The dangers of self-medication

Self-medication is a human behaviour in which an individual uses un-prescribed drugs to treat untreated and/or undiagnosed ailments. People who use medical drugs without consulting a doctor are self-medicating themselves.
Sudhir Pai

Self-medication in India is an all pervading aberrant behaviour. Indians are known to take higher antibiotics just because it helped their cousin or the chemist said to take; chemists dispensing any and all drugs without a valid prescription is also a unique fact of Indian consumerism. Self-medication returns to hound the (ab)user when a much needed drug fails to work in a patient only because he/ she has been popping it like candy whenever slightest symptom arose.At the outset, it is essential to clarify that self-medication is NOT and can NEVER be self-care/ healthcare!

Food & Drug Administration has divided drugs into two main categories:
OTC (Over The Counter) drugs – ones that can be judiciously self-administered (they are not absolutely safe for all) and
Scheduled drugs – these can ONLY be dispensed on a valid prescription of a Registered Medical Practitioner.

A large number of people, when they feel unwell, do not consult their doctor. They either consult a chemist to obtain medicine over the counter, or may even consult friends / relatives who may have experienced a similar situation in the past. Some others may even use a years old prescription. It is shocking some parents even give their own medicines to kids in half the dosage!

While, at times nothing troublesome may outwardly happen on following such advice, but it is very dangerous.

self medication

More than the increasing cost of health care in, it is the “I-KNOW-IT-ALL” attitude that encourages people to try and treat their own medical conditions. But, this pursuit can be very risky! It can be ineffective and prove to be more expensive in a long run.

The World Self-Medication Industry, WSMI ( based in France is a Non Governmental Organization (NGO) of over 50 member associations representing manufacturers and distributors of non-prescription medicines on all continents. It’s mission is to promote the understanding and development of responsible self-medication. They clearly advocate self-medication only using medicines which are especially designed and labelled for use without medical supervision and approved as safe and effective for such use. They advise consumers to practice self-medication responsibly and carefully reading for non-prescription drug labelling.

Proprietary drugs which are sold over-the-counter include pain relievers, cough remedies, anti-allergics, laxatives, vitamins, tonics, antacids and many others. However, in many counties including India, dangerous drugs like the antibiotics and the hormones can be procured somehow without a valid prescription.

The dangers of self medication:
The problem can be misdiagnosed, which means unwanted medication has been taken while the problem still continues.
While the self diagnosis of the problem may be correct, the person may be taking the incorrect medication and / or incorrect dosage for an incorrect duration. All these three render the (ab)user resistant to the drug when he/ she is sick enough to really need that drug in future.
There can be drug interactions with other medications the person is already taking, which may either neutralize or accentuate the effect of one of the drugs, without the patient realizing it.

There could be side effects where one problem can aggravate another for example, some cold medications can raise blood pressure.
One of the biggest dangers of self-medication is the delay. A minor health issue which could be cleared up easily by a doctor may become a major health issue over time.

Self-medication is often considered a form of addiction, although the two concepts are not necessarily identical. Self medication can lead to problems down the road. Always consult your FAMILY Physician.

Avoid self-medicating oneself – Lead a Healthy Life!

About Sudhir: After 24+ years in the corporate world handling Country Leadership roles with P&L responsibilities, Sudhir has started as an entrepreneur venture in the space of sales consultancy & training. With the growing need for the right healthcare and wellness programs in India, Sudhir has joined a team of ethical medical practitioners to make a difference in the way healthcare is managed and delivered in India.

Please comment with your real name using good manners.

Leave a Reply