There’s a chance you know at least one person with pills, or other types of meds for every issue, in their bag or house, a walking pharmacy to be exact. You might even be that person and think that going to the doctor and getting a prescription is a waste of time when you can go to a pharmacy and get medication. However, experts say, many people don’t realise the dangers of self-medication. Self-medication is the practice of using available medications or substances to treat self-diagnosed symptoms or conditions. In general, the practice of self-medication applies to any condition that a person may treat without the help of a healthcare professional, but many, even with more serious health conditions, turn to self-medication as an alternative to medical attention, which is risky. Joseph Karemera, a clinical dietician and nutritionist, says seeking evidence-based information before using any medical drug is very important as the consumption of drugs without any information can affect the body. “Most people do not understand the meds they are taking because it requires expertise or advice from experts. People need to know the dose, different food and drug interactions, and side effects that are linked to the meds,” he explains. Karemera says that before using any medicines, people should be aware of the side effects and possible dangers. “It is best to visit the nearest healthcare facility or talk to a doctor before using some meds. The doctor is knowledgeable enough to guide you on which meds are effective, or right for your condition. This can also help you know the right dosage and management because a lot of people tend to disregard dosage, especially in the case of ibuprofen, which can lead to serious health complications,” he says, adding that many health problems, such as anti-microbial drug resistance and organ injuries, are a result of self-medication. Dr Ariane Umulisa, a general practitioner, says that most people who self-medicate don’t really understand the drugs they intake. “A lot of people can be pressured into taking some medicine without consultation just because someone who has had the same condition told them the medicine can help. But honestly, symptoms can be similar but it doesn’t mean that you have the same body as the other person who took the medicine. You can’t understand the drugs you take because no healthcare professional gave you advice on what is right for you, or what could harm your body,” she says. “A simple example is about girls who take painkillers when having cramps from menstruation, the pain is unbearable so whatever a friend gives, or even recommends, it is taken, but in the long run, there could be serious issues. It is best to always ask a doctor if the drug is good for you, or if the dosage is acceptable before deciding anything on your own,” she adds. Umulisa says that self-medicating is still fine for people who know their condition well and have approval from their doctor, but what is dangerous is self-medicating without visiting any health centre or doctor as it can lead to incorrect or delayed diagnosis of a disease, delays in seeking appropriate medical assistance and proper treatment, potential adverse reactions, worsening of the condition, dangerous drug interaction, masking of severe diseases, and risk of dependence and abuse.