Self-medication and related terms: A conceptual reflection

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Introduction: self-medication has become a growing practice in the world population. This phenomenon has been promoted as a form of self-care, with a positive impact on reducing spending in health systems, however there is concern about the potential negative effects related to inadequate diagnosis and treatment, which can affect health of individuals. This dual perception of the phenomenon is partly related to a variety of terms and concepts used, that make difficult its theoretical and empirical approach. Harmonization of the definitions involved is required in order to make adequate epidemiological comparisons. Objectives: analyze the concept of self medication and related terms from the definitions in the literature of the subject. Conclusions: in the last four decades it has been an evolution of both the wording and the definitions related to self-medication, from a very simple concept that implies the absence of prescription, to more complex ones that encompass very diverse behaviors, even those mediated by an act of prescription but not followed or not completed by the patient. Additionally the conceptual proliferation seen, justify the ordering of the terms related to self-medication. This paper presents a proposal for classification in four groups: a. self-medication, b. self care, c. pharmaceutical preparations and medicines, and d. prescription. This proposal should facilitate the exploration and analysis of the phenomenon and allow future theoretical approaches.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-97
Number of pages15
JournalRevista Ciencias de la Salud
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011
Externally publishedYes


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