Antibiotics: Too Much of a Good Thing?

Chances are you’ve needed antibiotics once or twice in your life to deal with some sort of bug. The problem, according to this article, is that antibiotics are now taken as a “cure-all” without really understanding the consequences of misuse.

Antibiotic resistance is a growing concern within the medical community that deserves a broader degree of attention and discussion in mainstream media (and not just in more horror movies). A 2013 CDC report estimates that more than 2 million people in the United States will become sick this year as a result of antibiotic-resistant infections. Of those, 22,000 will die.

In April, the World Health Organization also published its first global report on antibiotic resistance. After gathering data from 114 countries, the report found that resistance to common bacteria had reached “alarming” levels in many parts of the world.

The cause of this serious threat to public health is nothing particularly complicated — nature’s desire to adapt, coupled with our own habits and behavior. Both the CDC and the World Health Organization insist that two of the strongest drivers of antibiotic resistance are overuse and incorrect use. For doctors, this implies prescribing antibiotics when they are not necessary. For patients, it implies not finishing an entire regimen of treatment, or not following proper dosage instructions.

So what can be done? According to the article, we need more responsible patients and doctors. While new classes of antibiotics will eventually be discovered, development is slow and expensive. Hence, our homes, pharmacies and doctors’ offices are the places where you and I can make the biggest difference. Small steps, such as following dosage directions, could help safeguard one of the greatest tools in modern medicine.

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