Self-medication and related health complaints among expatriate high school students in the United Arab Emirates

Main Article Content

Syed Ilyas Shehnaz
Nelofer Khan
Jayadevan Sreedharan
Khaled Jamal Issa
Mohamed Arifulla


Self Medication, Adolescent, Prevalence, Patient Medication Knowledge, Patient Education as Topic, United Arab Emirates


Background: Self-medication, often without adult guidance, has been reported to be a common practice during adolescence. Similar to other preventable health-risk behaviors initiated in early adolescence, it has become a cause for concern universally.

Objectives: This study examines the prevalence of self-medication with both prescribed and non-prescribed (OTC) medications, related health complaints, sources of drugs, and sources of drug recommendation, and gender differences related to self-medication among expatriate high school students in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted among 324 expatriate students through a validated, self-administered questionnaire and data was analyzed using SPSS 19 version. Means and proportions were calculated and Pearson Chi-square test of significance was used to analyze association among variables.

Results: Majority of the participating students, almost equally distributed by gender, was aged 16 to 17 years. The period prevalence rate of self-medication with prescribed and OTC medications were 89.2%, which did not vary with age, gender, ethnicity or parents’ educational level. The most common sources of drug and drug recommendation were community pharmacies and parents respectively. Headache and fever were the common self-medicated conditions and consequently, analgesics and antipyretics were most commonly used both in the previous two weeks and the previous year prior to the survey. A high prevalence of self-medication with antibiotics (53%) and sedative/hypnotics (27%) was also observed. A female excess emerged for certain health complaints and use of medicines except for the use of anti-allergic and herbal/homeopathic drugs.

Conclusion: This is the first study to explore self-medication practices among high school students in UAE and provides baseline data critical in creating awareness about the risks and benefits of self-medication. Health care providers, educators and parents should be actively involved in health education strategies for inculcating responsible self-medication practices in the adolescent population of UAE.

Abstract 3784 | PDF Downloads 1093


1. World Health Organization. WHO guidelines for the regulatory assessment of medicinal products for use in self-medication. Available at: (Accessed 01/08/2013)

2. World Health Organization. The role of the pharmacist in self-care and self-medication. Report of the 4th WHO Consultative Group on the Role of the Pharmacist. The Hague, 1998. Available at: (Accessed 01/08/2013)

3. Pereira FS, Bucaretchi F, Stephan C, Cordeiro R. Self-medication in children and adolescents. J Pediatr (Rio J). 2007;83(5):453-458.

4. Awad A, Eltayeb I, Matowe L, Thalib L. Self-medication with antibiotics and antimalarials in the community of Khartoum State, Sudan. J Pharm Pharm Sci. 2005;8(2):326-331.

5. Holstein BE, Holme Hansen E, Due P, Birna Almarsdóttir A. Self-reported medicine use among 11- to 15-year old girls and boys in Denmark 1988–1998. Scand J Public Health. 2003;31(5):334-341.

6. Hansen EH, Holstein BE, Due P, Currie CE. International survey of self-reported medicine use among adolescents. Ann Pharmacother. 2003;37(3):361-366.

7. Stoelben S, Krappweis J, Rossler G, Kirch W. Adolescents’ drug use and drug knowledge. Eur J Pediatr. 2000;159(8):608-614.

8. Abahussain E, Matowe LK, Nicholls PJ. Self-reported medication use among adolescents in Kuwait. Med Princ Pract. 2005;14(3):161-164.

9. Furu K, Skurtveit S, Rosvold EO. Self-reported medical drug use among 15–16 year-old adolescents in Norway. Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen. 2005;125(20):2759-2761.

10. da Silva CH, Giugliani ER. Consumption of medicines among adolescent students: a concern. J Pediatr (Rio J). 2004;80(4):326-332.

11. Lau JT, Yu A, Cheung JC, Leung SS.Studies on common illnesses and medical care utilization patterns of adolescents in Hong Kong. J Adolesc Health. 2000;27(6):443-452.

12. Steinman KJ. High school students' misuse of over-the-counter drugs: a population-based study in an urban county. J Adolesc Health. 2006 Apr;38(4):445-447.

13. The cooperation council for the Arab states of the Gulf. Available at: (Accessed 01/08/2013)

14. GCC Demographic Shift. Kuwait Financial Centre Markaz. Kuwait, 2012. Available at: (Accessed 01/08/2013)

15. National Bureau of Statistics. United Arab Emirates, 2012. Available at: (Accessed 01/08/2013)

16. Ellul RD, Cordina M, Buhagiar A, Fenech A, Mifsud J. Health complaints and use of medicines among adolescents in Malta. Pharm Pract (Granada). 2008;6(3):165-170.

