It is a question that has been in debate for a very long time ever since allopathic medicine started dominating the medical world. India is a country known for its Ayurvedic and Siddha treatments using natural medicinal plants which were often homemade. So the basic question that might arise in the mind of a common Indian would be ‘When I have the basic knowledge to treat my own ailment, why should I waste my time and money consulting a doctor?’
Reasons for Self-medication:
Various studies had been conducted across India about self-medication among the general public and a recent survey shows us that around 52% of Indians self-medicate. Self-medication is influenced by various factors depending upon the location and the distribution of the demography. In the rural area, it is mainly due to the unavailability of the facilities and doctors. It is quite appalling to know that there is only one government doctor for every 11,528 people and one doctor for every 1,681 people. This proportion may seem satisfactory considering India’s population but the real problem arises when most of these doctors decide to practice in cities rather than serving in the rural area. But, the scenario with the urban population is entirely different, besides having all the facilities and options to consult a doctor people still tend to self-medicate. The reason for this is mainly lack of awareness about the side effects that any drug can cause if taken at wrong dosage level.
Lack of time, unavailability of doctor’s appointment and inessential consultation for episodic illness are some of the common excuses given by educated people for self-medication. Whereas limited visitor’s time in the OPD of government hospitals, quite high consultation fees in private clinics, lack of insurance coverage for consultation are some major shortcomings in our health system that lead to self-medication in economically weaker people.
How reliable is your source?
With increasing web users and volume of data on the Internet, all the information has now become an open source for anyone to access. This might be considered as a boon in many fields but with regards to the healthcare sector, it is often considered as a disadvantage. At present, almost all information about medicine or a disease can be read from thousand websites available online but the reliability is always questionable. Apart from online sources, people tend to buy medicine from the suggestions given by friends, family, medical students, and pharmacy’s sales person. Though it is advisable to buy OTC medicine directly from the pharmacy, no one actually checks whether the person standing in the medical shop is a pharmacist. The old prescription is also found to be one of the major sources of the self-medication but it’s often forgotten that any prescription can be used only once unless or until doctor specifically mention that it can be used for a particular period or until next review. The reason for this is, microbes that cause disease in our body may get resistance to certain medication or due to change in our food habits and other external factors certain drug may stop working for a particular person. It is always advisable not to use the old prescription and an unethical practice for a pharmacist to give you medicines based on expired prescription.
A possible life threat:
Even paracetamol, the most common drug bought over the counter without prescription is proven to cause kidney damage if taken for a very long period and poisonous when overdosed. Almost all drugs available in the market at present are proven to cause many known side effects if not taken as per physician’s advice. Before prescribing any medicine for common cold or fever, a doctor will check the weight, age and surface area of the patient to calculate the dose; look patient’s current and past medication history and also check the vital signs to make sure that drug is suitable for that particular patient. If multiple ailments are diagnosed, the doctor will also make sure that the drugs prescribed by him will not lead to contraindication and gives diet suggestions to avoid drug interactions. Certain studies across the globe have also proved that self-medication can be beneficial to some extent but mostly they are in the favor of the system. Better use of physicians and pharmacists skills, reduced burden for government due to health expenditure linked to treatment of minor health condition, economic benefits for both patients and the government, availability of doctor’s time for emergency case rather than treating minor ailments are some the claimed benefits of Self-medication but it hardly compensate for the demerits of self-medication. Bacterial resistance, dependence, digestive bleeding, hypersensitivity reaction, drug withdrawal symptom are some of the serious health risk involved in self-medication. There may be a lot of information available over the internet for self-medication but when it comes to a serious thing like health there shouldn’t be any doubt or second thoughts. Awareness and education about the demerits of self-medication in modern day medicine can only help reduce self-medication.
Consult a registered pharmacist on Klinikals if you have any doubt about any medicines.