I can only recall being prescribed antibiotics a few times in my life, due to my family’s tendency to feel like hospitals/clinics were reserved for dire circumstances. Usually choosing to “sweat it out” over a hospital bill and prescription medication, I didn’t know much about antibiotics in general prior to coming to college and becoming a pharmacy technician. I’m much more familiar with them now, in terms of how they are prescribed, the various kinds, the side effects, etc., due to my exposure to them in the pharmacy.
I am still fairly set in my ways when it comes to pursuing professional medical opinions on my health, typically assuming I can handle things on my own. Overall, I’ve developed the mindset that in most cases it isn’t necessary to rush to antibiotics to treat something that your own body could overcome and potentially strengthen your immune system from. There certainly are more serious circumstances where I would accept antibiotics as a course of treatment, but I think there are more important factors to take into consideration when battling something that while inconvenient, can soon be fought off by your body’s own natural defense system.
Since learning about the recent increase in concern over bacterial acquisition of antibiotic resistance, I’m even more wary of potentially overusing our first line of defense. I wouldn’t want to contribute to this widespread problem by giving any pathogenic bacteria the chance to familiarize, mutate, and adapt to antibiotics when the infection could be resolved with time or by other means.
One aspect of antibiotic use that still surprises me is in the minimal education given to the patients. I can’t recall having doctors ever stress to me in the past the importance of finishing the treatment regimen. In fact, I was sorting through a tub of old medications not too long ago and found an vial for antibiotics, prescribed to me my first year of college, with two tablets still inside—a full day’s worth of the seven day course. It’s only been a few years since then and I was shocked that I didn’t even know that long ago what the consequences of stopping early could be.
Doctor’s aren’t the only culprits of failing to stress the importance of a completed regimen, though. I am constantly listening to the pharmacists counsel on ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin, cephalexin, clarithromycin, amoxicillin, penicillin, sulfa antibiotics, etc., all day long at my job. While finishing the course is almost always mentioned, I don’t feel like the patients are made fully aware of the significance of this suggestion. Other than the simple direction to finish it, customers aren’t educated on the reasons why and the possible consequences. If the doctors are not educating the patients, and our pharmacists aren’t, patients will never learn and the bacterial resistance predicament will continue to worsen.