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Don’t get yourself ‘drugged’ with medicines

The routine is fairly simple. You get sick, go to the doctors, and come out the other end with a prescription. The pharmacist then dishes out meds that you will end up taking for a while. Other times, you just ignore the doctor and decide to self-medicate, ending up buying whatever you fancy. It doesn’t matter that some symptoms are inconsequential and only transient, there seems to be an ever unending crave for medications.

Unrestricted use of prescription meds has raised concerns about unnecessary use, overuse, dependence and other issues like antibiotic resistance. Not every ailment requires medications. Similar symptoms in different individuals don’t always require the same meds to be prescribed. The push to use medications is driven both by patient expectations, and their doctors alike. The pharmaceutical industry is an interested party too, with aggressive advertising and the drive to push sales even higher.

A sobering example is the so called ‘opioid crisis’ in North America and Europe. There has been an overuse of potentially addictive pain medications over the years. Such meds have been liberally prescribed, or illicitly acquired, even for cases where less potent medications would have sufficed. The result has been addictions, complications associated with overdosing, and even deaths which could easily have been avoided. Other examples abound, there’s liberal use of antibiotics, anti-depressants and all manner of other pharmaceutical products. In fact, the term ‘pharmaceuticalisation of life’, has recently been coined to describe the phenomenon.

If you aren’t careful, you can easily end up being drugged by what you might consider as necessary and safe prescription meds. Whenever an ache or an itch shows up, you don’t necessarily need some medications for an immediate remedy. If it seems innocuous, you can wait for the symptoms to abate spontaneously. But if you end up at your doctor’s, make sure you have undergone an objective evaluation that justifies any prescriptions. Be quick to reject what is casually referred to as empiric treatment. This usually results in prescriptions based on an educated guess at best, without you having undergone any definitive diagnostic evaluations.

You must also resist the urge to be swayed by the ever appealing pharmaceutical ads. The advertising media is full of quick-fix pharmaceutical remedies. Some are tried and tested, but others are quick-rich scams for unscrupulous individuals. The unregulated drugs market is overcrowded with so called natural products, supplements and herbal concoctions. They all claim to provide elusive cures, control intractable symptoms, and increase longevity. Be wary, you’ll easily get hooked up with the insatiable need for mostly unnecessary pills. You are better off just leading an overall healthier lifestyle.

Don’t get me wrong. Pharmaceutical products have revolutionized healthcare, and enabled cures that were once unheard of. But they must be used with caution and objectivity. Any abuse is a sure path to catastrophy.

Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynecologist and Fertility Specialist. amurage@mygyno.co.ke

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