Antibiotic Habits Breeding Superbugs?

With the recent announcement of a second U.S. case of antibiotic resistant superbugs, Americans may jump to scramble to find ways of increasing their odds of fighting infections.

Isolated cases of superbugs may be alarming, there’s no need to panic – yet it probably won’t do much to deter people from popping back a few extra leftover antibiotics, according to a new survey.

Published in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, the study suggests that the nonprescription consumption of antibiotics may present a small, but notable reason for the rise in resistance to infectious disease.

Adding to the concern that antibiotics are already overused, this research has provided some insight into just how prevalent this issue really is.

Taking antibiotics without a prescription may be worse for your health, and the health of the public.

Taking antibiotics without a prescription may be worse for your health, and the health of the public.

Too many Antibiotics May Be Pro-Superbugs

To start, it was found that one in every 20 adults has hoarded antibiotics from past illnesses in an attempt to use them at a later date without a doctor’s oversight. Researchers have continually expressed their concerns with the rise of drug-resistant bacteria, so this study may come as relatively no surprise to many.

Lead author of the study, Dr. Larissa Grigoryan wrote,

“When people self-diagnose and self-prescribe antibiotics it is likely that the therapy is unnecessary because most often these are upper respiratory infections that are mostly caused by viruses.”

It was found that the most common conditions patients self-treated with antibiotics were sore throat, runny nose or cough – all ailments that don’t typically require antibiotic treatment to be cured.

Dr. Howard Selinger, chair of family medicine at Quinnipiac University School of Medicine expressed alarm at these findings for several reasons. He commented that

“This report on people using previously prescribed antibiotics, for self-diagnosed reasons, is terribly disturbing, potentially dangerous for the individual and clearly detrimental to society as a whole.”

Not only is there a risk for encouraging the development of superbugs, but also other health side effects such as the disruption of bowel bacteria, diarrhea, and conditions that can otherwise be avoided.

Always follow doctor's recommendations when prescribed antibiotics.

Always follow doctor’s recommendations when prescribed antibiotics.

Public Health and Private Prescriptions

According to the study, 5% of people said they had used antibiotics without a prescription in the past year. 1 in 4 participants told researchers they’d use any antibiotics they had on hand, regardless of their clearance to due so from a medical professional.

Overall, 40% of the antibiotics reportedly stashed away came from a store or pharmacy; 20% were purchased outside of the U.S., and were 12% left over from previous prescriptions with 20% supplied by friends or family.

In another 4% of these cases, antibiotics used without a prescription were drugs intended for use in animals – which should be a red flag for obvious reasons.

Grigoryan’s team wrote, “patients from public primary care clinics, those with less education, and younger patients had a higher risk of nonprescription use in our survey.”

Now, the healthcare community is not only concerned with the overprescribing of antibiotics, but also the incomplete consumption of each prescription – leading to major public health concerns through self-diagnosis and the sharing of medications.

Hopefully this study can start to bring awareness to rising concerns of antibiotic-resistant diseases – something that could cause unprecedented dangers when our best medicines are no longer effective.

Author: Connor Smith

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