Are You (or your Doctor) Overusing Antibiotics?

How Do Antibiotics Work?

Antibiotics are a group of medicines used to fight harmful bacteria in the body. When Penicillin was discovered in 1920, it was very effective in fighting bacterial infections that, before that time, were deadly. There is no doubt that the original discovery of antibiotics changed the world as we know it and led to the development of the many different types of antibiotics we have today. But, the overuse of antibiotics can cause harmful side effects and antibiotic resistance.

How are Antibiotics Abused?

Part of the reason antibiotics are over-prescribed is that patients demand them more than almost any other drug. Doctors have also been prescribing antibiotics so regularly for years that many of them are just, “following old habits” by prescribing them so often(CNN).Over 47 million unnecessary prescriptions for antibiotics are written every year in the United States alone. There are two types of antibiotic abuse; one occurs when antibiotics are prescribed but not needed; and the other is when the wrong antibiotic, wrong dosage or wrong duration is prescribed. Patients should remember that antibiotics do not help with viral infections, colds or flu, bronchitis and many types of sore throats. Taking antibiotics for these may cause side effects such as diarrhea and may lead to resistance.

Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotic resistance occurs when the antibiotic loses its ability to fight off and kill the bacteria. When this happens, the harmful bacteria continue to grow making the patient sick. Due to antibiotic abuse, many types of bacteria have become resistant even to the strongest antibiotics.

Safe Use of Antibiotics

The best thing a patient can do is to discuss with their doctor the best course of treatment for their illness. The doctor will then properly determine whether the infection is serious enough to warrant the use of antibiotics or if its best that the illness runs its course. Antibiotics should ONLY be taken for bacterial infections and not viral ones and it is extremely important to take the proper dosage and to finish all pills prescribed. Patients should alsonever use another person’s antibiotics. If used properly and safely, antibiotics can remain a powerful tool in fighting harmful infections.

Sources Cited:

  1. Antibiotics Aren’t Always the Answer;
  2. N.A.R.M.S;
  3. The Danger of Antibiotic Abuse;
  4. Antibiotics all you need to know;