Self Medication

Why You Should Not Self Medicate


Self medication is the use of medicines or drugs to treat self diagnosed diseases or disorders. 

Traditionally, self medication is the taking of drugs or herbs or home remedies on one’s own or on the advice of another person without consulting the doctor. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes self medication as a global challenge that impacts health care cost, medicine effectiveness especially with the rising antibiotic resistance and increasing drug related morbidity.

A Cross-Sectional study of prevalence of self medication among Tertiary Level Students in Accra by Eric S et al in 2012 indicates that, in a sample of 600 students, 75 percent practiced self medication and about 35 percent reported treatment failures with self medication. Though this study is not robust enough, it gives some evidence of the situation and this needs to be handled appropriately through public education via all platforms possible. 

Reasons for self medication 

  1. Medical treatment of disease conditions can easily be googled. Just simply typing a disease condition on Google offers you a wide range of treatment options with a list of potential drugs for treatment. 
  2. Some other individuals engage in self medication in response to advice given by relatives, peers (who treated similar conditions in the past), health care professionals who have little knowledge of drugs and disease diagnosis. Just because one works in the hospital does not qualify them to prescribe medicines for the population. 
  3. Lack of health care services, ignorance, extensive advertisements on drugs or health related products, urge of self care etc. 


  1. Self medication may result in serious adverse reactions on you and may even worsen your condition or cause new conditions (complications). Some drugs should not be used in children and in pregnancy as well as in certain disease states. 
  2. Incorrect self diagnosis. You cannot be treating yourself when you cannot identify the cause of your condition hence you end up wrongly treating it. Treatment should be evidence based and hence the need to consult a doctor or a qualified person to identify the disorder and treat appropriately. 
  3. Incorrect choice of therapy (drug) due to lack of informed and specialised knowledge. 
  4. Incorrect drug administration method or approach. There are instances where people swallow certain medications meant to be inserted into the vagina or anus (pessaries or suppositories). 
  5. One may take excessive doses or inadequate doses that can result in harmful effects or no response to drug treatment. 
  6. One may miss certain risks associated with the drug usage especially in certain health states where particular drugs should not be used. For example using ibuprofen to treat ulcer pain or antibiotics to treat common cold. 
  7. Self medication may result in excessively prolonged use of the medication. Prolong use of some drugs can result in addiction and dependence. Some people self medicate with drugs that make them sleep such as librium, diazepam, cyproheptadine, etc, prolonged use of these can result in dependence and abuse. 
  8. One may suffer from drug interactions with food or other drugs and make you at risk of adverse effects from those interactions. 
  9. As already stated, antibiotic resistance has become a challenge worldwide. Thus, there are situations where patients diagnosed with certain pathogens that are normally killed by certain antibiotics have now become ineffective even when the ‘powerful’ ones are used. Those individuals are therefore at higher risk dying from the infection due to limited choices of drugs. They may suffer sepsis, multiple organ damage and die. 


In order to prevent the above potential health consequences of self medication one must 

  1. See a doctor or qualified person to correctly diagnose the disorder and write prescriptions for treatment or
  2. See the pharmacist to review their medications before taking them. 


Self medication is detrimental to one’s health and hence must be avoided as much as possible. 

  1. Vizhi SK, Senapathi R. Evaluation of the perception, attitude and practice of self-medication among business students in 3 select Cities, South India. International Journal of Enterprise and Innovation Management Studies (IJEIMS) July-December 2010;1 (3): 40-4.
  2. Geissler PW, NokesK, PrinceRJ, OdhiamboRA, Aagaard-HansenJ, Ouma JH. Children and medicines: Self-treatment of common illnesses among Luo schoolchildren in western Kenya. Soc Sci Med 2000;50:1771-83.
  3. Chang FR, Trivedi PK. Economics of self-medication: Theory and evidence. Health Econ 2003;12:721-39.
  4. RuizME. Risks of self-medication practices. Curr Drug Saf 2010;5:315-23.
  5. Eric S. Donkor, Patience B. Tetteh-Quarcoo, Patrick Nartey and Isaac O. Agyeman, 2012. Self-Medication Practices with Antibiotics among Tertiary  Level Students in Accra, Ghana: A Cross-Sectional Study. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health  2012,  9, 3519-3529; doi:10.3390/ijerph9103519 OPE. 


Author at

Dr. Abel Daartey is a pharmacist by profession, a teacher, and a mentor by nature. He enjoys reading scientific journals and articles and publications in neuroscience and related topics. He aims at churning out content that educates the public and health care providers in meeting the healthcare needs of the populace.

Chief Editor at

MPSGH, MRPharmS, MPhil.

Isaiah Amoo is a practicing community pharmacist in good standing with the Pharmacy Council of Ghana who has meaningful experience in academia and industrial pharmacy. He is a member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, England, UK and currently pursuing his overseas pharmacy assessment programme (MSc) at Aston University, UK. He had his MPhil degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. He has about 5 years’ experience as a community Pharmacist and has also taught in academic institutions like KNUST, Kumasi Technical University, Royal Ann College of Health, and G-Health Consult. He likes to spend time reading medical research articles and loves sharing his knowledge with others.

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