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Self medication and the double trouble

Self medication and the double trouble

          From our roommates or friends to google, then to another friend then to the drug shop and finally to the doctor, maybe. This is the usual action pattern for most Nigerians when they notice a malfunction or something unusual with their body.

Self-medication is the selection and use of drugs based on self-diagnosis to treat a medical condition without a doctors prescription. 

          When we have a headache, we pop a pain killer. When we have a cough, we simply choose any cough medicine. When we have stomach ache we take the famous analgesic, flagyl. Most of these are readily available in Nigerian homes. Some of us even carry them around in our pockets. When we have no knowledge of the pill to take for a condition, we run to the nearest drug shop popularly called chemist. The chemists at the drug shops do not have an MBBS, but we console our guilt with their counter experience, forgetting the the two are gravely different. Local chemists do not run tests or refer you to medical laboratory scientists to run test but magically know your exact problem and the perfect drug for the cure. Ever wondered how? 

          Yes the aspirin would take away the headache and the analgesic would reduce the stomach ache but what if that headache was signalling something else? What if that stomach ache and diarrhoea was a symptom of gastroenteritis or even appendicitis? All the pill would do is make you ignore the bigger problem, and soon you may need the services of an ambulance. Malaria, inflammation of the blood vessels, brain tumours, high or low intracranial pressure, infections like meningitis and many more have the simple or chronic headache as one of their symptoms, and that painkiller will not solve the problem. In most cases excessive use of painkillers could now bring about regular chronic headaches. You see, without the right prescription, that drug made to cure an illness can become a causative agent for the same illness. 

         Asides  choosing a drug without the doctors prescription or going to the nearest local chemist, another regular form of self medication and drug abuse is the elongation of prescribed time for drug intake. Antibiotics are the most common victims of this abuse. 

In 1924, the discovery of the first antibiotic, penicillin by Alexander Fleming was considered a miracle. People would no longer die due to a simple bacteria infection on a cut. Ninety-eight years from then, the abuse of antibiotics has put our health at risk all over again.

Microbial agents like fungi, bacteria and viruses grow and get stronger. They can learn to alter their cell wall permeability to resist drugs that act by DNA destruction. They could develop a mutant strain to resist anti microbial therapy, and they could resist by altering their metabolic pathway or developing enzymes that could deactivate antimicrobial drugs. 

Regular intake or over intake of antimicrobial drugs can make the microbes more familiar with the drugs, thereby increasing antimicrobial resistance. Antibiotic resistance is one of the leading causes of deaths globally.

The antacid that you thought was safe can cause damage to your intestine, preventing proper nutrient absorption, and your body will become generally weak.

Paracetamol and other pain killers have the ability to cause heart attacks or damage your kidneys. You may end up on dialysis or needing a transplant that will cost a lot more than what you would have paid to see a doctor when you had multiple headaches. 

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     Another reason why we should not self medicate is that we do not know how the medicine would react with our diet or existing prescription like diabetes prescription or thyroid medicines. 

     There are diverse factors doctors consider before a prescription. Age, gender, medical history, diet even nature of work sometimes are considered before prescription. Doctors even go as far as requesting for a resistance test to find the right drug for you. 

Instead of relying on our friends, local chemists or playing doctor, trusting the people with the MBBS certificate will save our health and money too. 

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