Medicines are truly a wonderful invention that has saved billions of lives all over the world. Medicines can treat almost any health condition known to man and can help relieve a variety of symptoms like pain and itchiness. Medications have gone a long way from the use of mere plants and herbs to synthetic drugs that are now widely used.
Over the Counter (OTC) and Prescription Drugs
Some medicines can be bought over the counter but some need a prescription from a doctor. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration regulates the sale of medicines by deciding whether or not it is safe enough to be sold without a prescription. Over the counter medicines are less likely to lead to abuse but these are still considered to carry some risks. Such medicines may interact with other drugs, supplements, and even food and it can also be harmful to individuals with preexisting health conditions.
Prescription drugs, on the other hand, need a medical prescription from a doctor before it can be bought from the pharmacy. A prescription drug is intended for a single, specific person. It is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration through the New Drug Application or NDA process. The drug sponsor needs to submit different data about a medicine before it can be approved by the FDA including effects of the drug in animals and humans and the process involved in its production. Prescription medicines are more likely to lead to abuse.
What is Self Medication?
Self medication refers to the use of medicines by an individual to treat symptoms and conditions without doctor consultation. Although self medication can offer several benefits such as reduced costs associated with doctor consultation and faster relief of symptoms, it is not a safe practice and can cause more harm than good to one’s health.
The Negative Effects of Self Medication
Without doctor consultation, it is easy to misdiagnose a condition for something else entirely. A wrong self-diagnosis can lead to wrong medicines and wrong medicines can cause the wrong effects on the body. Aside from misdiagnosis of a condition, self medication without doctor consultation can mask the symptoms of a severe condition and delay medical attention. There is also the possibility of taking the wrong route for medicine as in the case of swallowing it orally when it is supposed to be used sublingually or put under the tongue. Self medication is also likely to lead to wrong drug dosages, especially when the medicine dosage should be based on the weight of an individual.
Taking medications without proper medical consultation can also lead to drug interactions. Some drugs react negatively when taken together with certain medicines. Some medications also counter the effect of certain drugs such as in the case of doxycycline and penicillin. Doxycycline decreases the effectiveness of penicillin when taken at the same time. Some drugs may also interact with other medicine, supplements, and food and increase the likelihood of experiencing severe side effects such as in the case of aspirin and alcohol. A person taking aspirin should not drink alcohol as this can increase the risk of bleeding in the stomach.
Self medication also increases the potential for drug abuse and addiction. Physical dependence on medicines is probably one of the most serious health implications of self medication. Some medicines like antidepressants, stimulants, and pain relievers can produce the same effect as illicit drugs especially when taken in increased quantities.
Prompt doctor consultation is still the best solution rather than self-diagnosing your condition. Doctors have years of training and experience and are the best people to give you advice regarding your health.