Self Medication and its Health Risks

11 December, 2019
There's a high incidence of self-medication with antibiotics. Consequently, some countries show very unfavorable records of antibiotic resistance, especially in outpatient bacterial pathogens.

Self-medication is the use of medication without a prescription and, therefore, without medical intervention. The concerning part is medications are becoming easier to obtain, either due to lower prices or because of their availability on the internet.

To be clear, by “without medical intervention” we mean there’s no professional intervention either in the diagnosis or the prescription and there’s no treatment supervision. Currently, this habit is increasingly booming in our society. However, most people don’t realize how much they’re harming themselves and the rest of the population when they self-medicate.

There are over-the-counter drugs one can use for the relief of minor symptoms such as headaches, fevers, and colds, however. However, you can only use these to a certain degree and for a limited time. This is because you must consult your doctor if these symptoms linger longer.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the dangers of self-medication and some healthy alternatives.

Self-medication and pain relievers

An array of medications.
Analgesics and antibiotics are the most commonly misused drugs.

Unfortunately, he estimates regarding the consumption of these drugs indicate a massive exposure of the population to analgesics in all age groups and for a wide range of diseases. However, when you overuse these drugs indiscriminately or without professional control, they could seriously impact your kidneys and digestive system and lead to gastric ulcers and even liver necrosis.

A very dangerous form of self-medication: Antibiotics

Unfortunately, antibiotics are commonly bought by people who don’t even have an infectious medical diagnosis to justify their use. In many cases, they even ask for well-known drugs by name.

There are many countries with a high degree of self-medication with antibiotics. Consequently, they show unfavorable records of antibiotic resistance, especially in outpatient bacterial pathogens. This is very dangerous, as it means that overuse of these drugs is causing the bacteria to become resistant to them, therefore making certain diseases impossible to treat. 

Don’t use antibiotics without medical supervision. This is because their indiscriminate use poses a danger to the health of the entire world population.

Other cases

Also, here are some other groups of drugs and supplements that many are taking without medical guidance:

  • Topical antiseptics
  • Vitamin and mineral supplements
  • Antivirals and cough suppressants
  • Gastrointestinal medications, laxative, antacids, and antiflatulent agents

However, the most important thing we’d like to stress in this article is antibiotic resistance.

Read also: Non-prescription medications

Antibiotic resistance

Various forms of antibiotics.

Antibiotic resistance is currently a global crisis. You’ve probably heard about it, but you might not be aware of how big a problem it is.

When strains become resistant to antibiotics, it’s because the antibiotic is no longer effective against that particular bacterium. Therefore, these microorganisms develop various mechanisms to defend themselves against the effect of a given drug.

So, what’s the problem then? Why not just use a different kind of drug if the other kind no longer works?

Yes, that’s precisely our current solution. However, this generates other problems when we begin to overuse the new antibiotics and the bacteria also become resistant to it. The problem is, we’re running out of antibiotic options and we’re at risk of running out completely.

The development of new drugs is a long, complex, and very expensive process. It’s for this reason that it’s very important not to self-medicate and always follow the doctor’s advice.

Discover: Broad-spectrum antibiotics

The health risks of self-medication

Also, self-medication without medical or pharmaceutical involvement poses several health risks that, in most cases, people aren’t even aware of. Among them we can find:

  • Poisoning.
  • Lack of effectiveness, because they’re misused. This is very common in the case of antibiotics used to treat a virus.
  • Dependence or addiction, as can happen with benzodiazepines.
  • Masking of serious clinical processes.
  • Personal antibiotic resistance, as we’ve explained above.

Conclusion

Consult your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions about medication. Don’t take any that requires a prescription for its administration unless your doctor indicates such a treatment.

Finally, always consult a pharmacist for the correct use of over-the-counter drugs.

  • Tobón Marulanda, F. Á. (2002). Estudio sobre automedicación en la Universidad de Antioquia, Medellín, Colombia. Iatreia.
  • Ras Vidal, E., & Moya Ortiz, P. (2005). Prescripción médica o automedicación. Atencion Primaria. https://doi.org/10.1157/13079153
  • Wirtz, V. J., Dreser, A., & Leyva, R. (2009). El debate sobre la automedicación. Salud Pública de México. https://doi.org/10.1590/s0036-36342009000300004
  • Galán, T. A. (1999). El rol del farmacéutico en automedicación . Uso de medicamentos : análisis desde la experiencia en España. Pharmaceutical Care España.