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Self-medication is an issue that health professionals and social workers continue to grapple with in different parts of the world. Experts study this kind of practice as a critical problem. Many scholars in the fields of public health and medicine have linked it to increased misuse of resources. Most of the beneficiaries of self-treatment procedures record higher levels of drug resistance. Parents and guardians are known to monitor health conditions of their children and offer both analgesics and antibiotics to manage them. Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are medicines pharmacists sell directly to consumers without any prescription from professional healthcare practitioners.
People usually use such drugs to manage, prevent, or treat a number of diseases or conditions affecting them. Some of the leading ones include chronic pains, stomachaches, and malaria. These common conditions are also associated with OTC drugs: motion sickness, common cold, cough, fever, and headache. The purpose of this essay is to examine the prevalence and nature of OTC drugs in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The emerging insights and ideas can empower parents and community health workers to address this challenge and meet the changing dental health needs of the greatest number of children in the selected country.
Prevalence of OTC Drugs
Effective self-medication is an evidence-based practice that can improve the healthcare system of different countries and transform the experiences of many citizens. Sharif, Bugaighis, and Sharif (2015) believe that OTC drugs have the potential “to help in the prevention and the treatment of signs and symptoms which do not require a doctor’s visit” (p. 429). Patients affected by different chronic conditions will benefit significantly from self-medication practice. However, the healthcare approach can result in drug abuse, cause adverse effects, increase drug dependence, and trigger drug-drug interactions (Sharif et al., 2015).
In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the number of people using OTC drugs has continued to increase significantly. For example, Sharif et al. (2015) observed that the prevalence of self-medication among different pharmacists in this country stood at 96.6 percent. This study revealed that professionals in the field of health were embracing the power OTC drugs to manage various conditions.
Other studies focusing on the number of young persons and adolescents purchasing OTC drugs to treat colds, headaches, fevers, and allergies was quite high. A research by Shehnaz, Agarwal, and Khan (2014) revealed that “the prevalence of self-medication practices was 89.2 in the UAE” (p. 470). This was a clear indication that many parents preferred OTC drugs over prescribed medications in this country.
However, many citizens in this country have reported positive health outcomes from such drugs (Sharif et al., 2015). In another study by Al-Ani, Hassan, Edis, Bloukh, and Shahwan (2017), many students of medicine were willing to embrace the use of OTC drugs in comparison with those taking other courses. Similarly, many parents who had a strong background in the field encouraged their children to use OTC drugs to manage various conditions.
The social, cultural, regulatory, and economic factors have continued to dictate the prevalence or use of OTC drugs in different countries in the Middle East, including the UAE. A study focusing on different communities, rural areas, and cities indicated that many parents considered OTC drugs to manage a wide range of childhood problems. The prevalence was observed to “range from 19 to 82 percent” (Alhomoud et al., 2017, p. 3).
Many adults purchased penicillin, analgesics, and antibiotics without prescriptions from practitioners or doctors to treat various medical conditions. The leading sources of such drugs included pharmacies, relatives, friends, or dispensaries. This prevalence has also been associated with prolonged periods of treatment, poor health outcomes, ineffective handling of drugs, and drug resistance. A proper understanding of these issues or challenges can make it possible for guardians, healthcare professionals, and parents to embrace better practices that will eventually maximize consumers’ health outcomes and reduce drug-related health risks.
Review of Literature
The use of OTC drugs has become a common phenomenon across the globe. Parulekar and Mekoth (2017) use the term “self-medication” to analyze the nature and challenges associated with OTC drugs. For instance, the scholars believe that many people in different regions continue to manage various diseases and chronic conditions using medicines that are not authorized or prescribed by competent physicians (Parulekar & Mekoth, 2017).
Since people who use OTC drugs lack adequate information or knowledge, chances are usually high that they will record or report different complications. Young people go further to combine new drugs with alternative medicines without necessarily considering the dangers of doing so. Within the past four decades, the problem of OTC drugs has triggered numerous challenges. In countries such as the UAE, the relevant ministries and health facilities have been keen to implement appropriate strategies in an attempt to support the health outcomes of more citizens.
In the field of dentistry, the issue of OTC drugs remains a major challenge in the UAE and other regions across the globe. In a study by Alhomoud et al. (2017), it was reported that many people from the UAE, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Lebanon, Oman, and Turkey purchased different drugs from pharmacies and other outlets to manage dental pain. They also focused on antibiotics to record positive results.
Some of the leading factors that were observed to dictate the manner in which different individuals purchased and used different drugs included education attainment, gender, sex, income level, and age (Alhomoud et al., 2017). Parents and guardians of young individuals were also found to dictate the way they purchased or used various drugs.
Dentists and other professionals in the field of health recommend various drugs to treat or manage different medical conditions associated with oral cavity. According to many experts in the field of dentistry, proper hygiene is an evidence-based practice that can deliver positive health outcomes. Many pharmacies and outlets in the UAE and other regions stock various drugs for treating anxiety, oral pain, and infections (Limaye, Limaye, Krause, & Fortwengel, 2017).
