Popping-up pills without prescription- An unhealthy practice
In recent days, we have heard a lot about drug abuse and how countries are trying to curb illicit drug use but meanwhile, we are ignoring much bigger issue on which if we fail to keep a tap then it will be an irreversible damage to human kind and that is the “Practice of Self Medication”.
In India, there are roughly around 1 doctor for 2000 people as per an article published in India today but this projected number does not include “Unofficial” doctors in our family such as mothers, aunts, grandmothers etc. Self-medication is a norm in our Indian families. Whenever anyone is sick in the family, everyone starts suggesting antibiotics names from their limited capacity of knowledge.
Over the counter, drugs are easily found in the houses of most of the family in India whereas in countries such as the US there are clearly defined regulations for approval and sale of medications. In India, there are no legal recognitions of over the counter drugs. Most people take medicines on their own which are basically antibiotics, painkillers, and cough syrups or related to fever, cold and allergies. The Even educated urban population have the habit of popping up pills without proper doctor’s prescription. People live in a delusion that if it is over the counter, it must be safe for consumption.
For most of the unaware or illiterate people, popping up pill habit is because of lack of knowledge and poor availability of medical facility but for the educated urban population, it is because of lack of time which is the outcome of pressure and stress of a fast track lifestyle along with ignorance. People just don’t realize the harmful side effects of such drugs if taken on a regular basis and the repercussion that follows. Though over the counter drugs may not be habit forming but their misuse may lead to serious health issues.
Antibiotics are among the most commonly purchased drugs. Because of inappropriate use of these drugs, a substantial proportion of healthy people in India is colonized with multi-drug resistant bacteria. Common bacterial pathogens such as Escherichia coli, Salmonella spp, or Streptococcus pneumonia are often multi-drug resistant. Many other extremely drug-resistant strains have emerged such as M. tuberculosis which is common in lower income to middle-income families.
Most of the people are not aware that cold, flu, most sore throats, and bronchitis are caused by viruses. Taking antibiotics when one has a virus infection causes more harm than good. Popping up an antibiotic when not required increases the risk of getting an infection later that resists antibiotic treatment.
Antibiotics, when appropriately used against susceptible pathogen then it helps patient to recover properly but overuse at population level results in the emergence of bacterial resistance. Various factors such as poor public health system and hospital infection, high rates of infectious disease, easily available antibiotics, all these factors result in an increase in the prevalence of resistant pathogens.
These resistant pathogens are those bacteria which cannot be fully inhibited or killed by an antibiotic. In order words, we can say that antibiotic resistance is the ability of bacteria to withstand the antimicrobial power of antibiotics. The antibiotic may have worked effectively before the resistance occurred. The bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics by adapting their structure or function in some way that prevents them from being killed or inhibited by an antibiotic.
Marc Sprenger, Director of the WHO’s secretariat for antimicrobial resistance said “The advent of antibiotics introduced a new era in medicine. But now, I fear we are moving backward – to the world in which my parents lived when bacterial infections were often lethal because there were no specific treatments available. Many such infections are rapidly becoming resistant to life-saving drugs. It is inevitable that each drug will lose its ability to kill disease-causing bacteria over time. That is because of bacteria, through natural selection and genetic adaptation, become resistant to antibiotics.
However, we are speeding up the process dramatically by using antibiotics too much and often in the wrong context. We need to slow down the development and spread of resistance so that the antibiotics we have to continue to work for as long as possible.”
Antibiotic resistance is not just the matter of concern in our country; rather it has become a global issue. Patients, healthcare providers, healthcare facility administrators and policy makers must work together to develop effective strategies. The emerging antibiotic resistance is not just a result of poor regulation of antimicrobials because of the absence of policies but mainly because of the absence of enforcement of such policies.
Following are the some of the prescription for action from WHO:
- Doctors, nurses, veterinarians and other health workers should not just prescribe antibiotics unless they are really necessary. They must take steps to test and confirm which antibiotics patient or the animal undergoing treatment should consume. Most of the time antibiotics are prescribed for infections caused by viruses.
- People using healthcare must take antibiotics only when prescribed by a certified health professional and should always complete the full prescription, even if they feel better because stopping medication early promotes the growth of drug-resistant
- Farmers and other’s in the agriculture sector must ensure that antibiotics given to animals are used only to control or treat infectious diseases and under veterinary supervision. Misuse of antibiotics in livestock, aquaculture, and crops contributes to antibiotic resistance and its spread into the environment, food chain, and humans.
- Governments need to develop a national action plan to improve surveillance and regulations for appropriate use of antibiotics and create awareness about dangers of overuse.
These are the some of the steps on which WHO wants a global approach to curbing misuse of antibiotics. Our time is running out, without systemic and effective effort, we would fail to capitalize the greatest scientific discovery world has ever seen.
Ms. Khushboo Chandra
Faculty of Allied Health Sciences
SGT University, Gurugram.