Is it possible that you have been abusing/misusing drugs? When we hear “drug abuse”, we often think it is something that happens among a demographic that we are excluded from, but as it turns out, it is quite often closer to home than immediately appears.
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So, what exactly is drug abuse (we will restrict the definition to what we want to address), and could you be guilty?
Drug abuse is the use of medications without a prescription. Let us agree on one thing, all medications are poisons, even paracetamol in the right dose will kill you! But we give them anyways because, at certain concentrations for some exact duration, they will eliminate a disease-causing agent with an acceptable level of damage to us- if taken as prescribed.
When they are being advertised, many over-the-counter medications include the line, “if symptoms persist after 3 days, please consult your doctor” but in practice, most people do everything but that and because we live in a country where there are very few restrictions on prescription medications, people can go through several medications before visiting the doctor becomes an option.
One of the common ways that this happens is when people get a prescription that is to be taken for a specific period, say, 5 days. On the second or third day, the person that received the prescription starts feeling better and abandons the medications (this happens very commonly with antibiotics). The problem with this is, eradicating the disease-causing agent requires full compliance with the prescription, so by the third day of the medications, the organism is suppressed allowing the person to feel better but not eliminating the disease-causing agent.
As is often the case, people who use drugs as described above have no problem recommending the same medication(s) to people around them who have similar complaints. It is one thing to have a prescription after consultation and tests, it’s a completely different thing to be given one under the “my doctor recommended this one for me last month and it worked like a charm” conditions. Even if the symptoms are largely similar, the causative organisms can be as different as a bacterium and a virus. So, if your antibiotic helped because you had a bacterial infection, the person who has a fungal/viral infection would just be taking in this poison with zero benefits.
When consulting with patients, Doctors hear all sorts; one patient revealed rather self-importantly, that he had a habit of buying two very common antibiotics and taking them every two weeks just to clear his system of infections! I was aghast hearing this and promptly told him to never do that again. Many young people are in the habit of taking some antibiotics after chance sexual encounters, as pregnancy prophylaxis or because they want to prevent sexually transmitted infections! Please let me say this emphatically, Antibiotics are not prophylactics! So,normalize safe sexual habits, be faithful to your partner, use barrier protection like condoms.
Don’t also take antibiotics because you ate in a new restaurant/Buka or while traveling, it’s more harmful than you realize.
It is these various iterations of abuse that are accelerating the onset of the new health tsunami-drug resistant microbes. Medicine before the discovery of penicillin was very “touch and go” as it concerned infections, but since antibiotics were discovered, it has vastly improved the outcomes for medical interventions. Today, however, that advantage is being eroded by the abuse or indiscriminate use of antibiotics, not completing prescriptions or taking them without prescriptions, increasing the chances that these microbes will develop resistance to existing medications, and that is a truly horrifying thought.
Drug tolerance and in some cases, dependence, is another ugly side of this problem and is quite common with pain killers and sleeping pills. A lot of people take simple over-the-counter medications like paracetamol for common aches, pains and discomfort. They are intended to soothe and eliminate most of these common complaints but a lot of people who use them simply take more of them when one tablet just doesn’t do it (this is what tolerance means). Occasionally, these people move to stronger pain killers and begin the slippery slope towards dependence and eventually addiction.
So, get a prescription before you take a pill, and if you plan on using a previous prescription, please check with your doctor first. Do not keep pills at home except the basics like a simple pain killer (eg paracetamol) and even those must be kept out of the reach of children.
Finish the medications as prescribed and stop giving or taking prescriptions from people who are not physicians.
Finally, if you think you need a pill to do anything at all, that’s the best time to throw it away and seek help.
Till the next one,