The effective or informed use of such drugs can result in significant improvements. Since pain is one of the critical complications reported by many patients with dental problems, its management has remained an important goal for patients, guardians, and health practitioners. Consequently, more people have been observed to purchase OTC drugs to reduce it.
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There are various analgesics used by young people to relief dental pain or toothache. Individuals who report dental complication have been observed to go a step further to purchase OTC analgesics to relieve pain and record positive health results. Some of the common drugs include Aspirin, Acetaminophen, and Ibuprofen. These analgesics are powerful and capable of delivering desirable outcomes. Anti-inflammatory medications have also been found to relieve redness and discomfort in the mouth. The leading ones include these Coricosterioids: Oralone, Oracort, and Orabase-HCA. Patients reporting severe pains have been observed to use narcotic analgesics since they are capable of delivering better health outcomes (Limaye et al., 2017).
Some of the common ones include Hydrocodone and Codeine. In many pharmacies across the UAE, there are Codeine formulations that are combined with Acetaminophen to increase the level or rate of action. Additionally, anesthetics are available in different outlets to manage pain or numb the identified areas. Some of them include Orajel, Anbesol, and Carbocaine.
Past studies have indicated that many parents recommend a number of antibiotics to their dependants or children affected by poor dental health. Many dental infections are associated with anaerobic bacteria. Some soft tissue injuries and dental abscesses have also been observed to occur, thereby resulting in advanced health complications (Alhomoud et al., 2017). The presence of bacteria on different surfaces of the mouth explains why antibiotics are essential in the field of dentistry. Some of the common ones used in this field include Clindamycin, Erythromycin, Penicillin, Chlorhexidine, and Amoxil.
In the recent past, very few studies have been completed to ascertain or monitor the prevalence of OTC drugs in dentistry in different regions and places across the UAE. However, a research by Parulekar and Mekoth (2017) confirmed that most of the analgesics and antibiotics used in the management of dental-related complications were common in most of the pharmacies across the country.
For example, the study indicated that many young people were willing to purchase penicillin and Amoxil from different outlets to prevent adverse bacterial infections after experiencing prolonged dental pain or toothache (Parulekar & Mekoth, 2017). Similarly, many people in urban and rural areas across the country have access to a number of analgesics. Parents and guardians of many children are usually involved throughout the self-medication process.
Various motivations or ideas have been observed to encourage more people in the UAE to purchase various OTC drugs to manage different dental health complications. For example, Shehnaz et al. (2014) observed that around 60 percent of patients suffering from oral health conditions were willing to purchase analgesics and antibiotics to ease pain. According to Alhomoud et al. (2017), most of the interviewees used antibiotics that had been prescribed earlier by their physicians for other conditions. Others were keen to apply their knowledge to dictate the kind of OTC drugs their children or friends use.
From this literature review, it is quite clear that the prevalence of dental OTC medicines in the UAE and other countries in the region is high. The absence of proper mechanisms to control drug use and educate more people about the dangers of such drugs is a critical challenge that affects the lives of many citizens.
Dentists and other health professionals in the UAE are currently facing a major problem since many people prefer to purchase OTC drugs to manage pain and treat bacterial infections associated with poor oral hygiene. From the above literature review, it is evident that the absence of proper measures to address the increased prevalence of OTC drugs is a critical concern that the government should take seriously. In conclusion, professionals in the field of health should sensitize community members about the dangers of self-medication and propose the best ways to deal with every emerging predicament.
Al-Ani, M. R., Hassan, N., Edis, Z., Bloukh, S. H., & Shahwan, M. (2017). Prevalence of self-medication among medical and non-medical students at Ajman University. European Journal of Pharmaceutical and Medical Research, 4(3), 141-144.
Alhomoud, F., Aljamea, Z., Almahasnah, R., Alkhalifah, K., Basalelah, L., & Alhomoud, K. (2017). Self-medication and self-prescription with antibiotics in the Middle East – Do they really happen? A systematic review of the prevalence, possible reasons, and outcomes. International Journal of Infectious Diseases, 57, 3-12. Web.
Limaye, D., Limaye, V., Krause, G., & Fortwengel, G. (2017). A systematic review of the literature to assess self-medication practices. Annals of Medical and Health Sciences Research, 7(1), 1-15.
Parulekar, M., & Mekoth, N. (2017). Insights into self-medication. International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Business Management, 5(1), 1-15.
Sharif, S. I., Bugaighis, L. M., & Sharif, R. S. (2015). Self-medication practice among pharmacists in UAE. Pharmacology & Pharmacy, 6, 428-435. Web.
Shehnaz, S. I., Agarwal, A. K., & Khan, N. (2014). A systematic review of self-medication practices among adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 55, 467-483. Web.