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|Drug: The Double Edged Knife (Part 15)|
Mohamed H. Dahir, Chairman Pharmaceutical Association of Somaliland
Did Your Doctor Tell You?
Okay, folks, you have carried your medicine home and stored it in a reasonably safe place. Now you are supposed to take it. But when? Before meals, after meals, with water, without milk? This is almost the most important part of the whole chain of events. But directions for drug ingestion are often sorely lacking. Too many doctors are careless or lazy about the instructions they give their patients regarding the medications they must take. Some medicines must not be taken at meals, while others are ineffective or dangerous unless they are.
There are many drugs which require special instructions. It is your doctorís responsibility to make sure the proper information is relayed to you and that you understand his direction perfectly. Some medications can be deadly if taken in the wrong manner. There are all kinds of horror stories about people who have swallowed medicine their doctor meant for them to wash with. Nurses have injected drugs into the veins of patients when they were supposed to stick them in the butt instead, all because a physicianís instructions were not clear. If your medic does not provide clear and detailed directions about the medicine he prescribes voluntarily, then you bug him until he does. And make sure that you know the name (both generic name and brand name) of any drug the good doctor prescribes before you leave the office. If you have to visit another physician for some other problem you must be prepared to answer her or his question about what other drugs you are taking. And you should be able to do it in an intelligent manner rather than by trying to describe the size, shape, and color of your pills.
The doctor and the pharmacist are not the only ones responsible for drug safety and effectiveness. We must be just as vigilant. Too many people think that they can medicate themselves without fear of unwanted reactions. If aunt Fadumo says that she has just the thing for diarrhea, gallstones, bladder infection, or heartburn, stay away. Her prescriptions are not meant for you! She is not a doctor, and what works for her could be extremely dangerous in your body. And that goes for many nonprescription medicines. As I have already mentioned, we are often exposed to many chemicals which can affect our systems in an adverse way but which we tend to take for granted.
A classic example of a dangerous substance which is found in every home is the common aerosol spray can. This apparently innocuous household item contains many active and "inactive" ingredients which are often absorbed directly into the body after inhalation. Stop and think a moment. When you use your aerosol cans. How much of the junk do you end up breathing? If you can smell the stuff, you are inhaling it. Hairsprays could alter the normal functioning of the lungs in healthy individuals, a twenty-second direct exposure produce chest tightness and difficulty in breathing lasting up to ten minutes after exposure. Some individuals noticed effects for as long as sixty minutes. Subjective symptoms of "respiratory distress" were confirmed by physiological tests of breathing capacity. And remember, twenty seconds exposure is peanuts when compared to the length of time some of us may breathe in this crap A commonly used consumer product should have a systematic effect on the airways of healthy persons. It is possible that repeated exposure to aerosolized products, such as hair spray are causal factors in some cases of asthma or bronchitis.
A beautician who receives massive contact with these chemicals on a daily basis could be at quite some risk. Many beauty parlor workers concede that there are plenty of rumors and stories of serious illness associated with the profession, and many people try to get out of this direct contact work as soon as possible. Have you ever stopped to think how much of the junk in your underarm deodorant you inhale each morning when you point the can in the general direction of your armpit and push the button? Besides the active chemicals (often aluminum hydroxychloride), you are getting a direct hit of solvent and the gas which propels the actives stuff out of the can. There is probably some perfume thrown in as well. These "inactive" ingredients have been proven deleterious to the heart and nervous system. If you insist that you must use aerosol the very least you should do is to try to hold your breath during application and then get out of the room fast. People with allergies and asthma should switch to roll-on or stick deodorants. As a matter of fact, people with any respiratory-tract problem should stay far away from aerosol cans of any sort. That also holds for people who wear hearing aids or use contact lenses. There have been reports that hair sprays can muck up these devices so why donít we all just ditch all the spray cans we have? They mess up the environment, and clearly they do a nasty job directly on our body. They sure as hell arenít worth the convenience if they do permanent damage. Although you might hope that your physician would warn you about the dangers of nonprescription drugs and things like spray cans, they either do not know about such things, refuse to commit themselves, or just plain do not have the time or inclination to mention it.
To be continues next week