Are You Unknowingly an ANTIBIOTIC Addict?
Why You Should Kick This Addiction Now …
© 2011 Health Realizations LLC
Each year more than 133 million prescriptions for antibiotics are given to non-hospitalized patients. Of them, 50 percent are estimated to be unnecessary because they’re prescribed for colds, coughs and other illnesses caused by viruses.
Antibiotics are useless against viruses like upper respiratory infections, measles, mumps, chickenpox, flu, and gastroenteritis, yet many people expect to get a prescription for the drugs when they visit their doctor.
Before you take another antibiotic, ask your doctor if it’s really necessary – and remember, antibiotics are useless against viruses like upper respiratory infections, measles, mumps, chickenpox, flu and gastroenteritis.
Even in hospitals, where 190 million doses of antibiotics are administered each day, the drugs are often unnecessary. One recent study found that hospital patients often receive antibiotics even when it’s known they have viral infections.
Out of 196 patients diagnosed with viral infections, the researchers found 125 were given antibiotics nonetheless. About 37 percent of these patients had abnormal chest x-rays that signaled a potential bacterial infection as well, making the antibiotics warranted, but as the researchers noted in EurekAlert -- "It is less clear why the remaining 63% of patients with normal chest imaging were prescribed antibiotics.”
“The reasons for continuation of antibiotics in the treatment of the majority of patients with normal radiographs are unclear and may represent inappropriate use,” they also wrote.
Are You Using Antibiotics Unnecessarily?
If you have a bacterial infection, antibiotics can save your life. But if you’re an antibiotic addict -- someone who has asked your doctor for antibiotics to treat every sniffle and cough -- there’s a good chance that, like the boy who cried wolf, those antibiotics will no longer work when you really need them.
You may think, what’s the harm in taking them? If they work, great, and if not, no big loss. But in reality, there’s a major risk posed from taking antibiotics unnecessarily, both to you personally and on a societal level.
The more you take antibiotics, the greater your risk of developing resistance to them becomes. In fact, a new study found that people whose doctors over-prescribe antibiotics can develop drug resistance that lasts for up to one year.
"The effect is greatest in the month immediately after treatment, but may last for up to a year, and this residual effect may be a driver for high levels of resistance in the community," Alastair Hay, a consultant senior lecturer in primary health care at Bristol University, who led the research, told Reuters.
So you are doing yourself no favors at all by taking antibiotics when you don’t really need them. Among the hospital patients in the above-mentioned study (who were given antibiotics despite clear chest x-rays), not only did they not benefit from the treatment, but a significant number were infected with the potentially deadly superbug called C. diff -- which is associated with antibiotic use.
Further, close to 100,000 people are treated in emergency rooms every year due to adverse reactions to antibiotics, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- so the drugs are far from harmless.
What is Antibiotic Overuse Doing on a Societal Level?
Antibiotics are necessary to prevent potentially deadly bacterial infections, but increasing numbers of organisms are fast become resistant to the drugs. According to Reuters, treating infections from just six drug-resistant bacteria now cost the United States more than $1.87 billion a year, which is more than the annual cost of treating the flu.
Worldwide, superbugs account for more than 2.5 million infections, about 100,000 deaths and billions of dollars in medical costs each year, according to Dr. Philip Tierno, director of Clinical Microbiology and Immunology at the Langone Medical Center at New York University.
A new paper in the Lancet Infectious Diseases medical journal, by Professor Tim Walsh and colleagues, refers to a type of gene called NDM 1, which easily transfers between enterobacteriaceae bacteria (which includes E. coli and other types), making such bacteria resistant to antibiotics. NDM 1 is already widespread in other areas of the world, such as India, but it’s now showing up in the United States as well.
Walsh told The Guardian:
"In many ways, this is it … This is potentially the end. There are no antibiotics in the pipeline that have activity against NDM 1-producing enterobacteriaceae. We have a bleak window of maybe 10 years, where we are going to have to use the antibiotics we have very wisely, but also grapple with the reality that we have nothing to treat these infections with."
Bacteria are very savvy when it comes to resisting the effects of antibiotics. They can “learn” how to neutralize the antibiotic before it can do harm, or pump the antibiotic out before it can do any damage. Others can even change the site the antibiotic attacks so it doesn’t affect the bacteria’s function.
