Antibiotics have developed the reputation of being a ‘cure-all’ in today’s society. Whenever a patient is feeling ill for more than a couple of days, his or her first request is to be put on antibiotics. This makes sense, of course. In today’s fast-paced world, people do not have the time to be sick for more than one or two days at a time. Feeling ill for a period any longer than that could result in missing work for more time than allowed, or simply not being able to complete daily responsibilities. Unfortunately, putting antibiotics up on a pedestal has had consequences. A new federal study was recently released that stated nearly 1 in 3 antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessarily given to patients.
Antibiotics, since they have reached such an unreasonably high status, are being prescribed for many conditions that do not require any medication at all. These conditions mostly consist of respiratory issues that only last a short amount of time. For example, a patient with the common cold can request antibiotics if he or she is still experiencing symptoms a few days after its onset. Also, bronchitis is being treated more and more with antibiotics, as are ear and sinus infections.
This overuse of antibiotics can have detrimental effects on patients in the long run. It allows bacteria resistant to antibiotics to grow and flourish. Such bacteria is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans every year.
Those who investigated the misuse of antibiotics in the newly released study found that, out of their sample size, hundreds of unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions were administered for every 1,000 people when respiratory conditions were present. With all other conditions, the number of unnecessary prescriptions was even higher.
Why is it that doctors are giving out antibiotics to those who do not need them? It is speculated that this is because the patients are asking for them. If a patient enters a doctor’s office and asks for antibiotics to feel better, doctors will prescribe them in order to satisfy the patient’s desires. However, doctors must take everything patient’s say with a grain of salt. Usually, when a patient is asking for antibiotics, he or she just wants something to alleviate the symptoms. There are ways to accomplish this besides antibiotics. More communication is necessary between doctors and patients to determine what is actually necessary.
Therefore, it is useful for doctors and patients alike to know what conditions require antibiotics, and which ones will get better without. For example, antibiotics are not useful in the treatment of the common cold, bronchitis, and viral infections.