Before supermodel Viveka Babajee committed suicide by hanging herself at her home last week, she had taken sleeping pills and anti-depressants, according to her post-mortem report. Media reports also quoted Gautam Vohra, named by Babajee in her suicide note, saying that she was on an anti-depressant.
Many people are hooked to sleeping pills, antibiotics and certain psychiatric drugs. Worse, pharmacists in the city often sell these medicines without a doctor’s prescription.
“Sleeping pills and antibiotic medicines are some drugs that cannot be sold over-the-counter. But chemists do that routinely,” said Dr Anand Bhave, general physician in Thane.
This habit can have disastrous side effects. “A chemist or lay person does not have an idea about diagnosing a condition.
Buying drugs without a prescription can lead to different health complications. Even a slight change in dosage of these drugs can have serious side effects. Drugs like sleeping pills, can even make you dependant on them,” said Dr Suhas Pingle, secretary of the Indian Medical Association, Maharashtra.
The practice needs to be condemned and curbed immediately, he added.
Doctors say that many people continue to self-medicate in case of a minor illness, which can lead to several other health problems. Taking antibiotics, which are usually taken in specific doses and patterns over a period of time, without a doctor’s guidance can lead to more harm than good.
“People feel better after a couple of doses of a self-prescribed antibiotic and stop taking it without finishing the course. This can lead to resistance, which means the drug is useless in case they need to take it again,” said Pingle.
The BMC has also started a campaign to educate Mumbaiites about the risks involved in self-medication.
About 80 per cent of malaria deaths that occurred in city hospitals last year were because of delay in diagnosis, according to a BMC health audit last year. “Patients approach the hospital after three to five days of self-medication. By the time they go to a hospital, their condition has worsened. In cases of malaria, especially, the delay can be life-threatening,” said Dr Daksha Shah of the BMC’s epidemiology cell.