Self-medication considered a public health problem
Self-medication is when patients get and use medication without the approval of a doctor, without a prescription, nor a supervision of the treatment. This is around the own decision of the patients and it is modulated with various factors related with the patient, the process, social environment, pharmaceutics, and professionals.
Symptoms that show self-medication frequently are pain (back pain, throat pain, headaches, etc.), fever, cough, gastrointestinal problems, and the most widely consumed medications by self-medication are analgesics/anti-inflammatories, then antibiotics, antacids, and laxatives.
Though this situation keeps the independence and functional capacity of the patient, it constitutes accountability of his/her own health and there are negative consequences, like wrong selection and loss of effectiveness, symptoms can be misunderstood and that can lead to a wrong selection of medication, it difficult medical assessment, symptoms can improve or disappear and it can difficult a diagnose. The risk of abuse and dependence of some drugs and the resistance to antibiotics, a change on the doctor – patient relationship, and the increase in health costs due to a loss of efficacy and dependence.
Wrong use of medication can lead to severe problems of iatrogenesis. The WHO reports that a 50% of drugs prescribed are sold inappropriately, and around a third of the global population lacks essential medication, and more than half of patients does not consume them correctly.
An exploratory and descriptive quali-quantitative study performed in 2013, were 484 families were involved showed that 42% of families choose to self-medicate, influenced by television, the perception of the therapeutical effect, and medical prescription. Additionally, it was determined that knowledge families had on pharmaceutic safety was deficient. 84.3% expressed consulting their doctor because of safety and trust; nonetheless, other results indicate a contradiction, adding the percentages (40%) of those who choose to consult and other non-professional people to attend health consultation nor pharmaceutic safety.
Other studies show that the 80% of people who self- medicate know what medication they are taking and for what it is for. In 90% of cases, patients do not know how to indicate the name of the active ingredient. 22.7% know the meaning of contraindication, adverse effects or drug-drug interaction, and 20% have a total ignorance. This increases with age and diminish with level of studies.
Knowledge, attitudes, and opinions of people about medication is poor. Because of that it is necessary to take measures that involve the improvement of basic knowledge for people to know how to use medication with responsibility.
Reviewers: Brenda Giselle Álvarez Rodríguez (Public Health Research), and Cassandra Saldaña Pineda (Knowledge Management Unit).
- Article: “Up-Date in Family Medicine. Self-medication”. Semergen 2008; 34:133-7.
- Article: “Family self-medication, a public health problem”. Educ. Med. 2017.
- Article: “Establishment of knowledge, attitudes and opinions of general population about rational use of medicines”. Aten. Primaria. 2015; 47 (7):446-455