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Friday, March 28, 2008

The Trouble with Self-Medication

My maid came to me asking what she should take for her tooth ache. Naturally, I checked the source of her pain and it revealed a huge hole on her 3rd molar which caused the gum to be infected and swell. I told her that she should go see a dentist. I, of course, know what she should take for it but I didn't want to encourage that. As a health personnel, I was sure that if I had given her the name of the medication, she would not want to go to the dental clinic to get the necessary treatment. True enough, when she remembered what she had taken previously, without any professional advice, she took the drug. I only told her to put pounded guava leaves on the hole as an antiseptic and to take some garlic with apple cider and honey. But no, she didn't like that.

What happens to us when we self-medicate? Well first major concern is that 2 of the vital organs might get damaged. These are the liver and the kidneys. The liver because everything that you take in will pass through it and there are medications that are even more damaging than others (hepatotoxic); and the kidneys because it gets more load and might cause it to be damaged during filtration not to mention that some drugs, though OTC, may cause more damage than others (nephrotoxic).

Second is that some drugs may be habit forming. Take for instance the case of cough syrups or even laxatives. These can be abused. However, I'd rather be addicted to a cough syrup than to a laxative. I can't imagine my self confessing to a healthcare provider that i'm addicted to a drug for diarrhea!

Third is that drugs have indications and contraindications. That means that it can only be used for what it is intended for. And that there are conditions for which it should not be used because it will cause side effects.

Fourth is because most, if not all, drugs have side effects, others far worse. There are signs which can be interpreted by an unsuspecting individual as normal when it is already a manifestaion of a harmful effect of the drug. Even when the label is read, I am pretty sure those who have no medical background would not understand a majority of what is written there. Most at risk are pregnant women, those with liver and kidney conditions, hypertensives, those with allergies and those taking antibiotics. These people should check with their physicians before they take anything, continue or discontinue anything.

Should this apply to dentists? Of course it should. Dentists are your mouth doctors. So, anything that involves the teeth and the mouth will have to be referred to them.

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