Antibiotics are, by all means, incredibly useful drugs, and they’ve turned what used to be lethal illnesses into mere annoyances (and maybe a day or two off from school or work). That said, they are frequently over-prescribed – and it may be to the detriment of our future health.
Over-Prescription: A Growing Problem
According to CBS’ report on the overuse of antibiotics, the Center for Disease Control recently issued a report that stated four out of five Americans are prescribed antibiotics on yearly basis. Unfortunately, that entire 80% of the American population may not need those antibiotics.
Regrettably, understanding of which illnesses respond to antibiotics and which don’t is not widespread, leading many patients to seek antibiotics for viruses, whether from a doctor or from a friend or family member who may have been previously prescribed antibiotics but had not taken them. Doctors may also prescribe antibiotics based on symptoms that may look like an infection, but are actually caused by a virus.
Why It Matters
The over-prescription of antibiotics can lead to serious consequences, namely antibiotic resistance. Essentially, taking an antibiotic when you don’t need it (or taking an antibiotic improperly, by not finishing a course of treatment) can kill off most but not all of a certain type of bacteria.
The survivors then adapt to learn how to fight off the antibiotic, much like the way humans use immunizations to “learn” to fight off a certain organism.
These bacteria then become resistant to antibiotics, or in other words, the drugs no longer work on them. This can quickly become a huge problem, as illnesses that used to be easy to treat quickly become incurable – and very, very deadly.
Check out this infographic for more information about the superbugs that may become more prevalent in the future if the abuse and misuse of antibiotics continues.