Self-medication

Self-medication

[self-med-i-key-shuhn]
Self-medication is the use of drugs, sometimes illicit, to treat a perceived or real malady, often of a psychological nature.

Over-the-counter drugs are a form of self medication. The buyer diagnoses his/her own illness and buys a specific drug to treat it. The World Self-Medication Industry (WSMI) define self-medication as the treatment of common health problems with medicines especially designed and labeled for use without medical supervision and approved as safe and effective for such use.

A person may also self-medicate by taking more or less than the recommended dose of a drug.

Some mental illness sufferers attempt to correct their illnesses by use of certain drugs. Depression, for example, is notorious for being a trigger of alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, or other mind-altering drug use. While this may provide immediate relief of some symptoms such as anxiety, it may evoke and/or exacerbate some symptoms of several kinds of mental illnesses that are already latently present, and may lead to addiction/dependence, among other side effects of long-term use of the drug. The theory that drug dependence or addiction results from self-medication for the distress caused by a pre-existing condition was introduced in 1974 by David F. Duncan and Edward J. Khantzian in independent publications. This theory has come to be known as the self-medication hypothesis. For example, sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder are prone to self-medication, as well as many individual without this diagnosis which have suffered from (mental) trauma.

Occasionally an individual will attempt self-medication for physical illnesses. For example, it is believed that Kurt Cobain's use of heroin partially stemmed from a painful stomach condition.

The current phenomenon in many Western societies of the widespread usage of vitamins, herbs, and other over-the-counter "supplements"--usually without the advice, supervision, or even knowledge of any licensed health professional--is another possible example of self-medication. Some observers of health behavior and medical affairs have speculated that this trend may arise from the desire of laymen to feel more in control of their own health--rather than relying on the traditional medical establishment, whose motives are sometimes seen as suspect. The extraordinary increases in the cost of traditional health care in recent decades--doctors, hospitals, prescriptions, etc.-- causes some individuals to desperately try to find more affordable alternatives to treat or prevent their own afflictions.

References

  • Achalu, ED (2002).The self-medication hypothesis: a review of the two major theories and the research evidence. SMH: Recent Developments on the Self-Medication Hypothesis, 1(10), id1.
  • Blenkinsopp A, Bradley C (1996). Over the counter drugs: the future for self medication. British Medical Journal, 312, 835.
  • Duncan DF (1974a). Reinforcement of drug abuse: Implications for prevention. Clinical Toxicology Bulletin, 4(2), 69.
  • Duncan DF (1974b). Drug abuse as a coping mechanism. American Journal of Psychiatry, 131(6), 724.
  • Duncan DF (1975).The acquisition, maintenance and treatment of polydrug dependence: A public health model. Journal of Psychedelic Drugs, 7(2), 201.
  • Frances RJ (1997). The wrath of grapes versus the self-medication hypothesis. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 4(5), 287.
  • Hughes CM, McElnay JC, Fleming GF (2001). Benefits and risks of self medication. Drug Safety, 24, 1027
  • Khantzian EJ (1985). The self-medication hypothesis of addictive disorders: focus on heroin and cocaine dependence. American Journal of Psychiatry, 142(11), 1259.
  • Khantzian EJ (1990) Self-regulation and self-medication factors in alcoholism and the addictions. similarities and differences. Recent Developments in Alcoholism, 8, 255.
  • Khantzian EJ (1997). The self-medication hypothesis of substance use disorders: a reconsideration and recent applications. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 4(5), 231.
  • Khantzian, EJ, Mack JE, Schatzberg AF (1974). Heroin use as an attempt to cope: clinical observations. American Journal of Psychiatry, 131(2), 160.
  • Wazaify M, Shields E, Hughes CM, McElnay JC (2005). Societal perspectives on over-the-counter (OTC) medicines. Family Practice, 22: 170.

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