Health & Wellness

15 Dec 2020 admin

THE DANGERS OF OVERPRESCRIBING & MISUSING ANTIBIOTICS

If you’ve had the flu or cold in recent times, then chances are that you’ve visited your doctor hoping to get an antibiotic prescription. If you’ve done that, then you should know that sometimes getting antibiotics may be an unnecessary treatment and may even cause you more harm in the long run.

What are antibiotics?

What are antibiotics?

Antibiotics are a group of medications used to treat various bacterial infections. Many bacteria exist as harmless organisms, with some even being beneficial, like probiotics in your digestive system. However, pathogenic bacteria that make people sick also exist. These are the types of bacteria antibiotics are typically used to kill.

Bacteria are not the only infectious organisms that can make you sick. Viruses may also be responsible for many diseases in humans, even though some of their symptoms may be similar to bacterial infections. For example, strep throat caused by the bacteria streptococcus pyogenes causes sore throat, as do other viral throat infections.

Antibiotic Misuse

Although antibiotics are essential medications with far-reaching benefits, they cannot treat all infections. As a result, they are meant to be used with proper regulation. When you use antibiotics for infections that are not bacterial or use them casually without an accurate diagnosis, you are misusing antibiotics. People who misuse antibiotics often:
  • Use antibiotics for viral infections
  • Self-diagnose and purchase medication online without proper usage dose.
  • Don’t follow the doctor’s prescription on dosage, type, and duration of antibiotics.
  • Use leftover antibiotics from past prescriptions.

Overprescribing Antibiotics

This is a form of antibiotic misuse where a physician prescribes antibiotics when it is not necessary. It could involve prescribing the medication in the absence of a bacterial infection or prescribing a broad-spectrum antibiotic (kills a wide range of bacteria) instead of a narrow-spectrum antibiotic (kills more specific bacteria). A survey by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that about 30% of all antibiotics prescriptions by physicians were unnecessary.

Common reasons why antibiotics are overprescribed are the doctor choosing to start a patient on an antibiotic before running a confirmatory test or while waiting for test results. Patients also have a role to play. It is not uncommon for patients to request antibiotics during a doctor’s visit, with some patients pressuring the doctor to write an antibiotic prescription for them.

What Happens When You Misuse Antibiotics?

Aside from the fact that antibiotics will not treat non-bacterial infections and probably leave you feeling sick for longer when you misuse antibiotics the following instances may occur:

Kill non-harmful and beneficial bacteria

There are non-harmful bacteria in different parts of your body that you can kill by misusing antibiotics. In your gastrointestinal system alone, you have over 100 trillion non-harmful and beneficial bacteria that aid in proper digestion. These beneficial bacteria also support immunity as their presence suppresses other infectious organisms’ activity that may be harmful to you. Additionally, these non-harmful bacteria called normal flora in some parts of your body also help maintain optimal pH, supporting normal biological processes.

When you misuse antibiotics, you can kill these bacteria and affect your body’s normal balance. You may also be exposing yourself to diseases caused by the presence of antibiotic-resistant harmful bacteria that can now grow in the absence of the ‘good bacteria.

Bacterial Resistance

Bacteria are continually evolving and trying to evade medication. When you misuse antibiotics, some bacteria may change or “evolve” to resist the medication. They can do this by either developing structures to inhibit the medication’s action on them or naturalize the medication. This is also called antibiotics resistance. Bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics can further replicate, passing on their resistant properties. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria can also transfer their resistant properties to other bacteria without replicating through a process called horizontal gene transfer.

Bacterial resistance makes it difficult to treat bacteria-related diseases. According to the World Health Organization WHO, antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development. A report titled “When Antibiotics Fail” from the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) discovered that an average of 26% of bacterial infections recorded in Canada in 2018 was resistant to first-line treatment. This is a problem as this means that if bacteria continue to grow resistant to antibiotics, more people will develop severe and most likely fatal complications from bacterial infections that used to be treatable.

Effects of Bacterial Resistance on Health Costs

Treating a patient affected by antibiotic-resistant bacteria requires more expertise, treatment, and more extended hospital stays. These factors influence the total cost required to treat a patient. Based on CCA’s report, treating patients infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria in 2018 cost the Canadian healthcare system more than 1 billion Canadian dollars. Patients have to pay more than what used to be required to get quality treatment.

Increased Risk of death

Increased resistance to antibiotics means more and more people will die from bacterial infections. In 2018, it was estimated that 14,000 deaths in Canada were linked to antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections, with 5400 of these deaths directly attributed to antibiotic resistance. Many bacteria already have growth resistance to some of the strongest antibiotics currently available. If resistance continues to climb and reaches 40% by 2050, it is postulated that Canada may record up to 13,000 deaths annually due to antibiotic-resistant bacteria infections.

What Can You Do to Avert This Danger?

  • Don’t self-medicate with antibiotics not prescribed by your physician.
  • Ensure to follow your physician’s prescription and advice about using antibiotics
  • Don’t demand or pressure your physician into writing an antibiotic prescription for you when they insist you don’t need them.
  • Don’t use or give out leftover antibiotics.
  • Live a clean and healthy lifestyle to prevent infections.

Do you have symptoms you would like to share with a doctor? We can connect you to a doctor as soon as possible to get the best treatment options available for you. Get connected with a doctor at MD Connected by visiting www.mdconnected.ca 

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