Are You a Cyberchondriac?
By: Beth McHugh 2006
There are hundreds of medical websites online, many offering self-diagnosis. Aligned with these sites are those selling medications online, often without a doctor’s prescription. The combination of these two facilities can be harmful to your health.
The British medical journal The Lancet quotes one case where a woman diagnosed herself with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and self-medicated with steroid drugs which she obtained without prescription from Thailand. A few years down the track she was diagnosed with two eye complaints: side effects brought about by the continual use of these drugs.
This case is just one of thousands that come to light as a result of the ease of buying prescription medication online without a proper diagnosis by a doctor. Using the Internet to purchase prescription drugs from overseas pharmacies is certainly risky business. Although the prices for common medications are considerably lower, these so-called savings can come at an enormous price. Tests have shown that these unregulated medications can contain more than you bargained for. Talc, mercury, crushed glass, flour, and brick dust are just some of the more common contaminants found in chemical assays of these “drugs.”
The message is clear: self diagnosis coupled with buying online drugs is gambling with your health. While many websites can be a useful resource, their content is often not monitored by clinicians. In fact, many “health” websites are written by people with either little or no medical knowledge at all.
It is extremely important to be diagnosed by a registered medical practitioner. In fact, the old maxim, “get a second opinion” still holds true. Doctors can make mistakes. But diagnosing yourself is even more fraught with difficulties. Yet more and more people are turning to self-diagnosis due to the popularity of the Internet.
Ensuring that you buy your medications from a registered pharmacist rather than an anonymous online shop gives you a valuable backup regarding drug interactions. Internet drug sites cannot provide the often life-saving skills of a pharmacist who can readily alert you to dangerous drug interactions. This is particularly the case when using antidepressant and antipsychotic medications. Many react adversely with other drugs, even over-the-counter medications.
- A face-to-face consultation is vital
- Talk to your doctor before purchasing any medications online
- Ensure the online pharmacy has an address and phone number
- Ensure it’s a secure website before providing credit card
- Ignore spam mail from online pharmacies