We are high on drugs!

A lot of us have the impression that the practice of medicine is about laying complaints to a doctor who listens to some imaginary sounds on the chest and abdomen, pokes around, may or may not order tests, comes up with a diagnosis and ,as a matter of compulsion, writes a prescription.

Emphasis on the last word- prescription.

We have come to expect drugs with every visit to the doctor. When a doctor legitimately does not prescribe drugs, we as patients feel there is something missing or that we wasted our time showing up in the hospital in the first place. Worse still, we feel the doctor is incompetent.

Cases like viral upper respiratory tract infection, viral gastroenteritis, stress related symptoms often diagnosed as malaria or typhoid most times do not need medications.
Some patients even have their diagnoses in mind and only show up in the hospital to tell the doctor what to prescribe! “Doctor, it is typhoid that is worrying me, write Ampiclox and Ciprotab for me”

Drugs are just one of the ways of managing patients. There are other things involved. Watching and waiting is the most appropriate approach to handle some cases. The practice of medicine is definitely more than just prescribing drugs. Reassurance and bed rest could be all that is needed in other cases.

Some do not even see any health care professional before using drugs. Everyone seems to be an ‘expert’ in health care these days. From neighbours to market women to colleagues at work, there is no shortage of opinions.

Our present world is most definitely an over-medicated one. We just love to pop pills. There are drugs for almost anything. (‘Teething’ mixture for babies anyone?) Drugs that should be prescription only are freely available on the open market. We would rather take drugs sometimes than modify our lifestyle or take other disease preventive measures. We would rather take supplements than eat good and nutritious food.

Unfortunately, physicians are under constant pressure from different parties to prescribe unnecessary drugs. The patients themselves, the pharmaceutical industry (Big Pharma) for obvious reasons, and the hospital system. The pharmaceutical industry is a multi billion dollar industry and is very ‘aggressive’ in her marketing. In 2005, global pharmaceutical sales totalled US$602 billion.

The great English philosopher-physician Sir William Osler (1849-1919) once said, “One of the first duties of the physician is to educate the masses when NOT to take medicines” How sorely is this needed today!

Indiscriminate use of drugs is not without its dangers: over and under dosage, drug resistance (especially antibiotics and antimalarials), adverse drug interactions, adverse drug reactions, chronic poisoning (all drugs are actually poisons), organ damage (chronic use of some pain killers have been shown to damage the kidneys)

The way we are headed is fraught with danger moreso with the emergence of strains of disease causing microbes that are resistant to available drugs. Indiscriminate use of drugs is a ticking time bomb that needs to be defused now.

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments.


One thought on “We are high on drugs!

  1. Enlightening piece. I must say I’m guilty on some of the points mentioned above.. I believe everyone has a role to curb self medication. One person at a time…

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