The Internet ‘doctor’ aiding self-medication

A GNA feature by Judith Amoateng, GNA

Accra May 10, GNA - Google search engine is part of me. I get solutions to a variety of issues from social, health, education, economics and many more. For about a month I was consistently experiencing severe headache and feeling dizzy.

I was curious to know the cause but I did not want to go to the hospital because I thought it was not serious. My first point of call was to go on to Google search engine to type in “cause of constant headache and dizziness”.

Guess what, the results shook my nerves. On the first option when I clicked, it suggested that the ailment that had such symptoms included brain tumor and cancer. The more I read, the more I became scared so, I stopped reading and took some painkillers hoping I will be relieved.

My experience may just be a drop in the ocean because sharing my experience with friends both at school and work revealed that, just like me, many consult the Internet for medication of their health conditions. The phenomenal has led to people developing other medical conditions with some resulting in death.

Testimonies gathered show that some patients visit the hospital when the medicine prescribed on the internet, could not be bought over the counter or not very popular in the various pharmacies. Others say, they refer to the internet because it is always available and accessible at all times.

Speaking to a cross-section of the public on the issue, Mr. Caleb Addo, a communication student, said it was somewhat intriguing as what was described by internet left him depressed. He narrated that after getting intimate with his newly found girlfriend by kissing he felt itching on his tongue and throat.

“I googled cause of itching on tongue and throat’ and the result showed that it is a symptom of Human Immune Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV and AIDS),” he said.

Gripped with fear and anxiety, Mr. Addo could not contend than to visit the hospital the next morning where he underwent series of medical screening.

It is not only the ordinary persons who consult the Internet but some doctors also access the Internet to understand medical conditions of patients and drug prescriptions.

Ms. Mercy Nyame, a Civil Servant thinks the phenomenon is thriving due to the busy nature of the working class and general poverty among the people, especially those in the deprived areas, making it impossible for a number of them to visit the hospital for medical care.

Medicinal products are generally divided into prescription and non-prescription medicines. This classification may differ from country to country. The national authorities must, however, ensure that medicines, categorized as non-prescription medicines, are safe and not harmful to health.

Prescription medicines are those, which are only available to individuals on prescription from a physician following a consultation.

These medicines are not safe for use except under the supervision of a physician because of toxicity, other potential harmful effects, the method of use, or the collateral measures necessary for use.

Buying medicines from drug peddlers and quack doctors have become the order of the day and the business is booming at markets where most traders patronise these services.

People chose to buy drugs from these sellers because it is easy to come by, at a cheaper price and it is brought to them at the comfort of their homes and work places.

Mobile Medical Applications

With the advent of the internet, where any desired topic can be researched on, it is easy for people to visit websites like google, symptom checkers, laboratory results and so on to determine the cause of their ailments and then prescribe medicine for themselves without seeking for medical advice.

The introduction of mobile medical applications have contributed largely to people avoiding hospitals preferring these applications instead. To a degree, it is helpful but cannot be a guarantee for everyone who visits these applications to determine or find out what is wrong with their system.

The disadvantage of these sites or apps could be that, they may not be well licensed, maybe operating without any medical experience or practitioner and may not be legally registered, so, visitors to these sites are prone to false information or diagnoses with the health condition they are faced with.


High suicide rate is an effect of the usage of the mobile medical applications, which is used as an alternative to determine the cause of sickness among individuals. In the case of my colleague, Mr Addo, he would have committed suicide after consulting the internet for the

cause of the sensation he was having on his tongue and throat.

Another effect could be premature death. Wrong prescriptions or information could be given to the individual through the internet as he or she is desperately in need for a solution.

Also, these individuals may react negatively to their self-prescribed medication or develop a new disease as adverse effect.


Miss Gloria Adomaa Mensah, a doctor at the Akomfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in an interview said these situations happen all the time and described it as a bad practice and suggested these solutions to be taken.

Miss Mensah said that, the appropriate stakeholders must use the media to educate the public about the self-prescription and the usage of the internet to find out the cause of their ailment and rather encourage them to see a health practitioner.

‘The Ghana Medical Association should also advertise and visit schools, churches and other institutions so that an awareness of self-prescription and using the internet as a ‘doctor’ will come to a halt’ she said.

The public must make it a habit to visit any health care facility when they feel something is wrong for the experts to diagnose and offer

immediate treatment.

Source: GNA Story (
Published: 2019-05-10 15:27:53
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