The Real Dangers of Self-Medication That You Probably Haven’t Thought About
Taking over-the-counter or prescription medications without talking to a doctor first may seem to save you time and money, but it is much more costly to your health in the end. The effects of self-medication can be harmful and potentially life-threatening.
Many people associate the term “self-medication” with alcohol or substance abuse. However, self-medication can also mean taking prescription drugs left over from a previous illness or taking multiple over-the-counter drugs to mask your symptoms.
People often self-medicate to avoid going to the doctor, but the consequences can be serious enough to land you in the hospital. Learn about the dangers of self-medication so you can avoid the risk of an adverse reaction.
Medications have expiration dates that indicate when by when they should be taken to ensure safety and potency.
Medications that have passed their expiration dates might not work as effectively or be safe to use. When you take prescription or over-the-counter medications that have expired, you are taking the risk of not receiving enough of a dose to relieve or manage your symptoms.
In some medications, chemical reactions can occur as they expire, making them dangerous to consume. Always double check your medication labels before taking your medication.
Undiagnosed Underlying Condition
Taking medicine to treat ongoing symptoms without seeing a doctor could mean that you are letting an underlying condition go undiagnosed. Symptoms like persistent fever and rash could be associated with underlying medical conditions that require proper diagnosis to be effectively treated. In some cases, such as diabetes or heart disease, letting symptoms go unchecked could increase your risk of developing serious complications.
If you have experienced a symptom (e.g. fever, rash, insomnia, vomiting, dizziness, nausea, headache, sinus pressure, etc.) for more than 5 days, see your doctor immediately.
Antibiotics have the ability to destroy harmful bacteria, but their misuse can have dangerous effects. Taking antibiotics when you do not have a bacterial infection or illness can lead to . When this happens, bacteria develop the ability to resist the effects of antibiotics, which prevents them from working effectively. The bacteria can then multiply, resulting in higher numbers of bacteria that are resistant to your medications.
Bacteria can also share this resistance with other types of bacteria, including harmful and beneficial ones. When you have the common cold or another viral infection, for example, taking antibiotics for it will not get rid of the virus. Instead, it will cause beneficial bacteria to build up a resistance and share that resistance with any harmful bacteria that are present.
Additionally, there are many different types of antibiotics developed to treat specific illnesses. If you take antibiotics previously prescribed for a different condition, at best you won’t get any better. At worst, you can make yourself severely ill and build antibiotic resistant bacteria that make it harder to cure you.
When you take multiple medications on your own, you run the risk of taking medications that should not be used together for safety reasons. For instance, taking Viagra and heart medications simultaneously can cause a massive drop in blood pressure and trigger a heart attack.
Some medications can affect the potency of other drugs when mixed together. This can put your health at risk by letting your symptoms go untreated due to lowered drug potency. Always ask your pharmacist about any
possible negative drug reactions .
The dangers of self-medication can be life-threatening when inaccurate dosages are taken. When you estimate your own dosage, you are at risk for taking enough to result in an accidental overdose.
Conversely, if you take a dosage that is too small, it is not likely to be effective and you may become sicker. This can result in taking additional dosages in order to manage or relieve your symptoms, which can also lead to an overdose.
The practice of self-medication can, and does often, result in death. Your pharmacist and your physician are a team that’s working together to help ensure your safety and maintain your health. Utilize that team by going to the doctor and communicating any concerns you have to your pharmacist—it could prevent serious complications, including death.