Overuse of Antibiotics

What are Antibiotics

According to the American Heritage dictionary antibiotics are: A substance, such as penicillin or streptomycin, produced by or derived from certain fungi, bacteria, and other organisms, that can destroy or inhibit the growth of other microorganisms. This word was first recorded in 1941, in the works of physician Selman Waksman, the discoverer of streptomycin. In a guide to antibiotics, when they were first discovered they were called “wonder drugs”. It is this attitude that has led to the overuse of antibiotics.

What are the Issues Related to Overusing Antibiotics

Aside from our failure to find cures for diseases such as cancer and aids, the next most serious health issue may ultimately prove to be the unintentional creation of so-called “superbugs.” For the past ten years, the National CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has been conducting major educational campaigns in an attempt to alert Americans as to the rampant overuse and over-prescribing of antibiotics. There are approximately 150-200 million antibiotic prescriptions written each year. It is estimated that as many as 1/3 of these are written unnecessarily. This is due to both the patients’ mistaken belief that antibiotics are the proper treatment for all diseases and the doctors’ failure to take the necessary time to explain the true medical facts or prescribe alternative antibiotics.

Although antibiotics have indeed been a miraculous cure for many bacteria-caused conditions, they are all but useless for treatment of viruses such as those which cause colds and the flu. Regrettably, it seems to be easier for many doctors to acquiesce to a patient’s request for an antibiotic for a cold than it is to explain the reasons why it should not be prescribed, offer an educational guide to antibiotics, or even alternative antibiotics. Since most antibiotics cause no serious side effects, a prescription seems to be harmless.

This is particularly dangerous, for example, with deadly diseases such as pneumonia where the Pneumococcus bug has become alarmingly resistant to most antibiotics. An entire sector of the medical research community is now aggressively working on the creation of new antibiotics as a result. As a general guide to antibiotics it is wise for all of us to learn which diseases are appropriately treated by antibiotics and which are not. It is equally wise for doctors to practice better medicine and cease the unnecessary prescribing of antibiotics or to find alternative antibiotics. Prescribing antibiotics may not have short term side effects but rather very serious long-term ones.

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