Ξ October 25th, 2006 | → 22 Comments | ∇ Costa Rica, Health and Welfare, Life in Costa Rica, Retire to Costa Rica |
Pharmacies in Costa Rica are quite different than those you find in North America. A regente or pharmacist runs each pharmacy. Most, if not all, also have their doctorate. They can provide a lot of help in choosing medicines and providing good advice.
The services are quite different. You can get an injection or you can buy a pill. Yeah… one pill… or 6… or 11. Many people here cannot afford a whole bottle, so they can buy just what they need for 1 or 2 days, then return to buy more if needed.
One of the good… or bad… things about a Costa Rican drugstore (aka droguería but far more common in Costa Rica, farmacia) is that you can also buy just about any prescription drug you want without a prescription.
While this seems like a great deal, and maybe it is, when a person makes the decision to self-medicate, to buy a prescription drug without a physician’s advice, the burden of making the correct decision is removed from the hands of the doctor and placed squarely in the hands of the person buying that prescription.
I was faced with this a bit less than a year ago when I decided to quit my multi-pack per day smoking habit. A doctor buddy in the US recently quit smoking by using Wellbutrin, an anti depressant. At first blush, this seemed a bit over the top as I had heard that anti-depressants have a lot of side effects and can have many interactions with other drugs. In any case, they should not be taken without a doctor’s approval. Still… my habit of smoking 4-5 packs a day was a tad over the top as well, so I decided to do some investigating.
My friend swore that taking Wellbutrin daily really cut back on the withdrawal symptoms and I believed him, as he was a 2 pack per day man himself. I checked with my local farmacia and, of corse, Wellbutrin was available from stock, no prescription needed. At $56.00 for 15 day supply, this was not going to be a cheap experiment, but 4 packs (minimum) of cigarettes per day @ $1.25 per pack was also not cheap. Actually, $150.00 per month if you do the math, so $112.00 for Wellbutrin was not too out of line.
So I got onto the Internet and downloaded a whopping 149 pages of documentation and drug trial information about Wellbutrin. I decided there was nothing in my health profile that indicated taking the drug would cause problems, and it could do me no harm based on what I read. If successful, my health would certainly be at less risk than continuing the smoking.
Surprisingly, the Wellbutrin worked exactly as my buddy told me it would, and I pretty much painlessly stopped smoking. It’s been several months now and while I of course occasionally want to smoke, so far I have resisted. I stopped taking the Wellbutrin after about 90 days. BTW, you do not just QUITE taking an anti-depressant. That was NOT covered in all the literature, and stopping cold turkey is a no-no. You have to wind down over several weeks or a month. I spent 4-5 pretty nasty days learning this little fact. Oh well…
My purpose in writing this is not so much to relate my quit smoking thing, but to warn those of you who may be moving, traveling, or living Costa Rica that you must truly be responsible for how you use the drug stores here. For example, taking too many antibiotics can result in your body creating antibiotic resistant strains. A drug interaction, even with a non-prescription drug and be dangerous. Then you really have a problem.
Do your homework and use the Internet as a resource. It contains a staggering about of information needed to safeguard your health.