Each day, people are faced with different kinds of ailments and we often categorize these ailments as major and minor illnesses. An ailment referred to as “minor” might actually lead to a very serious and dangerous health condition.

These “minor” illnesses are usually not given serious attention and people resort to taking their own medications without the supervision of a doctor or a professional health practitioner.

Self-medication is a term given to the habit or act of taking drugs that have not been prescribed by a doctor or taken without the supervision of a health practitioner. Common ailments like headache, stomach ache, cold, and cough among others, are often referred to as “minor” ailments. But in actual fact, these ailments can lead to more serious illnesses if care is not taken.

For instance, indigestion or difficulty in swallowing is usually seen as a minor disorder because it is a common ailment, especially among the elderly. But these are equally symptoms of esophageal cancer which happens to be a very serious illness.

Also, headache is one ailment that is seen to be common and “minor”, so we tend to pay little attention to it or take painkillers without considering visiting the hospital. In Ghana especially, paracetamol is one of the most popular painkillers and most Ghanaians see it as a cure to so many body aches aside headaches. Unfortunately, many individuals are ignorant about the fact that excessive intake of paracetamol can lead to paracetamol poisoning also known as Acetaminophen poisoning. It causes nausea, tiredness, abdominal pain, and worst of all, it damages the liver just like alcohol poisoning.

It is important to note that, severe headaches may also be symptoms of brain tumor which is caused by the growth of abnormal cells in the brain. Cancer cells from other organs of the body can cause brain tumors if they happen to spread to the brain.
Self-medication sometimes just deals with the pain temporarily but not the exact health disorder. It may lead an individual into taking the wrong medication which will only worsen his or her condition before he or she gets to the hospital. 

Moreover, self-medication can lead to overdose which is highly suicidal. Mostly, when drugs are taken without a doctor’s prescription, an overdose is likely to happen and this can easily lead to sudden and untimely deaths. The overuse of some painkillers and illegal drugs like heroin damages the kidneys and liver.

Drug addiction is another act caused by self-medication. In some cases, individuals take medications from friends and relatives and the use of these medications may become more frequent since they are under no professional supervision. They are likely to become addicted and may end up being mentally unstable.

Taking medications without a doctor’s prescription may only worsen your condition. There is no way to determine the state of your health without undergoing diagnosis; therefore you may be treating your health disorder with the wrong medication which is likely to expose you to more danger. It is very advisable to get diagnosed to enable you to identify the nature of your illness before taking any medication.

Avoid taking drugs without a doctor’s prescription or the supervision of a professional health practitioner, medications should be taken in their right dosage and at the right time to avoid overdose. 

Also, try as much as possible to avoid taking medications from friends and relatives. Just because you have similar symptoms does not mean your condition is the same as the person’s and therefore you can take the same medications. They may be diagnosed with an ailment that is more or less dangerous than yours.

Always put your health first and make sure to seek help by visiting the hospital, clinic, or pharmacy anytime you see or feel any abnormal pains or changes in your body. The pain is just the body’s own way of signaling a person that there is something wrong in his or her body. Always remember that your health is your wealth, so take good care of it.

Written by : Nasreen Zankawah

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