How Folk Treat Themselves To Keep The Doctor Away
( Originally Published 1936 )
Physicians, in general, deplore the habit which many people have of administering drugs to themselves. And yet I think they all know in their hearts it will be done. They do it themselves, and they see their families and friends do it without consulting them. There are few people who do not have their own favorite headache remedy,. cathartic, skin ointment which is used for all rashes, gargle, cold medicine, to say nothing of the hair tonics and the beautifiers generally.
Such practices really do very little harm the general principle being, "We'll try this first, and if it doesn't work, we'll call in the doctor." Of course, that may be a good idea or it may not. If the disease happens to be a serious one from the beginning, and is treated as a minor one by the self-doser, the harm done may be considerable. But most diseases are trivial, and most of our complaints are of little consequence. Nearly all the. serious diseases with which we are threatened do not happen, like many other troubles in life.
Just a step up from dosing yourself is to get advice from some member of the professions associated with medicine. Not long ago I heard of two people in the same boarding house who both had heart attacks the same evening. They decided to employ a trained nurse to stay all night, who was to take care of both of them, and as far as I could gather, if she didn't do them any good they were going to call up a druggist in the neighborhood, and then if what he suggested didn't do any good, they would get a doctor. The idea was to do as many things as possible so as to keep the doctor away.
It is too bad, also, that in treating ourselves we do not use more methods which have nothing to do with drugs. A great many pains can be relieved with water, or heat, or cold, ice bags or hot water bags, by exercise, by diet, and especially by refraining from eating entirely. As you realize, I am more inclined to recommend some of these methods, because there is no question that there is hardly any drug that does not have some disagreeable side feature.
I wish to take up in one or two articles below the dangers of self-dosage, and as I see them they are five: FIRST, using a drug for a disease which appears to be trivial and which really is serious; SECOND, using a certain drug when a different one would be better;
THIRD, the danger of over-dosage; FOURTH, the danger of habituation, and LASTLY, the danger of idiosyncrasy.