Self-care, though the most common of all forms of therapeutic action, has been little studied. This paper describes the context of self-medication with western pharmaceuticals in an area of South Cameroon (in 1980). The identity and appropriateness of these pharmaceuticals are briefly discussed. The paradoxical character of self-medication is emphasised: improvement in the quality of self-medication implies both growth and loss of self reliance, increase and decrease of medicalisation. People in Cameroon, or indeed anywhere in the Third World, find themselves in a ‘double-bind’.

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