A professor emeritus of Seoul University starts off his article in the Peace Weekly by introducing us to Paracelsus (1493-1541), who said all medicine is poison. It is, he thought, a question of dosage. Depending on the amounts given, medicine can be either helpful or harmful.
It is good to remember that when medicine is taken there is always a side effect. Only when the good achieved far outweighs the potential bad side effects is the risk of taking medicine considered prudent. He goes on to say that Koreans are unusually fond of taking medicine. In every house, you will see full medicine cabinets and boxes of medicine everywhere, with all kinds of medicines which they take like food.
The professor says that according to one statistical finding more than half of those taking medicines don't follow the instructions that come with the medicine. And many are mesmerized by the irresponsible advertisements on TV, in magazines and leaflets. Many are also too easily influenced to use medicines solely on the recommendations of friends.
This problem of the overuse, abuse and dependence on medicine is something that militates against the culture of life we should be working to bring into our society. This is a problem that affects all of us. In many cases, the use of medicines is not prescribed. This is the case not only with drugs for the more serious diseases but with medicines to help digestion, relieve pains and headaches, stimulate bowel movements, and to put us to sleep, among a host of other remedies. Even when the use is no longer necessary, the habit often continues.
The misuse of drugs can be broadly distinguished as either institutional or personal. Institutions like hospitals and clinics often immorally incite the overuse of medicines because of the financial incentives. And individuals will alsoself-medicate to treat some abnormality, and do it improperly. The professor tells us that compared to many other countries, the number of medicines prescribed in Korea to the ordinary patient is much higher. The government intends to do something about this problem, he says, but it is not only doctors but patients who have to change their dependence on medicine.
The professor's words should serve as a warning to all of us on the misuse and abuse of medicines. If we are serious about working for the culture of life in our society, we need to be better educated on the proper use of medicine in restoring and maintaining health.