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Self-Medication Amongst General Outpatients in a Nigerian Community Hospital

C.O. Omolase FWACS, FMCOphth 1,O.E. Adeleke FWACP,2 A.O. Afolabi FMCDS, MPH O.T. Afolabi FMCPH, MPH.4 

  1. Department of Ophthalmology, Federal Medical Centre, Owo, Ondo State.
  2. Department of Family Medicine, Federal Medical Centre, Owo, Ondo State
  3. Department of Dental Services, Federal Medical Centre, Owo, Ondo State.
  4. Department of Staff Medical Services, Federal Medical Centre, Owo, Ondo State.

ABSTRACT

Aim: This study was designed to determine the proportion of general out patients who practice self-medication, the drugs employed and the reasons for resorting to self-medication.

Methodology: This study was conducted between June and December, 2007 at the General Outpatient Clinic of the Federal Medical Centre, Owo, Ondo State, Nigeria. Two hundred consenting respondents were selected by simple random sampling and interviewed with the aid of semi structured questionnaire by the authors with three assistants. Information regarding their bio-data, history of self-medication, drugs used and the reasons for resorting to self-medication were obtained.

Results: Majority of the respondents (85%) admitted to self-medication while the remaining proportion (15%) did not practice it. Drugs utilized could be single, usually analgesics (26.5%) and anti-malaria (15.9%) or in combinations, usually antimalaria-analgesics (22.4%), antimalariaanalgesic-antibiotic (15.3%) and antibiotic-analgesic (10.0%). The reasons cited by respondents for self-medication were their perception of their complaints been minor enough to be amenable to self-medication (54.7%) and financial constraint (22.4%).

Conclusion: Majority of the respondents practiced self-medication using an array of drugs like analgesics, anti-malaria and antibiotics used either singly or in combination. The main reasons identified for self-medication were that the ailments were minor and financial constraint.

Key words: Self medication, drug misuse, Nigeria.


INTRODUCTION

In most societies a person suffering from physical discomfort or emotional distress has a number of ways of helping himself or seeking help from other people.1 In remote and impoverished areas, western health care is often part of pluralistic medical system in which it coexists with traditional medicine that includes both self-care with medicinal plants and consultation with specialized traditional healers.2

Self-medication can be defined as the use of drugs to treat self-diagnosed disorders or symptoms or the intermittent or continued use of prescribed drug for chronic or recurrent disease or symptoms.3 In developing countries most illness are treated by self-medication.4 A major shortfall of self-medication is the lack of clinical evaluation of the condition by a trained medical professional which could result in missed diagnosis and delay in appropriate treatment.5

A major problem of self-medication with antimicrobials is the emergence of resistance of human pathogens. Antimicrobial resistance is a current problem world-wide particularly in developing countries, where antibiotics are often available without prescription.6

Resistance to anti-malarial drugs has also been reported in many third world countries.7 Reasons for this resistance include the irrational use of anti-malarias including indiscriminate non-prescription use.8 The adverse effects of self-medication cannot be overemphasized. However some people may engage in the practice of self-medication due to ignorance, poverty and in availability of health facilities.

It is widely believed that human malpractices such as inadequate dosing, incomplete courses and indiscriminate drug use have contributed to the emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance.The consequence of this, is the loss of relatively cheap drugs that will require new drugs development which will be more expensive and will further disadvantage patients in developing countries.10 The rational use of drugs like antibiotics is thus of utmost importance to limit the increase in bacteria resistance.

The underlying motivation for this study is the prevailing health issues associated with inappropriate use of drugs, which is increasingly becoming a challenge in our environment. This study was designed to determine the proportion of general outpatients who self-medicate, types of drugs used and the reasons for resorting to self-medication.

It is hoped that our findings will guide us in evolving strategies to reduce self-medication to its barest minimum.

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Correspondence:

Dr Omolase Charles Oluwole,

Department of Ophthalmology,

Federal Medical Centre,

Owo, Ondo State,

Nigeria.

Email address:omolash2000@yahoo.com.