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Thais Consume High Number of Medications Per Day Health Minister Says

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Thailand’s Department of Medical Services (DMS) says Thais consume around 128 million medicine tablets every day on average, which if you take into consideration the Thai population is around 63 million, that means each man, woman and child in Thailand would take at least 2 medicine tablets every day. A staggering number compared to many other countries.

Thailand’s Public Health Minister, Witthaya Buranasiri, said on Wednesday “”Such an amount is worrying because the residue from medicines can accumulate in bodies and harm people’s health.” Yes. He’s correct there.

For many westerners who’ve lived in Thailand long enough though, this news probably isn’t surprising. Friends of mine have remarked for years how Thais immediately grab some kind of medication at the first sign of feeling even slightly less than ‘normal’, and one of my close American friends used to joke how his Thai girlfriend was a hypochondriac and her bathroom cabinet like a pharmacy. That, unfortunately, is not far from the truth with most of the Thais I know too.

For some odd reason, most Thais don’t seem to know or to understand that taking medication is, in many cases, not health at all, and especially taking it when you don’t need it. Plus, so many medications, including sleeping pills and antibiotics, are available over the counter in Thailand at very cheap prices. So, if a Thai feels sick, it’s a quick trip to the pharmacy, pay 50-100 baht ($1.50 to $3) for some medication the pharmacist prescribes and that’s that.

Even more odd, overall, Thais seem to be much healthier people than your average western with their enormous numbers of heart disease, diabetes and cancer, so why all the medication and pills?

As someone who barely takes any medication, hasn’t taken antibiotics in about 30 years, and will only take a headache pill if a severe migraine comes on, I just don’t get it.

Are Thais hypochondriacs? Or is it just that they’re not educated well about the dangers of medications and the need for them to be taken responsibly?

All I know is taking 128 million pills every day is far, far too many. In fact, I wonder how many Thais actually die every year from medication they shouldn’t have been taking in the first place?