be left undetected with self-medication particularly if the individual is not aware of their medical history. A common treatment for malaria is Chloroquine; some people are allergic to it while some are not.

Taking such a drug without medical consultation can lead to an allergic reaction such as hives, rash, fever, or breathing difficulty. Also, a drug allergy may cause serious reactions, including a life-threatening condition that affects multiple body systems (anaphylaxis). 

4. Worsened health condition

One of the risks associated with self-medication is that the side effects of drugs are not considered if the wrong dosage is taken. This can worsen the health condition of the individual and cause toxicity in their system.

Some of these health effects can be insomnia and other sleep problems, changes in weight or appetite (increase or decrease), Mood swings, etc.

5. Concealing severe disease

Health negligence due to self-medication can cause a delay in seeking appropriate medical advice and proper treatment which might lead to undiagnosed life-threatening diseases such as cancer.

The postponement of such an illness can make treatment ineffective causing death in severe cases. 

Self-medication is becoming an increasing concern as it may be difficult to recognize the consequences. It’s always important to reach out to a medical professional about a health issue.

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