Self-medicating can have serious consequences, such as severe illness, overdose, and death. People who decide how much and what kind of medicine they need to take and then proceed to take it without first consulting a physician are self-medicating. Sometimes people who are already taking a certain type of medicine mistakenly begin taking another type, either over-the-counter or prescription, without realizing that it causes a negative reaction when combined with the other drug they already take, and this can cause serious problems. In general, over-the-counter medicines are considered safe when used for their intended purposes and in the correct dosages, but people do occasionally make the wrong decisions about what drugs they need and how much.
Many people fail to consult with their doctors when they become ill and instead either look up their symptoms on the Internet to decide what they need to cure themselves or visit their drugstores to find something available over the counter designed to treat their specific symptoms. Another way that people occasionally self-medicate is by taking the advice of a friend or family member regarding their illnesses and treating their symptoms based on this non-medical advice. Some people also take leftover prescription drugs to treat things that are wrong with them because they assume their symptoms will be alleviated by something they took a long time ago that helped them. Self-medicating may be easier and more convenient to do than waiting in line at a doctor's office for legitimate medical advice, but many people die or become seriously ill every year as a result of this practice.
It is not uncommon for people to believe that over-the-counter drugs are not harmful because no prescription is required to attain them. Even though over-the-counter drugs are easy to get, they can be deadly, particularly when mixed with drugs that react badly with them or when they are taken incorrectly. Medicines available over the counter may not be as potent as drugs available by prescription, but they normally contain the same ingredients as their stronger prescription counterparts. Taking just a little more of a specific drug than what is recommended on the label could make it as potent as the prescription version. While self-medicating, people may regularly take as much of a certain medicine as they think they need and ignore the labels, which is an incredibly dangerous practice.
Even though it is true that doctors occasionally make mistakes, it is almost always safer for people to ask their doctors before taking anything to treat their symptoms. If a doctor is not immediately accessible, the advice of a pharmacist is typically recommended. There are hundreds of deaths each year that result from self-medicating, and in many cases these deaths could have been avoided if medical advice was initially sought.