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Experience is the worst teacher

The World Health Organisation defines self-medication as the selection and use of medicine by individuals to treat self-recognised illnesses or symptoms.

This act or process of medicating oneself is done without medical consultation or supervision. Have you ever self-medicated? Do you remember what prompted you to self-medicate without medical consultation? There are many reasons why people self-medicate, but the following are the common ones.

1. In need of immediate pain relief; this is very common in individuals with chronic pain.

2. Previous experience: Many people use their past experience with a specific drug to self-medicate the next time they experience similar symptoms.

3. Fear of contracting diseases in the hospital environment; some people avoid going to the hospital or clinic because they are afraid of contracting diseases.

4. The need to relieve stress and anxiety

Though the immediate results of self-medication may be good, we need to realise that self-medication comes with its own consequences, which we may or may not recognise. The following are some of the consequences of self-medicating:

1. Incorrect route of administration; you may end up taking the drug incorrectly, for example, by drinking a drug that should be injected.

2. Excessive dosing; you may not be aware of the correct amount of drug to take, which can result in toxicity and organ (liver/kidney) damage.

3. Excessively prolonged use: a drug which needs to be taken for only 5 days, if taken for two weeks, may be detrimental to you.

4. Inaccurate choice of therapy; self-medicating can lead to you taking the wrong type of medicine, which may even lead to death.

5. Food and drug interactions: Certain drugs are not to be taken with food or combined with other drugs. This information can only be gotten through medical consultation.

With the above outlined consequences of self-medication, are you still planning on self-medicating? Seek medical consultation from pharmacists, physicians, nurses, and other medical practitioners before using any medicine.

This article was contributed by Christabel Hikaambo-Mwila.

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