December 6, 2012
Dangers of Overusing Antibiotics
Many Americans today expect that when they go to the doctor, for whatever that happens to be ailing them, that they will receive antibiotics. This is the general practice of many physicians, not because they are ignorant to the ramifications but rather because they do not want to take the time to attempt to explain to their patient why it is unnecessary. The consequences of overusing antibiotics are not only the side-effects of these medications but also new, more resilient forms of bacteria emerging that would be immune to many of the antibiotics on the market today.
To understand the way antibiotics work, first one must understand what they actually do. Antibiotics, also referred to as antibacterials, are a group of medications that hinder or inhibit the development of microscopic organisms called bacteria. Antibiotics are commonly prescribed to defend against many illnesses caused by bacteria. These ailments include tuberculosis, meningitis and salmonella. Not all bacteria are harmful to humans, but the ones that are harmful can not always be fought off by one’s first line of defense, the immune system (“What”). In those instances, antibiotics act as a boost to the immune system and kill off the harmful organisms. Another type of organism that may cause illness in humans is the result of a virus. Viruses are unaffected by antibiotics and therefore antibiotics are unnecessary; many viruses should be left to run their course (“The Dangers”).
The most damning consequence of overuse of antibiotics is the creation of bacteria that are capable of surviving a course of many of the antibiotics in use today. According to Dr. Martin Blaser, head of the medical department of medicine at New York University Langone Medical Center, “Overprescribing [antibiotics] can cause antibiotic resistance,” and “An overuse of antibiotics may be changing our entire bacterial...