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Keywords:

  • health care barriers;
  • Hispanic/Latino;
  • self-care;
  • self-prescription

ABSTRACT Objective: Self-prescription involves the purchase and use of restricted medications without medical advice. Although common in Central and South American countries, little is known about this practice among Latino immigrants in the United States. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to explore how Latino immigrants obtain and use prescription medications without accessing the formal health care system.

Design: This exploratory descriptive study used focus groups to gain an understanding of the use of prescription medications without medical care.

Sample: Three focus group discussions were held with 19 adult Latino immigrants who were new residents in the United States, and did not have health insurance; most were undocumented.

Results: Analysis of the data revealed 4 major themes: (a) health care barriers, (b) cultural norms, (c) self-care, and (d) self-prescription.

Conclusions: The data indicate that this population experiences significant barriers to accessing health care, forcing them to seek treatment alternatives including the purchase and use of drugs manufactured in Mexico. There are many public health and safety concerns related to self-prescription practices. Nurses need to be aware of the barriers to health care that lead to these potentially dangerous medication practices, and to recognize and understand self-prescription.