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Misusing Drugs: Who needs medical advice anyway? Part 1

April 15, 2019

By Dr Temitope Olayinka

This is the first of two articles that looks at how misusing drugs and the absence of competent medical advice can lead to various severe (and sometimes fatal) complications.

Misusing drugs means using a drug for a purpose different from its intended purpose and against medical or legal advice1.

So this could be: using them for a purpose they were not intended or for a duration not recommended.

And it could mean using the drug in a dosage different from the one prescribed.

Impact of Drug Misuse

Furthermore, the misuse of drugs could result in various consequences.

Such consequences can be – 1. Drug dependence, 2. worsening of the disease condition they are meant to treat, 3. drug tolerance and 4. drug resistance.

In addition, because drugs are chemical agents that can interfere with the body functions, their misuse can be harmful to the body.

So for these reasons, using drugs without medical advice is not only wrong but inadvisable.

Let’s look more closely at some of these consequences.

Drug tolerance is simply what happens when a drug no longer works for you at the same dose.

This is because having used it so many times in the past, your body has become used to it (tolerant ), and can no longer respond to the drug at that same dose.

Sad child showing how drug misuse can affect the most vulnerable.

So people who have tolerance to a drug find they must continue taking more and more to achieve the same effect.

Finally – after a while, the drug no longer appears to ‘work’.

This is precisely what happens with addictive drugs such as Heroin, Cocaine, or opiate-like drugs like Tramadol.

On the other hand, drug resistance usually refers to what happens in the case of certain drugs like antibiotic medicines or drugs used to treat infections (like Malaria).

These drugs have successfully killed the germs causing illness in the past.

However, the germs they are supposed to kill become used to them and change their structure to overcome or withstand the effect of the drug – this is resistance.

Many times the reason the drug loses its ability to kill the germ happens because of drug overuse, over-frequent or repeated use in the same person.

In part 2 of this article, we look at some instances of drug misuse and when appropriate medical advice could have saved these individuals.

Helpful articles for more reading on this subject:

  1. National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health (UK). Drug Misuse: Psychosocial Interventions. Leicester (UK): British Psychological Society; 2008. (NICE Clinical Guidelines, No. 51.) 3, INTRODUCTION TO DRUG MISUSE. Available from: accessed 20th January 2019
  2. Cooper RJ ‘I can’t be an addict. I am.’ Over-the-counter medicine abuse: a qualitative study BMJ Open 2013;3:e002913. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2013-002913
  3. Chowdhury B, Banerjee R, Paul R, Mondal J, Ganguly S. The abuse of multiple gastrointestinal antibiotics: a case report. J Clin Diagn Res. 2012;6(9):1577-8
  4. accessed 20th January 201
  5. Uchenna Ekwochi, Josephat M. Chinawa, Ikechukwu Obi, Herbert A. Obu, Samuel Agwu; Use and/or Misuse of Antibiotics in Management of Diarrhea Among Children in Enugu, Southeast Nigeria, Journal of Tropical Pediatrics, Volume 59, Issue 4, 1 August 2013, Pages 314–316, accessed 23rd  January 201
  6. Jombo G. T. A, Mbaawuaga E. M, Denen Akaa P, Alao O. O, Peters E. J, Dauda M. A, Okwori E. E, Akosu T, J. Etukumana E. A. and Yaakugh J. B; Choices of drugs for self-treatment of malaria among adult women in a Nigerian city: Implications for the success of the ongoing ‘roll back’ malaria programme, Journal of Microbiology and Antimicrobials Vol. 2(6), pp. 57-63, September 2010 accessed 22nd Jaanuary 201
  7. Jill I Okpalugo, US Inyang, K Ibrahim, Chinwe V Ukwe, NC Aguwa; Misuse of some OTC analgesics in Abuja, Nigeria. International Journal of Natural and Applied Sciences, 6(1): 125-130, 2010

Editing by AskAwayHealth Team


All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practicing Medical Practitioners on a wide range of health care conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and to help promote quality health care. The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified health care practitioner.
To discuss your condition, please contact a health practitioner or reach us directly through

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