Jack Simpson: Overuse of antibiotics may threaten future well-being

Jack Simpson

Jack Simpson

There is something going on out there, besides politics, that each and every one of us should be concerned about. Yes, the antibiotics we depend upon are reportedly losing their effectiveness and we may share the blame. These medicines have been overprescribed for years, and their indiscriminate use is placing us in danger.

You know the routine. We get the sniffles and a sore throat, go to the doctor and leave with a prescription to fill at the local pharmacy. We have been doing this for a long, long time; and, one of these days when we get a serious infection, our pills are going to be ineffective.

Not only are bacteria developing resistance, but drug companies are reluctant to invest in finding new drugs to replace those that are now ineffective. It is getting scary to learn there are already infections out there now resistant to available drugs. How do we share the blame for this development? We are constantly being bombarded with messages on television telling us about one drug or another, and then reminded to "ask our doctor" if the drug is suitable for our medical problem. We go to our health care provider, consult, and leave with prescription in hand. Some of the drugs we take are ineffective for minor illnesses like colds or the flu.

People are so concerned about health, they often try to prevent illness by placing antibiotics in animal food or giving the medicines to farm animals. Bacteria in animals transfer to people in some of the food we eat. Antibiotics are truly great, and perhaps we have gone overboard in their use. By so doing, we may be endangering our future well-being.

Studies indicate general practitioners everywhere still prescribe antibiotics for sore throats and colds in spite of official warnings against this practice. Doctors often prescribe to please patients who want the magic bullet found in these drugs. Patients believe the drugs work on any symptoms and haven't been educated otherwise. Meanwhile, there is a growing concern in the medical community that such use may be contributing to drug resistance. The patient's infection may not be bacterial but viral and untouched by certain antibiotics.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has reported there is a "link between routine, non-therapeutic uses of antibiotics on industrial farms and the crisis of antibiotic resistance in humans." Many antibiotics in the United States are given to healthy animals, not citizens.

So people are becoming alert to this growing problem and have taken an interest in preserving the effectiveness of antibiotics. No one wants to see Americans die from sicknesses resistant to available medicines. (Example: Necrotizing fasciitis, flesh-eating bacteria.) We do not want our antibiotics to become ineffective and useless. Maybe we should cut delivery of antibiotics to healthy animals and save the drugs for sick children. The overuse of antibiotics on industrial farms to promote growth in animals may be placing humans in jeopardy. Overprescribing antibiotics may also not be a wise practice.

You and I are not trained medical professionals and can only make suggestions. Prescribing is still up to that doctor we are encouraged on television to consult. "Ask your doctor!" Before asking for an antibiotic, make sure it is appropriate treatment for your medical condition/illness.

Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.