17. Geissler PW, Nokes K, Prince RJ, Odhiambo RA, Aagaard-Hansen J, Ouma JH. Children and medicines: self-treatment of common illnesses among Luo schoolchildren in western Kenya. Soc Sci Med. 2000;50(12):1771-1783.

18. United Arab Emirates Ministry of Health Registration and Drug Control Dept. Available at: (Accessed 01/08/2013)

19. WHO Collaborating Centre for Drug Statistic Methodology. ATC/DDD Index 2007. Available at: (Accessed 01/08/2013)

20. Apa-Hall P, Swartz R, McConnell R. The current state of teenage drug abuse: a trend toward prescription drugs. J School Nurs. 2008;24(Suppl):S1-S16.

21. Andersen A, Holstein BE, Hansen EH. Is medicine use in adolescence risk behaviour? Cross-sectional survey of school-aged children from 11 to 15. J Adolesc Health. 2006;39(3):362-366.

22. Darmanin Ellul R, Cordina M, Buhagiar A, Fenech A, Mifsud J. Knowledge and sources of information about medicines among adolescents in Malta. Pharm Pract (Granada). 2008;6(4):178-186.

23. Moraes AC, Delaporte TR, Molena-Fernandes CA, Falcão MC. Factors associated with medicine use and self medication are different in adolescents. Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2011;66(7):1149-1155.

24. Nicholls PJ, Stevens RG, Albahsain NA. Medication used by Saudi girls. Saudi Pharm J. 2002;10(3):126-132.

25. Arul Prakasam KC, Senthil Kumar N. Assessment of health complaints and use of medicines among adolescents in Tamil Nadu. J Pharm Res. 2010;3(12):2799-2801.

26. Tourinho FS, Bucaretchi F, Stephan C, Cordeiro R. Home medicine chests and their relationship with self-medication in children and adolescents. J Pediatr (Rio J). 2008;84(5):416-422.doi:10.2223/JPED.1831

27. Alsowaidi S, Abdulle A, Shehab A, Zuberbier T, Bernsen R. Allergic rhinitis: prevalence and possible risk factors in a Gulf Arab population. Allergy. 2010;65(2):208-212. doi: 10.1111/j.1398-9995.2009.02123.x

28. Ellul RD, Cordina M, Buhagiar A, Fenech A, Mifsud J. An analysis of gender differences in self-reported health, use of medicines and access to information sources about medicines among adolescents. Int J Adolesc Med Health. 2009;21(4):591-600.

29. Torsheim T, Ravens-Sieberer U, Hetland J, Valimaa R, Danielson M, Overpeck M. Cross-national variation of gender differences in adolescent subjective health in Europe and North America. Soc Sci Med. 2006;62(4):815-827.

30. Abasaeed A, Vlcek J, Abuelkhair M, Kubena A. Self-medication with antibiotics by the community of Abu Dhabi Emirate, United Arab Emirates. J Infect Dev Ctries. 2009;3(7):491-497.

31. Dameh M, Green J, Norris P.Over-the-counter sales of antibiotics from community pharmacies in Abu Dhabi. Pharm World Sci. 2010;32(5):643-650. doi: 10.1007/s11096-010-9418-5

32. Carrasco-Garrido P, Jiménez-García R, Hernández Barrera V, López de Andrés A, Gil de Miguel A. Patterns of medication use in the immigrant population resident in Spain: associated factors. Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2009;18(8):743-750. doi: 10.1002/pds.1776

33. Mainous AG 3rd, Diaz VA, Carnemolla M. Factors affecting Latino adults' use of antibiotics for self-medication. J Am Board Fam Med. 2008;21(2):128-134. doi: 10.3122/jabfm.2008.02.070149

34. Kotwani A, Wattal C, Joshi PC, Holloway K. Irrational use of antibiotics and role of the pharmacist: an insight from a qualitative study in New Delhi, India. J Clin Pharm Ther. 2012;37(3):308-312. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2710.2011.01293.x

35. Yousef AM, Al-Bakri AG, Bustanji Y, Wazaify M. Self-medication patterns in Amman, Jordan. Pharm World Sci. 2008;30(1):24-30.

36. Geissler PW, Meinert L, Prince R, Nokes C, Aagaard-Hansen J, Jitta J, Ouma JH. What schoolchildren should be taught about medicines? Health Policy Plan. 2001;16(4):362-371.

37. Andersen A, Krølner R, Holstein BE, Due P, Hansen EH. Medicine use among 11- and 13-year olds: Agreement between parents’ reports and children’s self-reports. Ann Pharmacother. 2007;41(4):581-586.

Most read articles by the same author(s)

<< < 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 > >>