||Taiwo Adesoba [ profile ]
Self Medication in Developing Countries
Apr 13th, 2012 - 15:42:12
Self Medication in Developing Countries
The problem of drug abuse is certainly a menace challenging the
fragile health systems of developing countries. Self-medication, a
subtle form of drug abuse is a norm in developing countries.
Virtually everyone is guilty if this misbehaviour. The common outcomes
of this practice include antibiotic resistance, toxicity from
overdosage, addictions etc.
A common class of drugs commonly abused is the antibiotic. This is
consequent upon the endemicity of infectious diseases in these
countries. Anti-malarial drugs are also very much abused because when
people experience symptoms related to malaria, they immediately begin
malaria treatment without laboratory investigations.
Self-medication is perpetuated by many factors ranging from economic
hardships to poor political system and then weak health systems.
The economic situation of developing countries does not give room for
individual medical consultation as this is quite expensive and not
accessible by all. Some settlements in rural places are distant from
comprehensive health centres (as they are usually referred to at the
local level). In situations where the state government declares free
health programmes, some other fees may be charged which therefore
overshadows the governments endowment. The government of some
countries have good poverty alleviation packages, however, poverty is
still conveniently residing among the people. This forces many in very
rural communities to visit herbal homes where quacks attend to them;
while the poor people in urban places purchase drugs from drug sellers
without prior medical consultations. They order for drugs previously
prescribed by a physician; the drug may actually be for a completely
different illness anyway.
It is very important to understand and appreciate the relationship
between polity and health. A peaceful and stable political atmosphere
is a requisite for a virile health system. This could be deduced from
the health situation in Sierra Leone and Liberia after the civil wars.
In Sierra Leone, medical professional were displaced during the civil
war between 1991 and 2002. Medical centres were vandalized and
citizens were camped in very unhygienic and dirty slums (refugee
camps) in Freetown (Bo and Grafton camps). In mild cases (absence of
wars), the negative impact of strike actions by medical unions often
weaken the health system the more. One of the inadequacies of
governance in developing countries is poor funding of the health
Furthermore, the health systems in developing countries is weak,
undeveloped and fragile. Policy formulation may be good, but
implementation is usually very poor. Honestly, African countries have
brilliant professionals and strategists, but the main challenge is the
implementation of policies. Implementation, when money is involved, is
commonly marred by corruption, embezzlement and serious funds
mismanagement. For example, in some cases when the government provides
fund for health financing as part of free health interventions, it is
disheartening to see that such funds go into the drains because they
are not spent as appropriate.
From experience, I have discovered that self medication can be linked
with level of literacy. As the saying goes, Better untaught than
ill-taught, the ill-taught or semi-illiterates are the ones who
practise this act most. The literates who are not medically inclined
have the social intelligence and perhaps money to consult physicians.
In fact many of them have personal physicians. The unskilled too admit
that they do not know what is wrong, but they know that something is
wrong somewhere and so they do not hesitate to share their problems
with friends, neighbours or family. The semi-skilled at times believe
they know all things and they confidently avoid seeking medical
consultations, but go directly to purchase drugs which may not be
appropriate for their medical problem. Their forwardness in the area
of self-medication is disgusting.
There is no problem without a solution, especially in the face of
courage. Self medication can be well managed by developing countries
if the required intellectual and moral courage is applied. The first
step is to provide affordable access to medical care. This depends on
the level of maturity of our healthcare system, especially primary
healthcare. The third tier of government is more responsible for this.
Furthermore, poverty alleviation programs should be strengthened in
terms of job creation and better wages. Moreover, drug sellers should
be trained before being licensed because it is very embarrassing to
see a drug seller who does not know the correct names of the drugs
they sell because of low levels of education. Lastly, there should be
very strong awareness programmes on the dangers of self-medication.
Taiwo Adesoba (B. Sc., ASM., Member AfrEA)
Monitoring, Evaluation & Reporting Officer
Girls To Women Research & Development Centre, Nigeria.
Mobile: +234 806 755 8524