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Over-medicated and under-educated

In Children and Family, Education, Health, Media, National News, Opinion, psychology, Science, Senior Lifestyle, Technology, Uncategorized on September 18, 2013 at 9:18 am

DIH LOGOA recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.) noted that at as many as two-million Americans become ill from antibiotic-resistant infections annually, killing at least 23,000. The report notes that less than half of the antibiotics prescribed for patients are unnecessary or incorrectly used increasing the potential for more drug-resistant germs to evolve, exacerbating the problem.

Over time, the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics rather than ones targeting specific infections can cause various strains of bacteria to become immune and render conventional treatment ineffective. According to C.D.C. Director, Thomas Frieden, as the trend towards overuse of antibiotics continues, “The medicine cabinet may be empty for patients with life-threatening infections in the coming years.” Additionally, the overuse of antibiotics on farms as preventative medicine in healthy animals is also a contributing factor.

All of that said, these drugs are not prescribing themselves. Doctors know better than to continually prescribe broad-spectrum antibiotics unnecessarily or to treat viral infections, for which the drug is completely ineffective. But, many still do both, either at the insistence of the patient or as a preventative measure. Beyond the issue of nagging patients who want a prescription every time they have a sniffle is the point where the medical professional should say, “no.”

medsIn addition to antibiotics, it seems as though doctors are passing out a pill for everything and never seem to try to dig deep enough to address the real cause of various health problems.  For people with chronic illness it seems like that would be extremely frustrating. Apart from something like long-term, degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s or Multiple Sclerosis, there should be a way to find the cause to a problem and treat that, rather than just trying to drown the symptoms in medication.

More often than not, patients get, maybe, 10 minutes with their doctor after a two-hour office wait only to be handed a prescription and shuffled out the door. People spend far more time filling out forms and waiting to be seen than ever actually getting attention from a person who bills hundreds of dollars an hour for a few minutes work per patient.

An additional problem arises when the drug manufacturers spend far more time and money marketing to the patient than educating the physician about the proper use and potential hazards of a medication. However unethical it should be, doctors are given trial samples and kick-backs for going with one drug-over another. All the while, patients are inundated by drug ads on television, the Internet and in periodicals with no understanding of the treatment process.

Which actually contributes to another step in the downfall of health care is the all-knowing, internet-browsing patient himself. These home-spun experts come in with a fist-full of self-diagnosis printouts from Web MD and a stack of drug ads from Cosmo.  They demand medication for what they are certain is their particular ailment and there is no swaying their shade tree expertise. Except that’s exactly what the doctors should be doing – dissuading them and refusing to prescribe medicine without a thorough examination of the problem.

So what is to be done? Unfortunately, not much can be done. Unless healthcare providers are going to be more proactive and limit use of antibiotics except for targeted need, and other drugs are prescribed only after the cause of the symptoms is determined, it’s unlikely that anything will change soon.

It just seems as if everyone is sick all the time. Chronic illness like fibromyalgia (long-term, body wide tenderness and pain) seem to be affecting more and more people and early-onset dementia appears to be far more common than it once was. Could these diseases the result of long-term misuse of various drugs, including antibiotics?

The truth is, no one really knows for sure. Many of these drugs are relatively new and scientists are only now learning how the long-term use of previous medications is affecting second and third generations. From birth defects to chronic disease, overuse of drugs and under-education of patients definitely has the potential for some serious side effects.

 

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