Risks of self-medication practices

Curr Drug Saf. 2010 Oct;5(4):315-23. doi: 10.2174/157488610792245966.


Self-medication is defined as the selection and use of medicines by individuals (or a member of the individuals' family) to treat self-recognized or self-diagnosed conditions or symptoms. Several benefits have been linked to appropriate self-medication, among them: increased access to medication and relief for the patient, the active role of the patient in his or her own health care, better use of physicians and pharmacists skills and reduced (or at least optimized) burden of governments due to health expenditure linked to the treatment of minor health conditions However, self-medication is far from being a completely safe practice, in particular in the case of non-responsible self-medication. Potential risks of self-medication practices include: incorrect self-diagnosis, delays in seeking medical advice when needed, infrequent but severe adverse reactions, dangerous drug interactions, incorrect manner of administration, incorrect dosage, incorrect choice of therapy, masking of a severe disease and risk of dependence and abuse. In this short review the author analyzes recent literature on some of the most important dangers related to self-medication practices, particularly: polypharmacy and drug interactions, medications abuse or dependence, misdiagnosis and incorrect choice of treatment. The author also proposes measures that could be adopted in order to solve or improve these issues.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Drug Interactions
  • Humans
  • Medication Errors*
  • Nonprescription Drugs / adverse effects*
  • Polypharmacy
  • Risk Assessment
  • Self Medication / adverse effects*
  • Self Medication / economics
  • Substance-Related Disorders


  • Nonprescription Drugs