It isn’t uncommon for people to whip up some generations-old concoctions to relieve themselves of the common colds. It could be something passed down from your grandparents, a friend’s advice that sounds very promising, or plain old water therapy, which everybody knows. And although these different ways to get rid of cough and colds can be effective and non-harmful, other forms of self-medication could potentially be doing our bodies more harm than good.
What Is Self-medication?
Simply put, self-medicating is to seek relief from any ailment with the use of available medication or substance without seeking a professional or doctor’s advice. Whenever we have a headache, we don’t immediately rush to our doctor, do we? Instead, we grab two pills of Tylenol off our medicine cabinet and call it a day. Self-treating minor ailments like headaches or minor muscle pain isn’t frowned upon and is actually what’s practiced by many.
Other forms of self-medication can be turning to alcohol when stressed for its calming effect or trying out different kinds of traditional medicine to cure a condition. In these cases, it can lead to potential risks.
Reasons Why Someone Would Self-Medicate
Before we talk about the risks, let’s discuss why individuals would try to treat their own condition without medical advice. One major, pressing reason is money. Going to a doctor, buying prescription medicine, and maintaining the prescription could cost a lot, and many people believe that a more immediate and cheaper alternative would suffice.
Another one is the fear of finding out what their illness is, or denying it exists, even. Especially for critical conditions, people fear the worst, so they don’t even want to find out. In mental illness, the fear of being judged or not taken seriously by others is a strong reason to avoid professional help and medication.
These reasons should not be brushed aside, though. It’s better to encourage proper medical help than to further bring down a person because of their choice to self-medicate. Their reasons may seem senseless to others, but it could be because they feel like they have nowhere else to turn. Therefore forcing them to go to a doctor and using insensitive language might push them further away.
The Risks Could Be Detrimental
Of course, this isn’t to say that we should tolerate bad self-medication habits. If a poor health condition is allowed to persist and be neglected, the condition could worsen. The risks include incorrect self-diagnosis, dangerous drug interaction, and potential dependency and abuse.
Take a simple headache, for example. While paracetamol can make the pain go away for a few hours, if the headache persists and goes on for days, it’s much better to talk to a doctor than to continuously believe it’s just a minor (yet constant) inconvenience. If you keep drinking paracetamol but your headache keeps coming back, you might decide on your own that you need to increase your dosage, but according to whose advice? Tylenol overdose is a thing, and it should not be taken lightly.
Going to a Doctor Is Your Best Course of Action
If you feel any discomfort for long periods or the symptoms are persistent despite trying to treat them on your own, you better visit your doctor. A common justification is that maintaining self-treatment is much cheaper. Still, it won’t be as cheap in the long run if you develop complications from taking the wrong type of medication or from substance abuse. What’s a couple of hundred bucks compared to the thousands you’d have to spend if worse comes to worst?
If anything, you will guarantee that what your doctor will prescribe is safe and effective, especially because any medicine or therapy they will employ has gone through extensive clinical trials. Plus, you can trust that their knowledge in their field will lead you to feel better sooner.
Exercise Good Judgement, and Don’t Ignore Sound Advice
Ultimately, when weighing in the pros and cons of treating your own condition, do not try to avoid the advice your friends or family give you, particularly the most rational and good-intentioned ones. It’s okay to drink tea to calm your nerves, occasionally drink a beer or two after a hard day’s work, or turn to home remedies for minor ailments. But if the symptoms are no longer inconsequential and are already getting in the way of you living your life to its fullest, don’t delay any further and seek professional help.