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What is self medication?

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As part of the solution to dealing with the problem of premature death of Ghanaians in Hamburg, we are continuing to share information in a series of write ups – Self medication have been suggested to be one of the possible causes of the menace.

Each and everyone wishes for him or herself a long, healthy and fulfilling life. As a result of this natural urge of being healthy, people strive to establish and maintain health, prevent and treat illness.  Personal and general hygiene, lifestyles, nutrition, living conditions, cultural beliefs, SELF MEDICATION are some of the actions taken by individuals to ensure their health and wellbeing.

Through advancement and development of societies self medication has successfully been integrated into and plays important roles in various healthcare systems. It is not for no reason that some specific drugs are reclassified from prescription drugs to Over the Counter (OTC) drugs.
Self medication
Self medication is the selection and use of medicines or substances by individuals to treat self recognised physical or psychological ailment or symptoms.  Self-medication is just one element of SELF CARE which is a good thing and inherently human. Each and everyone tend to self medicate at a point to prevent or treat some ailments that do not need consultation with the doctor. It is also helpful for people who might not have immediate access to healthcare, like the undocumented migrants.

The point of departure is the differentiation between IRRESPONSIBLE SELF MEDICATION and RESPONSIBLE SELF MEDICATION.

Responsible self medication is the practice whereby individuals recognise their own ailment and symptoms and treat s them with medicines which are proven safe, quality and effective when used as directed and are available and accessible without prescription from any doctor.

To meet the requirement of responsible self medication, the user should have sufficient knowledge about the drug usage such us: dose, time of intake, side effect, overdose, interaction with other medicines and foods etc.
Self medication emerging cause of widespread prescription drug abuse 624x416
On the other hand Irresponsible self medication is when the individual does not have the required information on the medicine being used. Examples of irresponsible self medication include: taking medicines from friends, family or even neighbours that might have been prescribed for them for a particular illness that might not be the same illness the individual has.

Usually self medication products includes but not limited to OTC such as anti-histamines, analgesics/painkillers, cough syrups, sleeping tablets, weight gain and weight reducing agents, multivitamins, but also skin bleaching steroids, alcohol, herbal medicines - which are sold to consumers for use on their own request. These products are normally used to treat ailments such as cold, headache, general body pains etc.

Some of the sources include the pharmacy store, drug and chemical shops, internet and TV shops, street vendors, old medicines stored home, medicines from friends or relatives.

There is a wide range of factors leading people to self medicate; these include waiting time, lack of awareness, health care cost, lack of access to health care, socio cultural and religious beliefs etc.

Irresponsible self medication have serious repercussions ranging from inappropriate therapy since one might be applying the wrong medication his or her symptoms, missed diagnosis, delayed in appropriate treatment, addiction to some medication, pathogens resistance, Adverse Drug Reaction (ADR). All these could lead to complications or even lead to death sometimes. The risk involved in Self medication could be even more serious in pregnancy, children and the elderly.
self medication
Self medication is actually not a bad thing at all; it is just that it must be done right. Doing it right means; talk to your pharmacist about your symptoms, be proactive and tell if you are already on some  other medication or you have allergies; heed to  advice on how to use the medication; go to see a doctor when he or she recommends you to rather do so.

Always go see a doctor if your symptoms persist after 3 days; do not used old drugs stored home when our ailment reoccur; let your work wait and make time to see a doctor; we are individually different do not accept drugs recommended by others as it may not work for you.

In summary self medication have benefits both for the individual and the society as a whole.

Doing it right prevents prolonged illness, unnecessary suffering and even death and serves as a strong and important pillar for any health care system.

Aileen Sobeng Ashe (Public Health Scientist and language and Culture Mediator)
Veronica Ursula Enninful (Pharmacist and Public Health scientist)

TopAfric Media Network