6 Consequences Of Self Medication You Have To Know

Consequences of self medication
Consequences of self medication

Are there any consequences of self medication?

In this blog post, we are going to be talking about effects of self medication both on Nigerians and in Nigeria.



Have you ever heard someone say the person was sick? They then went ahead to a chemist shop to buy antimalarial becsuse they felt the sickness was Malaria.

That is self medication.

What is self medication?

Self medication, in its simplest terms, means getting drugs by oneself without the prescription of a medical personnel or a medical qualified doctor.

What this simply means when we break it down, it can be somebody prescribing or buying a drug for himself or herself when the person believes they are suffering from a particular illness.

They just go straight to wherever they have access to drugs, and then they are able to get those drugs.

It can also mean somebody gets an advice from family and friends around him that are not medical experts.

The person buys the drugs just because his family member or a friend or a neighbor advised him to do so.

Wikipedia defines self medication as “a human behavior in which an individual uses a substance or any exogenous influence to self-administer treatment for physical or psychological conditions: for example headaches or fatigue”.

How Common Is Self-Medication In Nigeria?

Self medication is very common in Nigeria.

Studies carried out by different people have put the prevalence if self-medication in Nigeria at above 50%

This means that at least one out of every two Nigerians self-medicate. This is huge and could even be more, as some other studies on the same issue have suggested the figure is even higher.

Now you see why this blog post has been created to look at the consequences of self medication in Nigeria. It is a very important issue to explore.

Causes of Self Medication

Why do people engage in self medication?

The way the drug system in Nigeria is structured

In Nigeria, you can easily go to chemist shops or pharmacies and buy drugs.

Most of the drugs can be procured over the counter.

There are just few drugs that you may find difficult getting just like that.

This easy access to drugs makes it possible for people to just go into any chemist shop and buy any drug they want to buy because there is really nothing stopping them.

High cost of health care

In Nigeria, just as in other countries of the world, health care is expensive.

When someone goes to the hospital, there are some things involved.

First of all, he has to pay for a card before he can see the doctor. This is, of course, after his vital signs have been taken.

After seeing the doctor, he might be sent to do some laboratory investigations.

Finally, drugs are prescribed for the person. He may also be asked to come back for follow up.

When you add up all these costs, that is, the cost of the card, the cost of the investigations, and then the cost of the drugs, some people are not able to deal with that. It may be too much for them.

So the person feels, “Oh! This is just malaria that is disturbing me; I can easily go down the street and buy an anti malarial.

By so doing, he is able to cut the cost of going to the hospital.

Poverty is a big problem in Nigeria.

Ignorance/ Illiteracy

Apart from poverty, some people self medicate because of ignorance of the right thing to do.

When these people walk along the street, they hear people advertising different mixtures which promises to cure many diseases at once. Again, these mixtures may be less expensive, for instance, some hundreds of naira.

The ignorant ones, after listening to these adverts, go ahead to buy those drugs and mixtures, without considering the side effects or toxic effects it will have on their bodies.

Poor information

You act accoeding to the information you receive.

If you stay around people that self medicate, you will have the potential to self medicate too.

If you stay around people that will encourage you to get to a hospital for your health complaints, chances are that you will also make attempts to go to a hospital when you are sick.

What happens is that when people are sick, they get advice from their neighbors, friends, community members, family, as well as by their in laws.

These advisers even list the drug for them. Meanwhile, these are people that don’t have any medical background.

They just tell them things like, ” I bought this drug for my child when he was sick; he took it and became alright”. “I bought it for myself when I was sick with the same thing you had and I took it and I became fine”.

Lack of boundaries

In Nigeria, some people claim what they are not. Many people claim to have some form of health information or to be a health expert when they are not even qualified to say so.

This ranges from people hawking drugs and mixtures on the street, to people involved in network marketing of supplements.

When you meet such people, they confidently tell you their supplement cures hypertension, diabetes and so on. Just one supplement oh! All in a bid to sell their products.

Unfortunately, people that are not supposed to give medical advice freely do so.

What are the consequences of self medication?

This is basically what this blog post seeks to deal with.

If self medication were not a problem, we won’t be talking about it.

However, there are a lot of problems associated with self medication.

Some of these problems are as follows:

Poor diagnosis

So everybody thinks that for instance, when you have fever and headache and weakness, it is malaria and typhoid.

This is the predominant thing that people think about in Nigeria.

So anytime somebody has headache and fever, he just goes to a chemist shop and asks them to give him drug for malaria and typhoid.

Of course, the chemist will oblige the person because they also need to sell off their drugs.

The sick person takes the drug and may feel better for a while.

The problem, however, is that there are some other sicknesses that can also give fever, headache and weakness.

The person has succeeded in treating the wrong ailment.

Some hours or days later, the same complaints resurface.

