health

Understanding your medicines

 

Hello dear readers, it is my
belief that you have all made use of medicines at some point in your different
lives. Along with this belief is the knowledge that you’ve perhaps come across
words like OTC, POM, side effects, contraindications, adverse effects etc.
Allow me guide you through the
maze of medicinal lexicon to the light that is a basic understanding of medicines.
ALL DRUGS ARE POISONS, BUT SOME DRUGS ARE MORE
POISONOUS THAN OTHERS
This is not a statement designed to induce fear but
an illustration of the dose-poison
relationship that is possible with all drug use. Without any cognizance of or
adherence to prescribed doses, the chances of having mild-severe toxic results
to even the commonest drugs are increased. Some drugs need to be taken in the strictest quantities as very small doses are enough
to cause significant reactions.
DRUG INDICATIONS: This is what a drug is used for or prescribed
for. This is the medical condition or disease for which this drug was designed
and/or found to be suitable for.
CONTRAINDICATIONS: These are physiological/medical conditions under
which this drug should not be used even if the indication(s) for the drug is
(are) present in that individual. For e.g. some analgesics (pain killers) should
not be used by patients with active stomach ulceration or a history of
ulceration. Therefore an ulcer is the contraindication to that
drug’s indication-pain, and an
alternative medicine will be used.
WHAT ARE SIDE EFFECTS: These are other effects a drug may produce
separate from the expected effect or drug indication. A side effect may be
quite welcome to some and rather unwelcome to some. For example, drowsiness as
a side effect of an analgesic for an accident victim in the ward would be a
welcome relief to the patient and an unwelcome effect in a factory worker who
has returned to work after a minor accident. However some side effects such as
itching, nausea and vomiting
are generally unpleasant in all circumstances. Anyone who finds them appealing may say so J.
 
QUESTIONS PATIENTS SHOULD ASK: It is inane to ask your pharmacist
if a drug has side effects. The answer is YES. What you should ask is: what side effects should you look out for? The
answer to this question doesn’t necessarily require a textbook listing of all
possible side effects but a mention of any effects that
can alarm you especially
if unprecedented or any effects that require some kind of caution/change in your daily activities e.g.
driving and operating heavy machinery while taking drugs with sedative side
effects. (Imagine if a
bulldozer driver falls
asleep at the wheel and you are
parked just across the road from him J.
However side-effects are not
always a given. Not everyone will
experience all/any of the side effects of a drug.
-What is the name of this medicine: This is another question to ask. This
information is important for reference purposes if seeing another prescriber
and you have lost/thrown away your old medicine packaging and especially when
complaining about side effects you might have experienced. Better still, always go to the hospital with your last medicines in tow
to help your prescriber pick what’s best for you now and help your pharmacist
to monitor your compliance.
 
ADVERSE EFFECTS: These are noxious and unintended effects that a
drug may produce at normal pharmacological (i.e prescribed)
doses.
This term does not refer to effects that a drug may produce if
abused. These effects range from mild/common effects like nausea to rare/severe
effects like Steven Johnson’s syndrome. Allergies
ALL ADVERSE EFFECTS ARE SIDE EFFECTS BUT NOT ALL SIDE EFFECTS ARE
ADVERSE EFFECTS.
 
O.T.Cs: Over The Counter medicines. These refer to all drugs that can be sold without
prescriptions. This
list does not include antibiotics.
P.O.Ms: Prescription Only Medicines. These
are drugs that should be sold/dispensed only when u present prescriber-issued
prescription or in some cases under advisement by your pharmacist. Examples
include anti-hypertensives, antidiabetics, antibiotics etc.
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