Risks of Self-medication
Self-medication is the selection and use of medications by people (or a member of the people’s family) to address diseases or symptoms that they have self-recognized or self-diagnosed. The patient’s active participation in his or her own health care, better utilization of doctors’ and pharmacists’ skills, and a reduced (or at least optimized) burden on governments due to health expenditures associated with the treatment of minor health conditions are just a few advantages linked to appropriate self-medication. However, self-medication is far from being a completely safe practice, particularly for the elderly. There are various risks associated with self medication.
Self-medication is the act of abusing drugs or alcohol in an effort to feel better, usually to relieve the pain or distress brought on by a medical condition. Many people use drugs or alcohol to cope rather than getting professional help or counsel.
For instance, many people dealing with mental health problems like depression or anxiety can turn to drugs and alcohol as a form of self-medication to try and reduce or even get rid of their symptoms. Self-medication is a strategy that some people take to try to manage physical discomforts, such as that brought on by an injury or even drug withdrawal. Have you ever been so depressed that you wanted to drink yourself to forget your troubles? Or perhaps your pain was so severe that you took any available medicines from the medical cabinet. Maybe you’ve taken medicine to calm your nerves when you were feeling really concerned about something. All of those activities constitute self-medication.
self-medication is usually done without the advice or intervention of a clinician.
The Issue of Self-Medication
Self-medication has a number of major drawbacks, including resource waste, increased pathogen resistance, and serious health risks such as unpleasant reactions and protracted suffering. Antibiotic resistance is a serious issue, particularly in underdeveloped nations where antibiotics are sold over the counter. Therefore, the government should implement the required measures to control ethical self-medication. This can be achieved by having safe medications available, together with clear usage instructions and, if necessary, medical advice.
Self-medication is a highly popular practice in India and is becoming a growing problem for healthcare professionals.
As we continue to fight a global pandemic that has caused significant pain, worry, and despair across communities, self-medication is growing in importance. Self-medication also increases along with mental health concerns, which leads to increased substance usage and addiction.
The CDC noted in 2021 that more Americans now have “unmet mental health care requirements” than there were in the early stages of the pandemic. The effects on mental health are especially severe for young individuals. Nearly two-thirds of young people are experiencing “severe symptoms of anxiety or despair” since the outbreak, according to a CDC report that Forbes cited. Untreated and ignored mental health conditions can have a considerable negative impact on substance misuse.
Typical Methods of Self-Medication
Self-treatment can take many different forms. Although the word “self-medication” can refer to the use of over-the-counter medications, it most frequently refers to the abuse of drugs and alcohol to treat medical issues. Examples of self-medication include:
- drinking or using drugs to combat depression;
- treating bipolar illness with medications;
- reducing anxiety (typically social anxiety) with drugs or drinking;
- elevating mood with drugs or drinking;
- and reducing physical pain with drugs or drinking.
Risks Associated with Self-Medication
In times of stress, drinking or using drugs is frequently accepted in our culture. After a difficult day at work, some go out for cocktails or use marijuana to “take the edge off.” Because of this, self-medication frequently goes unnoticed or appears to users to be a harmless activity. There are various risks of self medication discussed as follows:
- Exacerbated mental health conditions: Self-medicating a mental health issue can lead to worsened symptoms, as was already mentioned. For instance, bipolar disorder has been linked to the worsening course of cocaine usage.
- The emergence of new mental health conditions: Long-term drug and alcohol use can alter brain structure and function. The underlying propensity to acquire a mental illness, or secondary mental health condition, such as mood, psychosis, and impulse-control disorders, can then be triggered by these changes.
- The possibility to develop a reliance on drugs or alcohol is perhaps the most visible result of self-medication. For precisely this reason, substance addiction is widespread among those who have mental health issues. They abuse drugs and alcohol frequently, eventually becoming dependent on them to function and feel good. There are many negative symptoms and risks associated with substance use disorders, particularly as they pertain to a person’s mental and physical health. Regular substance usage, however, also increases a person’s risk of overdose, one of the worst threats of all.
In addition to these concerns, self-medication also has the following risks:
- Delays in seeking assistance: Substances can conceal the signs of a physical or mental health problem. Delays in getting the right help may result from this, which can be deadly if serious problems or diseases are present.
- Inaccurate self-diagnosis: Since self-medication entails using drugs and alcohol on oneself, there is no clinical diagnosis for the problem. This indicates that many people self-diagnose rather than visit a qualified doctor.
- Dangerous drug interactions or reactions: When using drugs at home, many individuals frequently neglect to look into the side effects or potential responses they may cause. Some people combine other drugs to acquire the desired result, such as alcohol and painkillers, which can also result in acute problems.
The topic of self-medication in healthcare is becoming more and more significant. Empowering patients to make decisions about the treatment of mild ailments, helps patients become more independent. Self-medication provides benefits for healthcare systems as well since it makes it easier to employ clinical skills more effectively, promotes access to medication, and could help cut the cost of prescription drugs for publicly supported health programs. However, self-medication carries hazards such as polypharmacy, overdosing, incorrect diagnosis, and using drugs for an extended period of time. The latter could provide particular difficulties for elderly people. Strategies for maximizing benefits and minimizing danger include monitoring systems, a collaboration between patients, doctors, and pharmacists, and the provision of education and information on safe self-medication to all parties concerned.
There are n number of risks of self medication, some of which you don’t even know. So be careful!
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Reference and further reading- Self-medication: A current challenge – PMC (nih.gov) – Bennadi, D. (2013). Self-medication: A current challenge. Journal of basic and clinical pharmacy, 5(1), 19.