Introduction to self-medication, reasons, and sources

Self-medication is a global phenomenon and is very common in India too. It is not only prevalent in economically weaker communities or areas with limited healthcare services, but it is also practised widely by educated individuals in larger cities in most countries.

Self-medication has traditionally been defined as “the taking of drugs, herbs or home remedies on one's own initiative, or on the advice of another person, without consulting a doctor.” 

Most often, families, friends, neighbours, the pharmacist, or suggestions from online websites or books are common sources of self-medication which includes previously prescribed drugs. The major reasons for resorting to self-medication are: 

  • Urge to self-care 

  • Lack of time to meet a doctor

  • Financial burden

  • Ignorance

  • Easy accessibility of drugs

 While we practice self-medication on a daily basis, we have to understand the extent to which it can be harmful and how to prevent any mishap? Further in the article, we will discuss:

(a) Potential dangers of self-medication 

(b) How teleconsultation could help individuals take a piece of initial advice from a doctor and then decide the need to visit a doctor physically

What are the dangers of self-medication?

1. It may mask other underlying conditions instead of addressing the real cause of the problem/ health concern

2. Might result in a wrong diagnosis and wrong intake of drugs, leading to unknown side-effects

3. Might result in abuse or overdose of dangerous substances, leading to chronic health conditions

4. In the case of mental illness, self-medication can make mental health worse

Teleconsultation as an appropriate and effective medical tool to reduce mishaps of self-medication

Most patients try self-medication and discuss health problems with immediate friends and family. Teleconsultation can play a major role in helping such individuals connect instantly with a doctor and take initial advice before deciding to physically meet a doctor (note: this does not apply in case of an emergency. Always visit your nearest clinic/ hospital in case of emergencies).

The benefits of using teleconsult in the initial stages to reduce wrong self-diagnosis and treatment include:

  • Teleconsult can guide patients effectively and channel them to the most appropriate form of care. 

  • One can better understand:

    • What could be the reason for the problems and its symptoms?

    • What will happen if these symptoms are treated or left untreated?

  • Telecosult is a boon in times when one is stuck at a place and cannot step out to visit a doctor. In such times, instead of self-medicating, turning to teleconsult is quicker, reliable and cheaper.

  • Teleconsult allows doctors to write valid prescriptions and suggests tests to patients which are accepted by pharmacists and labs.

  • Teleconsult provides the opportunity to follow-up with doctors in a day or two. This will help patients decide on the next steps.

Lastly, note that teleconsult is an established tool to provide remote healthcare services. It is reliable, accessible, convenient and affordable. Teleconsult can definitely be considered as the first line of defense against self-medication. So, the next time you have a health issue and are unsure of what to do next, resort to teleconsultation services to get a clearer understanding of how to tackle the health issue.