I’m going to play the devil’s advocate as to why most people prefer quack-doctors or buy prescribed drugs from drug peddlers instead of licensed pharmacies: The reason forwarded by many is basically to cut down cost.
But ironically, using the quack channel makes one spend more than expected and quite often the patient’s life sways on a fragile spider-like web of life and death.
Medical research by Shuwary HA Barlatt BSc Hons Pharmaceutical Science revealed that in Freetown, despite the availability and accessibility of individuals to health facilities, extensive self-medication nearly 80 percent of the adult population practices self-medication.
In his study, Barlatt stated various reasons for not attending health care centre, albeit it’s availability and accessibility.
As mentioned earlier most of the respondents underscored financial constraint as a dominant factor.
Some have argued that they do not have faith in the health care provider and think that they know their ailment and are in better position to handle their disease without using the available health facilities.
However, for some, repeated prescription – where individuals are prescribed the same medicines by a health professional for a particular aliment – is responsible for self-medication because patients feel comfortable to take the medicines without consultation.
In Barlatt’s study there appears to be a possible relationship between educational background and self-medication – over 70 percent of respondents have secondary education as compared with those with primary education and non formal education.
According to the study, “the low percentage of illiterates not visiting the pharmacy to buy drugs might be on their dependence on taking herbs which they believe is better and cheaper than pharmaceutical products.”
Interestingly, Barlatt’s survey discovered that those clenching on the top rung of the educational ladder formed the greater percentage of those self-medicating.
If I should take a cue from the data of Mr Barlatt survey, there’s also a link between occupational background and self-medication, as students form approximately 29 percent of individuals self-medicating.
Research showed that students formed a greater number of those self-medicating, followed by business people.
Headache was the most commonly reported symptom revealed to be often self-medicated. Amongst others include fever, muscle, bone and abdominal pain, and cold and cough.
Analgesics were the most commonly used drugs, accounting for 30 percent, followed by antibiotics, vitamins and anti-malaria.
Surprisingly, for a country where malaria is endemic, only a small percentage used anti-malaria in treating fever related symptoms, the research disclosed.
In a nut shell, the study reveals that varieties of factors are responsible for self-medication, with economic factors being the most significant. Other factors include symptoms being too minor to take to the hospital, and health facilities being too far off, among others.
By Ophaniel Gooding