Self‑medication is a global phenomenon and potential contributor to human pathogen resistance to antibiotics. The adverse consequences of such practices should always be emphasized to the community and steps to curb it.
Rampant irrational use of antimicrobials without medical guidance may result in greater probability of inappropriate, incorrect, or undue therapy, missed diagnosis, delays in appropriate treatment, pathogen resistance and increased morbidity.
Self‑medication has traditionally been defined as “the taking of drugs, herbs or home remedies on one’s own initiative, or on the advice of another person, without consulting a doctor.”
Families, friends, neighbors, the pharmacist, previous prescribed drug, or suggestions from an advertisement in newspapers or popular magazines are common sources of self‑medications.
Now‑a‑days, self‑medication should be seen as the “desire and ability of people/patients to play an intelligent, independent and informed role, not merely in terms of decision‑making but also in the management of those preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic activities which concern them.”
Major problems related to self‑medication are wastage of resources, increased resistance of pathogens and causes serious health hazards such as adverse reaction and prolonged suffering.
Antimicrobial resistance is a current problem world‑wide particularly in developing countries where antibiotics are available without any prescription. Hence, the government should take necessary steps to regulate responsible self‑medication. This can be done by making availability of safe drugs along with proper instructions about its use and if in need consulting a physician.
Why do People Use Self‑medication?
Modern consumers (patients) wish to take a greater role in the maintenance of their own health and are often competent to manage (uncomplicated) chronic and recurrent illnesses (not merely short‑term symptoms) after proper medical diagnosis and with only occasional professional advice, e.g. use of histamine H2‑receptor blocker, topical corticosteroid, antifungal and oral contraceptive.
They are understandably unwilling to submit to the inconvenience of visiting a doctor for what they rightly feel they can manage for themselves, given adequate information.
Self‑medication is very common and a number of reasons could be enumerated for it. Urge of self‑care, feeling of sympathy toward family members in sickness, lack of time, lack of health services, financial constraint, ignorance, misbelieves, extensive advertisement and availability of drugs in other than drug shops are responsible for growing trend of self‑medication.
Improper self‑medication could result in an increase in drug induced disease and in wasteful public expenditure.
Role of health profession
Health professionals are one who has potential role in preventing risks of self‑medication. Because he is the one who work on three main therapeutic aspects of professionalism in his daily practice: Information, therapeutic advice and education.
Whenever health professionals are prescribing drugs, he should give proper instructions and explain for what it is prescribed so that it will be helpful for the patient to understand and making his own decisions. Given information should be at patient’s comprehension level so that it will be helpful for them to understand its management.
Lack of therapeutic compliance is a serious problem in both acute and chronic treatments and reflects a poorly‑understood or incomplete description of the treatment aims. If patients are not well‑informed they are unlikely to use medication correctly.
However, if the directions for use and the limitations of a given drug are explained-for example, dose, frequency of dose, treatment course, how to take it, etc., then patients have a set of guidelines which will help them to use the drug correctly, both now and in the future.
Inappropriate and erratic self‑medication, along with lack of compliance, will only be reduced if patients are informed and understand clearly why certain advice has been given.
Inappropriate self‑medication is the result of the medical model from which people have learnt. Proper health education should be given to the patients. By regularly adopting an educational attitude we can have an effect on large sectors of the population, on people who, in turn, may directly influence their friends and family.
This aspect is of particular importance with respect to the self‑medication of children by their parents or takes cares.
Role of pharmacist
He is one of the key role players in educating his customers about the proper use of medicines, which are intended for self‑medication. For that necessary steps have to be taken in his training and practice.
Pharmacists play a valuable role in identifying, solving and preventing drug‑related problems for the purpose of achieving optimal patient outcomes and quality of life. Ambulatory based pharmacists have the opportunity and responsibility to foster safe, appropriate, effective and economical use of all medications, especially those therapies patients are self‑selecting. Pharmacists should guide their customers to consult the physician before taking any medication by self.
Self‑medication is an alarming concept. It would be safe, if the people who are using it, have sufficient knowledge about its dose, time of intake, side‑effect on over dose, but due to lack of information it can cause serious effects such as antibiotic resistance, skin problem, hypersensitivity and allergy.
It is recommended that holistic approach should be taken to prevent this problem, which includes proper awareness and education regarding the self‑medication and strictness regarding pharmaceutical advertising.
Dispensing modes in the needs to be improved through proper education, strict regulatory and managerial strategies to make health care easily accessible and cost‑effective.
Health professionals have to spend some extra time in educating patients regarding the same. Improved knowledge and understanding about self‑medication may result in rationale use and thus limit emerging microbial resistance issues.