As doctors continue over-prescribing antibiotics for all manner of minor illness, Americans have become so convinced that the drugs are a cure-all for any ailment that some are even dipping into antibiotics prescribed for their pets when they have a minor case of the sniffles.
That’s according to new information from medical researchers who were surprised to learn just how many Americans take antibiotics intended for veterinary use.
CNN reported on the findings:
Of the randomly selected adults …, 5% reported using antibiotics without a prescription in the past 12 months, 14.2% stored them at home in case of an emergency, and a whopping 25.4% said they intended to use antibiotics in an unprescribed manner at some time in the future.
The major source of these rogue antibiotics was not people’s pets; that information was volunteered by just 4% of those surveyed. The rest came from more predictable sources: Twenty percent got them from well-meaning friends or family, 12% said they squirreled them away from the last time they were sick, and 24% said they bought them in another country.
The other survey surprise was that 40% were able to buy antibiotics without a prescription in American pharmacies.
The main point here is that Americans are taking antibiotics far more often than they should. And unfortunately, the appetite for antibiotics is setting the stage for a massive public health emergency as the bacteria the drugs are meant to treat develop immunity because of overuse for minor ailments.
Numbers out from the government earlier this year from the Centers for Disease Control and the Pew Charitable Trust, revealed that nearly one-third of prescriptions American doctors write for antibiotics are unnecessary.
That works out to about 47 million unneeded and potentially harmful prescriptions each year.
In many of the cases when prescriptions for antibiotics were written unnecessarily patients had viral illnesses against which antibiotic drugs are powerless. These illnesses include colds, sore throats, bronchitis and flu, among others.
“Antibiotics are lifesaving drugs, and if we continue down the road of inappropriate use we’ll lose the most powerful tool we have to fight life-threatening infections,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement following the release of the CDC/Pew report. “Losing these antibiotics would undermine our ability to treat patients with deadly infections, cancer, provide organ transplants, and save victims of burns and trauma.”