Take care with prescription, OTC drugs

The misuse of prescription drugs usually finds its way to the spotlight when celebrities fall victim to this threat. Infamous cases that come to mind include the late actor Heath Ledger, the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson, and Prince.

However, the misuse of prescribed drugs is not something that happens only to celebrities, it can also impact the lives of ordinary people. Anyone can be susceptible to the dangers of drugs and one should never underestimate the potency of any medication or fail to use it in a safe and responsible manner.

One way of doing so would be to ensure that the labels for medications are read thoroughly and understood before their use. Also, while most people are aware that they should read the side effects of medications given to them by medical practitioners, few people tend to read the warnings about interactions with these drugs. This too is imperative as some substances – no matter how safe – can have harmful effects when combined.

It is for similar reasons that patients are urged to divulge their medical circumstances with health-care providers. In addition to this precaution, anyone taking medication is warned not to use another person’s prescribed drugs and should not take any substance prescribed for one ailment to treat another malady.

OTC drugs pose serious problem
Still, prescription medications are not the only problem; over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, often not thought of as dangerous, also pose a serious problem. Antihistamines, painkillers and cold medicines are some of the easily accessible drugs that, when used incorrectly, can result in severe reactions or even death. It is wise, therefore, to seek the advice of a pharmacist in the case of OTC drugs, before administering any substance.

A final aspect of misuse to be addressed involves the overuse of antibiotics. These types of drugs can work wonders or cause irreparable damage based on how they are used, and in recent years the overuse of antibiotics has become a deadly problem.

Speaking on the issue at a lecture recently, Director of the Pan American Health Organisation Dr. Carissa Etienne raised a red flag on the growing levels of antimicrobial resistance, which she laments prevents health care professionals from being able to treat common conditions and also has implications for surgery. Pointing to the use of antibiotics in animal husbandry, in poultry, aquatic life and production, and also the indiscriminate use of antibiotics by medical practitioners, the PAHO director also pointed to internet trading of antibiotics.

People need to develop a healthy “respect/fear” for power of all drugs and chemicals. There are “harmless” substances like common inhalants that have alcohol-like side-effects and even diet pills that can cause illness and even death. Parents should be vigilant about what their children consume and also pay more attention to their own usage; for while illegal substances are known to be deadly, legal drugs can be just as lethal.

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