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June 16, 2021

You may not really need that antibiotic

Am sure you are well versed with potential misuse of prescription drugs. The list of what can get misused, or abused, is endless. The commonly misused drugs include painkillers and sedatives, which in the worst cases can lead to dependence and addiction. But few people may be aware that antibiotics, commonly used to treat bacterial infections, are also liable to misuse.

The misuse of antibiotics is a recurrent problem in the medical world. You see, not all infections are caused by bacteria. And some mild infections don’t really need an antibiotic. But millions of antibiotic prescriptions are dished out every day, sometimes with hardly any medical justification. The problem with that is what is referred to as antibiotic resistance. That means the more the uncontrolled use of antibiotics, the more the likelihood that bacterial infections will not respond to prescribed antibiotics. In the long run, the risk of superbugs that cannot respond to anything becomes real.

The problem of misuse of antibiotics is shared between you and your doctor. Let’s start with you. Do you normally expect an antibiotic prescription every time you have a small ache or itch? Some folk will usually complain that their doctor hasn’t treated them well enough if they leave without an antibiotic. Or do you sometimes self-medicate with antibiotics? You should only use antibiotics when there is objective evidence of a bacterial infection that becomes necessary to treat. Any other way just predisposes you to untreatable infections in the future due to bacterial resistance.

What about doctors? For a multitude of reasons, doctors cannot resist prescribing antibiotics. They are the professionals who are tasked with safeguarding proper use of medications. But the average doctor will prescribe thousands of antibiotics in a lifetime, many times for questionable reasons. The problem is so bad that the UK has recently introduced financial incentives to practices and hospitals that can demonstrate a reduction in antibiotic prescriptions below a certain threshold.

You can play your role and safeguard the misuse of antibiotics. Don’t buy any over the counter without a preliminary medical review. Don’t always expect to have an antibiotic prescribed, even when you might think one is required. Develop the habit of questioning your doctor’s prescriptions. If an antibiotic is in the mix, ask why the doctor thinks it’s required. Could you do without it? The most potent antibiotics should hardly be required for common infections. And once you start taking antibiotics, make sure you complete the prescribed dose. Half-completed doses are a recipe for more bacterial resistance.

Whatever pills you put down your throat with common infections, antibiotics should feature less and less. It doesn’t leave you any worse off, and it helps in the fight against bacterial resistance. Short of that, superbugs may soon wipe out humanity.

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