October 18, 2017   
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Effects of Drugs

VITAL TO EDUCATE MASSES

By Dr. Oishee Mukherjee 

Today, the effects of drugs on human health are a subject of discussion. As we all know, medicines are absolutely necessary to fight diseases. In fact, they save life and keep us free from various illnesses. But these have to be taken at the right time and in the right quantity, as prescribed by the doctor to overcome a particular disease.

However, sometimes high prices of certain medicines are beyond the reach of the aam admi , the poor and impoverished which are necessary for him or his family to tackle diseases. True, a certain section who are relatively well off and can afford buying medicines feel that taking drugs is necessary to keep oneself fit, even if not prescribed by the doctor.

Importantly, there is a craze for taking multi-vitamin capsules or digestive tonics almost every day though these might not necessarily be for him. The erroneous belief for taking these drugs is that the body needs extra vitamins along-with some medicines for better digestion.

A case in point. A famous ENT specialist, considered best in South Asia , told my father and many others in an NGO with which he was associated, that if a person takes adequate quantity of pulses, vegetables and eggs or fish twice a week he would not need any vitamins or food supplements.

However, a major section of the middle class believes that to remain healthy vitamins, food supplements etc. are needed in the human system. This is a totally false belief and as recent studies point out taking unnecessary drugs, even vitamins, might have a bad effect on a person’s system.

One needs to point out that almost every medicine has side effects be it allopathy, homeopathy and ayurveda drugs. Big companies spend lots of money on clinical trials but even their medicines have some effects. Worse, there are many companies in the market which do not follow the necessary scientific process and get their brands approved by the drug controlling authority through dubious means.

In recent times, most doctors are in the habit of prescribing many medicines when these might not be necessary at all. Patients are also happy as they feel they would be cured quickly. One sees in Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) centres patients request doctors to prescribe vitamins, calcium tablets and digestive capsules or tonic.

Lamented one CGHS doctor, “we need to create awareness even among the educated section of society that unnecessary drugs might be harmful to human health.”

How many are aware that unnecessary consumption of vitamin A might lead to skin eruptions, fever, increase in body weight, headache etc. while the effects of vitamin B complex are stomach ailments, jaundice and eye problems.

Doctors sometimes prescribe vitamin C for mouth ailments but if these tablets are taken more, the kidney might be affected along-with other effects, including stomach problems. Again taking more of vitamin D that is calcium, could lead to constipation, increase in heart beats etc.

Apart from this, there is the question of drug overdose, which is either prescribed by doctors or patients take it without consultation. Even medicines post the expired date are also taken by some who have an erroneous belief that five or six months over that date is not harmful.

Coming to steroids which are life saving drugs but whenever they are taken without justification it might be disastrous for the human system. Also, the prolonged use of steroids might lead to various problems whereby the blood pressure could increase, the face and legs might get inflamed alongside allergy and skin problems too could occur.

Notably, the liver a vital organ of the body has to be protected as it gets affected due to various diseases like diabetes, jaundice, cist, water-borne diseases, cancer et al. The main reason for the liver being affected nee cirrhosis of liver could be due to malnutrition or under-nutrition over a long period of time.

Continued drinking also affects the liver and normally liver tonics do not help much. One may mention here that sorbitol, which is the main initive effect ingredient in such tonics, has virtually no effect as this carbohydrate does not reach the liver. As for ayurvedic liver tonics they are mostly not prepared on scientific lines and may not have any positive effect.

Recently, there are many drugs or anabolic steroids which are consumed for increasing body weight. These are also used for doping in games. Women sometimes use these for enlarging their breasts to look attractive while men do so to show their physical strength. But continued use of these steroids could affect the liver, heart or kidney as also hair growth leading to baldness in men.

Most people are very conscious about their hair and many companies come out with hair vitalizers or hair fertilizers to ensure hair growth. Around 50 to 100 strands of hair fall is quite common like variations in the male hormone androgen and female hormone estrogen, inadequate nutrition, mental tension, side effects of medicines etc.

Many hair tonics have female estrogen whose effect might affect the voice, reduce sexual desires and even affect blood pressure. Though beauticians would motivate people to use these doctors’ advice should be taken before using them.

Like hair tonics, there are many provocations to increase sexual virility through various advertisements in the media. Ayurveda, hakims and doctors prescribe such medicines. Also anabolic steroids mixed with vitamins are available in the market but taking these medicines is quite harmful. Given that sex cannot be increased by any form of medication.

The spread of cancer has necessitated the need for chemotherapy which like most drugs has side effects but such results are much more for those taking chemotherapy. It has been found that many patients shiver, have fever and a vomiting tendency after chemotherapy.

All in all, the Government should play a decisive role in making the public aware about the use of drugs and needs to formulate a policy towards this end. Writing the names of generic drugs should be made mandatory by doctors as chemist shops could also deceive the patient by giving the worst possible drug with the generic name. The policy should consider this aspect also.

India needs a sustained campaign, specially in rural and semi-urban areas. It is imperative we immediately begin educating the mass about the use of drugs. Thus, apart from increasing the percentage expenditure of GDP on health care to at least 2.5-3 per cent as early as possible, drug availability at affordable prices is very necessary at this juncture. —- INFA

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)