Over the centuries, many people have died because they did not realize that self-medication is dangerous and can be lethal. I have seen first-hand several cases of self-medication that went bad, with effects ranging from severe speech impairment to complete blindness. Still, awareness that self-medication is hazardous is still low among members of the public.
Self-medication refers to instances in which individuals with shallow knowledge about drugs and medications decide to dose themselves without the assistance of a doctor. This situation often causes adverse reactions to drugs in sensitive people. Someone who self-medicates does not always know the proper dosage of the drug, its strength, its composition, how it needs to be taken, and its side effects or interactions, if any.
Therefore, I will briefly outline some dangers of self-medication.
1. Drugs Can Trigger Other Ailments
Drugs do not only act based on their active ingredients, but also based on the particular characteristics of the person who takes them. For example, in someone who has had a recent operation, a simple aspirin can cause hemorrhage due to its anticoagulant properties. If taken daily, aspirin can cause an ulcer in some people. In teenagers and children, the same drug can cause a potentially serious neurological disorder called Reye’s syndrome.
2. Drugs Have Side Effects
Although they are intended to treat or cure the disease for which they are given, some drugs have expected side effects, such as dry mouth or insomnia. Physicians usually inform their patients about these side effects before prescribing a drug. Therefore, individuals should avoid self-administering drugs if they do not have adequate information. Otherwise they may experience unexpected and harsh side effects.
Regardless of the dose, and although they do not occur in all people, many drugs can have adverse or unwanted effects. For example, some researchers believe corticosteroids can cause secondary peptic ulcer. Estrogens can cause nausea, headache and dizziness, and erythromycin can cause stomach pain and diarrhea. Antibiotics such as amoxicillin can cause rashes and even anaphylactic shock, which endangers the life of the patient, and dipyrone used as an analgesic can cause problems in the bone marrow and interfere with the production of blood cells. A doctor should be consulted so they can decide whether the benefits of a drug are greater than its potential risks.
3. Some Drugs May Cause Addiction
Some prescription and over-the-counter drugs may cause addiction. Benzodiazepines, which inhibit the central nervous system, and codeine-based antitussives can cause addiction problems, even if the patient is not aware of their addiction initially. Use of these drugs should be strictly monitored by a doctor.
4. Inaccurate Diagnosis
When they relieve your symptoms, some medicines can make diagnosis difficult, such as antipyretics (fever reducers), antiemetics (which prevent vomiting) and antispasmodics (which relieve abdominal pain). If you use these drugs and then seek help from a doctor, it may make it difficult for your doctor to diagnose your illness by masking symptoms. By decreasing intestinal motility, antispasmodics can also block the elimination of pathogens. It is best to ask a physician before administering these medications.
5. Resistance and Poisoning
Some drugs can cause poisoning if you overdose; for example, benzodiazepines can cause drowsiness and respiratory problems if taken inappropriately or in excess. Antidepressants cause severe poisoning, including a disturbed heart rate and seizures, while anti-inflammatories can cause gastric discomfort and kidney failure in cases of overdose or inappropriate use.
Antibiotics can cause resistance to arise in populations of bacteria if administered incorrectly or without consulting the doctor. This can even have the effect of strengthening infectious agents rather than weakening them. Such antibiotics should be taken only when prescribed. Strictly follow the instructions of the specialist. Do not skip doses, and complete the treatment even if you feel better.
In some instances, self-medication, even for minor ailments, can lead to severe medical complications. A large number of potent drugs such as pain relievers, anti-allergies, laxatives, antibiotics, and vitamins are often self-prescribed improperly. Self-medication with over-the-counter medicines could cause allergic reactions, side effects, or addiction.
Finally, it is essential to know that some drugs interact with each other, causing negative effects. For example, the widely known aspirin can interact negatively with some diabetes medications, such as insulin. Thus, self medication should be highly discouraged, except under a physician’s instruction.
Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com