Responsible and Successful Self-Medication

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Self-medication is the treatment of a self-diagnosed disorder or self-judged symptoms. Self-medication is a necessary component of self-care. The individual uses their own interpretation and knowledge to administer a drug or any other exogenous influence.

Self-medication can be seen as a human right. However, an individual may do self-harm if they wrongly judge their own symptoms or choose the wrong type/wrong way of medication.

Medical knowledge and expertise is a broad concept.  One may spend a considerable part of their life trying to understand the medical domain. Hence, ideally one should consult an expert physician for their physical or mental suffering.

Nowadays medical knowledge is freely available. One may surf the internet and read or listen to find out more about their suffering and its management. Hence, self-medication is a global phenomenon at the moment. A certain degree of health orientation is sufficient for self-medication.

Successful self-medication reduces some degree of a burden on Medical Services. It also helps to reduce the cost of treatment. Additionally, an individual may get instant medication for their complaints. Self-medication is pretty common and can be seen as a cost-effective affair in developing countries.

Responsible self-medication is not free of risk

The practice of self-medication may add an economic burden. There is always risk associated with self-medication even if it is responsibly followed.

Adverse effects which are invited because of self-medication may cause out of pocket expenses. The cost of further medical intervention conversely impacts the very motive.

Many reports have suggested Over-The-Counter (OTC) medications are associated with adverse drug effects. The inappropriate use of self-medication may turn into irrational use of medication.

There are a number of reports suggesting that self-medication is largely associated with the use of sub-therapeutic dosage. Self-medication is common with antibiotic medications. In fact, self-medication is a prominent reason for growing antibiotic resistance. At the moment, growing antibiotic resistance is a global challenge.

The worldwide increasing use of self-medication practice especially in developing countries is now seen as a threat.

Some research studies have shown approximately 73% of cases responding positively to the use of self-medication associated with antibiotic and antimalarials. The results are alarming and have a larger impact on countries’ policies regarding Over-The-Counter (OTC) medications.  

Below is the list of factors that influence self-medication practice:

1 Education

2 Gender

3 Socioeconomic status

4 Availability of medications

5 Availability of medical advice

6 Cultural trends

7 Advertising and Marketing of over the counter medication

What is responsible self-medication?

In a responsible self-medication method, the individuals treat their ailments with medicines which are approved by government agencies. As such, there is no need for a prescription. Additionally, these medicines are safe for use especially when taken as directed.

Responsible self-medication must meet below criteria:

1 The quality, efficacy, and safety must be proven for these medicines

2 These medicines must be available for easily or self-recognizable conditions

3 The details of dose, dosing form, etc. must be clear

4 The information about how to take these medicines should be available

5 Information regarding Side Effects, possible adverse events must be explained

6 Possible interactions should be given

7 Precautions and warnings should be clearly mentioned

8 The duration of treatment must be clear

9 When to visit for professional advice should be mentioned

The increasing need of responsible self-medication

As discussed, self-medication is a global phenomenon. It is largely contributing to increased pathogen resistance to antibiotics.  Nowadays people are more equipped to accept social and personal responsibility.

There are always chances of missing a diagnosis, delay in starting correct treatment, and increasing morbidity. Self-medication is followed not only with allopathic drugs but also with Homeopathic, Ayurvedic, biochemic medicines medications.

Family, friends, nearby relatives, articles written in magazines or newspapers, etc. are the common source of information about self-medication.

The pharmacist plays the pivotal role in the process of guiding communities about the self-medication. They are the advisors to the public on everyday health care issues. They must ensure the high-quality medical service to the public.

The pharmacist should encourage people to use medicines responsibly.

Advertising is also helpful in informing people about the details of medicines which are available. Hence, the advertising should be responsible and should not discourage people from taking professional medical advice.

The role of a pharmacist in responsible self-medication

Pharmacists have some professional obligations to encourage a responsible self-medication process. They must ensure that detailed information is provided about the medicinal products available for self-medication.

The pharmacist must report to regulatory authorities and drug companies whenever they encounter adverse events happening after self-medication.

Pharmacists must encourage people to seek medical advice when it is necessary. They must ensure the products are stored as per specifications and handled with due care.

The World Health Organization issued a fact sheet on the rational use of medicines in May 2010.  WHO defines rational use as meaning “the correct, proper and appropriate use of medicines.” According to WHO, the incorrect use may take the form of overuse, underuse, and misuse of prescription or non-prescription medicines. The fact sheet also highlighted the unrestricted availability of some medicines like antibiotic medications may contribute to incorrect use of medicines.

The role of an individual who is taking self-medication

The person preferring self-medication must be aware of their own responsibilities and self-care.

The individual who is taking self-medication must ensure that they are well informed about the product.

They must cross-check the important details such as labeling, brand name, expiry date, etc. Also, They must be aware of the relation of medication with diet, sleep, travel, etc.

They must confirm that they are consuming the recommended dose for the required safe duration.

Along with benefits, there are always risks associated with each medicine. The person preferring self-medication must be aware of facts like side effects, adverse drug events and adverse drug reactions associated with the medicine they are consuming.

There is a growing need for increasing awareness regarding self-medication practice. There are many reported cases of drug abuse, drug reactions, and drug withdrawals associated with self-medication. Insomnia medication is a well-known example.

Of course, safety is a supreme concern and in case of any unwanted effect, the person should seek medical advice

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