Antibiotics: why we shouldn't abuse them?
Published Nov 19, 2022 • By Rahul Roy
Antibiotics play an important role in treating bacterial infections and preventing disease complications. But overuse of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistant bacteria that can defeat the purpose of these medications.
What are antibiotics? Why do we need them? Why are they being abused? And why shouldn’t we abuse them?
We explain it all in our article!
Antibiotics are medications that are used to fight bacterial infections in humans. The good news is that the discovery of antibiotics has saved millions of people and increased the life expectancy quite dramatically, but the bad news is that it has increased the resistance of bacteria to the drugs causing it to be less or ineffective in some cases.
All bacteria aren’t necessarily bad as there are good bacteria as well, some of which actually keep us healthy. But it is important to understand the distinction between bacterial infections and viral infections as the usefulness of antibiotics is highly dependent on the type of infection.
Antibiotics are used in response to conditions such as strep throat, whooping cough and urinary tract infection, problems arisen due to bacterial infections. Antibiotics are, however, not effective for colds, sore throats and flus, because they are caused by viruses which they have no impact on.
In recent years, the misuse of antibiotics has become a public health concern considering the lack of new medications to treat the increasingly drug resistant bacterial infections. At least 30 percent of antibiotics prescribed in the United States are unnecessary, according to an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
This is why it is important to understand that the responsible use of antibiotics is so crucial.
Why and how are antibiotics being abused?
Antibiotic abuse can stem from either over consumption of antibiotics or consumptions without appropriate prescription. It normally tends to occur because it is considered as a remedy for every illness by the less informed populations. These are the most common scenarios for them to occur-
Wrong type of antibiotics
There are different types of antibiotics that are used to treat different types of bacteria. These antibiotics are grouped into classes and cannot be used interchangeably as it would be ineffective against that type of bacteria. Therefore, it is crucial to take the right type of antibiotic drug.
Incorrect consumption of antibiotic medication
Consuming the antibiotics through the intended route is an important consideration for its intended effectiveness. Antibiotic tablets for example have to be consumed orally, while anti-bacterial creams have to be applied on the skin as prescribed. The correct administration is directly responsible for its effectiveness.
The doctor will prescribe the dosage to combat the bacterial infection depending on the age and weight of the individual. A dose that is too high or too low will not have the intended effect and can potentially cause even more problems.
Consumption at wrong intervals
The antibiotic consumption time and dosage is dependent on the bacterial infection and consuming it at the wrong time could render it ineffective. It is important to consume for the prescribed duration without finishing the course too early even if you start feeling better or too late.
What are the dangers of antibiotic abuse?
There are two main dangers associated with antibiotic abuse-
The use and in particular overuse of antibiotics will lead to bacteria that evolve over generations, growing more resistant to the antibiotics, thus rendering its use ineffective. This can sometimes lead to more serious infections. It can also lead to longer recovery times and more frequent visits to the hospital.
Modern medicine is increasingly reliant on antimicrobials and antibiotics which are used to treat small and life threatening infections alike. So, antibiotic- resistant bacteria is a big problem and needs to be addressed immediately.
Negative Side Effects
Antibiotics can cause various types of side effects which is why they must be responsibly used. These side effects can range from mild effects such as stomach pain or rash to serious conditions such as liver damage and kidney injury. Additionally, when consumed with other medications, this interaction between substances can cause toxic reactions that can harm the body.
Measures that can be taken to prevent antibiotic abuse?
Thankfully there are plenty of measures that can be taken to reduce antibiotic medication abuse-
- Wash hands regularly with soap and water to prevent bacterial infections
- Use antibiotics as prescribed by the qualified health practitioner, in the prescribed quantity and at the prescribed time.
- Never use antibiotics prescribed for another person
- Throw away expired antibiotics
- Prepare food in a hygienic manner using uncontaminated ingredients.
- Do not pressurize the doctor into prescribing an antibiotic for oneself if deemed unnecessary by the health practitioner.
- Increase awareness of antibiotic resistance so people are aware of the pitfalls of antibiotic abuse.
Antibiotic resistance is one of the big dangers of the world and it is considered a high priority point of action for the WHO. It is best to consult a general physician before taking any medication and to follow the instructions of the doctor precisely. Follow the measures stated above and always. So, let us ensure antibiotics do not’ go ‘viral’ for the wrong reasons.
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165 new antibiotic resistant infections every day in England - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Antibiotic Use Questions and Answers | Antibiotic Use | CDC (cdc.gov)
Ways To Prevent Antibiotic Abuse - PharmEasy (pharmeasy.in)
The Danger of Antibiotic Overuse (for Parents) - Nemours KidsHealth (kidshealth.org)
Why antibiotics shouldn't be overused | Antibiotic Resistance | Patient (patient.info)
Dangers of Antibiotic Misuse | Health Plus (mountelizabeth.com.sg)
Misuse, Abuse, And Diversion Of Prescription Antibiotics (forbes.com)
Antibiotics: Know When You Need Them | Atrium Health (atriumhealth.org)