At the end of the day, more drugs, money and time is wasted because of wrong diagnosis.

Wrong dosage

When we talk of wrong dosage, let us go ahead and explain.

Every drug has a dosage at which it should be taken for it to work effectively. This takes into consideration factors suchnas body weight and age.

For instance, a tablet of a drug might be 500 milligrams. In order to successfully tackle an ailment, a person needs to take 1 gram that is two tablets, maybe three times a day.

This means person has to take two tablets of that medication three times a day.

However, because of wrong information, somebody that self medicates may end up taking one tablet of the drug and he may even take once or twice a day instead of three times a day.

This means the person is not taking the drug at the correct dose be able to function effectively.

Why you need to take the drugs at the correct dosage is that when these drugs are taken and they go into the system, there is a particular level they need to be at in order to circulate through the system and effectively bring relief to the problem.

So when you take a low dose, it will not work as effectively as it should.

The drug may not be able to reach the required concentration for it to act.

At the end of the day, a person may take a longer time to recover from the illness or may not even recover completely because of this wrong dosage


We are still talking about dosage.

Let us give an example of overdosage.

Let’s say a drug is supposed to be taken; one tablet is 500 milligrams and the drug is supposed to be taken two tablets at a time. That is 1 gram. Let us also say the drug is to be taken two times a day.

However, somebody may decide to take more than two tablets because he wants to obtain faster relief. The person then takes three or even four tablets. They might even take it four times a day instead of three times.

What happens in this case is that the drug may cause a lot of side effects or even harmful effects to such individual.

Many drugs have an allowance of the dosage a person may take that is above standard dosage without causing much harm. However, this varies from drugs to drugs. This is called therapeutic index.

Some drugs have a narrow therapeutic index, meaning there is no big difference between the dosage required for the drug to work effectively and the dosage at which the dug will become toxic to the individual.

Some other drugs have a high therapeutic index, meaning that, if the person requires one tablet two times a day for relief of his symptoms, the person can take up to three or even four tablets without having much adverse effects on his system.

So when the patient takes overdose, it begins to cause problems for the system. It can negatively affect the vital organs of the body, and even cause death.

Antibiotic resistance

When you talk of antibiotic resistance, this is a very big problem globally.

Now, one of the reasons, one of the main reason is that people don’t take the drugs according to the dosages they are supposed to take it. This is also one of the reasons for resistance to some antimalarial drugs.

How it occurs is this:
if you are supposed to take a drug for a certain period of time, probably the standard thing is to take two tablets two times a day for one week. Therefore, it is calculated that it will require one week of those drugs at that particular dosage to completely deal with the offending organisms.

However, the sick person may go ahead to take the drug once a day. This is actually not enough to deal with the situation.

So a person may discover that after taking the drugs for one week, he still doesn’t feel all right.

He may feel slightly better, but he has not completely recovered from the illness.

What happens is that when the person stops the drugs, (sometimes some of them even stop the drug halfway), the organisms that the drugs could not completely deal with them, start growing and multiplying again, and they might even come back fiercer.

So the person may probably suffer from the same illness subsequently in a fiercer form.

At some point, the ailments may stop responding as much as they should to that drug because the person has misused that drug.

Adverse drug reactions

Drugs can interact with some things, including drugs, foods and some other conditions.

These reactions are specific for each drug.

Some people, because of the self medication, they can take two different drugs that they don’t know how these drugs react with each other.

When they start taking those drugs, unfortunately, they might become victims of these reactions.

It can mask a severe disease

This is an important consequence of self medication.

Let us give an instance.

When somebody has appendicitis, which is an inflammation of the appendix, the person may experience pain on the lower right side of the abdomen.

As the person is having this pain, he may give it any name he wants. He then goes across the street and buys painkilers and ingests them. The pain subsides or even stops.

The person may be able to carry on with normal activities without much feeling any other thing again for the next couple of days or even weeks.

Unfortunately, this has not solved the problem of the appendix inflammation.

This main issue is now hidden.

The person still goes about his normal work while the main problem keeps on even deteriorating.

By the time the person may have that same pain again, maybe some days, weeks or even months later, the problem has gotten worse.

The inflammation may have gotten complicated and may thus put the person’s life at risk. He may even be dealing with a ruptured appendix at this stage.

This will lead to more cost because of surgeries and some other treatment modalities that need to be instituted.

Is self-medication really worth it?

Some may argue that it is cheaper to self medicate, since you save some money from hospital consultation and laboratory investigations, especially in the face of the current financial difficulties.

However, at the end of the day, when the self medication goes wrong, you will spend much more money in order to take care of it than you would have actually spent ab initio.

You also will not be able to blame anyone, not even your advisers.

There can be complications as well as loss of lives too.


We have seen the consequences of self medication in Nigeria.

Self medication is a harmful practice that must be discouraged.


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