Hazards of Self-Medication
A 50 year old lady was prescribed analgesics and steroids along with Methotrexate and was asked to come back within a month for review. Despite a good counselling on the disease and the drugs, since patient felt better she decided to continue these drugs for over an year on her own..!!
She presented to us later with a urinary tract infection, generalised tiredness and swelling of the face. She was found to have infection, diabetes & osteoporosis due to steroids and renal failure, possibly due to unmonitored consumption of Methotrexate
Everyday, everywhere most of the consumers reach self-care/ non-prescriptive products in the pharmacies to cure their common health issue on daily basis.
According to survey, more than 60% of people treat their health issues themselves rather consulting doctor. But one has to be aware of risks and hazards Recent survey stated that more than 65% of the people who visited the internet in 12 months period went to health-related searches and sites.
It is important to note that there are many drugs which can cause serious side effects, affecting different organs or systems of the body although the primary usage of this drug may be for some other problem.
Abused drugs are either self medicated/OTC(Over The Counter) or could have been prescribed by doctors. Commonly abused drugs in this class are pain killers (Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs – NSAIDS) eg. Ibuprofen, Diclofenac, Indomethacin etc. Other abused drugs are Paracetamol or Analgin for head ache & even steroids for joint pains and sleeping pills.
Most of these drugs are used by the patients at some point of time for pains and aches in the body. On many occasions, these are prescribed for short periods, but since they gives relief from symptoms, the patients continue the intake of these drugs for longer periods, rather than consulting a doctor to find the root cause of these symptoms and treat the primary disease.
The most commonly abused drugs in my opinion are pain killers, steroids and sleeping pills. The most common side effects of the above mentioned drugs are gastritis, ulcers, bleeding in the stomach, kidney injury leading to Renal failure etc. Steroids can cause diabetes and weakening/softening of bones (osteoporosis). Pain killers (NSAIDS) can even result in heart attacks as it may increase the risk for clot formation in the blood vessels, it can increase blood pressure and worsen existing heart conditions. Sleeping pills on the other hand increase the risk of falling in elderly.
Basically, before prescribing these drugs, a doctor evaluates the patient’s risk factors, age, underlying medical conditions such as Diabetes, Ischemic heart disease, Hypertension etc. Only when the benefits outweigh the risks, a doctor prescribes these drugs. This evaluation cannot be made by a common man with limited knowledge and hence proper advice should be taken from your doctor as self-medication can prove hazardous.