Self-prescription of antibiotics a growing problem

 
By Rebecca Burton • Published: October 21st, 2016
Category: Health in a Heartbeat
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As antibiotics have become a common cure for bacterial infections, adults have become more comfortable self-prescribing this medicine without consulting a physician.

That’s the finding published by Baylor College of Medicine researchers, who surveyed a random sample of 400 adults in Houston. Five percent of those adults reported using antibiotics without a doctor’s prescription during the last year and 25 percent say they would use those medications without contacting a doctor. Fourteen percent of the respondents also said they keep a stash of leftover antibiotics for future use. The researchers say that this is one of the factors contributing to the spread of antibiotic resistance in the U.S.

But how do patients obtain antibiotics without a prescription? Forty percent of these unauthorized medications were purchased in stores and pharmacies in the U.S., and 24 percent internationally. Twenty percent of the pills were supplied by friends or family, and leftovers from previous illnesses accounted for 12 percent. The remainder were prescribed by veterinarians for people’s pets.

Survey respondents reported self-medicating for symptoms such as a runny nose or sore throat, which researchers said are conditions that typically would get better without any antibiotic treatment.

Most of the self-prescribing was done by low-income and minority patients, showing that self-prescribing is sometimes seen as a means to avoid co-payments required by medical clinics.

Experts warn that self-prescribing can cause serious side effects, including antibiotic resistance, and is not effective against common viral infections such as the cold. So if you start to feel sick, put down the pill bottle and call your doctor.