Bacteria can even become antibiotic resistant because of a mutation in their genetic material or by acquiring parts of DNA from resistant bacteria. If even one bacteria is able to survive an antibiotic, it can quickly multiply and replace the bacteria that were killed off.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
“Antibiotic resistance has been called one of the world's most pressing public health problems. Almost every type of bacteria has become stronger and less responsive to antibiotic treatment when it is really needed."
These antibiotic-resistant bacteria can quickly spread to family members, schoolmates, and co-workers -- threatening the community with a new strain of infectious disease that is more difficult to cure and more expensive to treat. For this reason, antibiotic resistance is among CDC's top concerns …
If a microbe is resistant to many drugs, treating the infections it causes can become difficult or even impossible. Someone with an infection that is resistant to a certain medicine can pass that resistant infection to another person. In this way, a hard-to-treat illness can be spread from person to person. In some cases, the illness can lead to serious disability or even death.”
What Can You Do?
First, cut down on your exposure to antibiotics by only taking them when they’re absolutely necessary, and do not pressure your health care provider to prescribe antibiotics if you do not have a bacterial infection.
According to the American College of Physicains:
“Both physicians and patients have a role to play in decreasing the misuse of antibiotics. Antibiotics should only be prescribed when a test (such as a throat culture) shows that there is a bacterial infection present. Antibiotics are not effective in fighting a viral infection.
Even so, patients often demand that their physicians prescribe antibiotics when they are not needed. Taking antibiotics when you have a viral infection not only wastes your time and money, but also contributes to increasing antibiotic resistance.
Patients should ask their doctor if they have a viral or bacterial infection and which tests have been done to prove this. Physicians too, must change their prescribing practices and only prescribe antibiotics for their patients when a bacterial infection is present.”
If you are taking antibiotics, be sure you take them as prescribed and finish the entire treatment. If you stop too soon, some bacteria may survive and re-infect you, but this time be resistant to treatment.
Next, purchase organic meat and dairy products (which are antibiotic-free). This will not only help your family directly, but you’ll also be sending a message to agribusiness that you won’t support farming practices that endanger the environment and public health.
About 70 percent of all antibiotics produced in the United States are given to livestock and poultry, which you then feed to your family.
Further, when drugs are excreted in waste, the compounds linger in the environment. In the case of livestock waste, the antibiotic-laced manure is spread directly onto farm crops as fertilizer. From there it may run off into nearby streams.
The result is that bacteria is able to mutate into strains that are resistant to the widely spread antibiotics, paving the way for infections that cannot be easily cured. Agricultural antibiotic use is a major contributor to the increasing number of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
You can also trade in your antibacterial soaps and cleansers for natural varieties, as these harsh chemicals may be contributing to the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria too.
Build Up Your Natural Defenses
The key to protecting yourself against pathogens of all kinds is to build your own natural immunity, and one way you can do this is by changing your inner environment so unfriendly bacteria cannot take over. The way to do this is to make sure you have enough good bacteria present to keep the bad bacteria at bay.
Studies have shown that probiotics may be helpful with both immune system modulation and allergies, plus they’re imperative if you’ve recently been on antibiotic therapy. It’s a simple step that may help keep you and your family in the best health possible.
Cultured foods, things like kefir (a fermented milk drink that tastes like tart yogurt) and traditionally fermented sauerkraut, natto and other fermented vegetables are also among the best sources of probiotics around. So, in addition to taking a high-quality probiotic, adding these probiotic-rich foods to your diet is also important.
As you transition to a more natural, healthier lifestyle using some of the tips described in this article, your need for antibiotics will likely go down and your immune system will take over in helping to defend you against bacteria, viruses and other contagious diseases.
Also, in the event that you do need to take antibiotics, be aware that they will not only kill the bad bacteria in your body -- they’ll kill the good kind too. So anytime you finish a course of antibiotics, be sure to “re-seed” your intestinal tract with beneficial bacteria.
Antibiotics are linked to side effects in their own right, including tendon rupture, allergic reactions, diarrhea, upset stomach and vaginal yeast infections in women. Around 100,000 people visit emergency rooms each year due to bad reactions to antibiotics.
Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology 2010 Nov;31(11):1177-83.
EurekAlert September 22, 2010
Reuters.com May 18, 2010
The LancCDC.gov Antibiotic Resistance Questions & Answers
et Infectious Diseases September 2010 Vol. 10 No. 9 pp 597-602
The Guardian August 12, 2010
American College of Physicians: Antibiotic Resistance