Dear Living Well Daily Reader,
Think about how many times you’ve been prescribed an antibiotic in your life.
I bet you can’t even wrap your head around the total number.
Personally, I have no idea. I would guess somewhere between 40–50 times. Maybe 60?
But the thing is I’ve been a pretty healthy person. In fact, I’ve even managed to avoid hospitalization as an adult. And I certainly can’t recall 40–60 times in my life that I was sick enough to warrant the use of these bacteria-busting drugs.
So why is this such a common occurrence in my life?
Because it’s a common occurrence in almost everyone’s life. The CDC estimates there are 47 million unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions written in the U.S. annually — and they’re killing hundreds of thousands of people every year.
You see, due to this blatant overuse of these powerful prescriptions, certain strains of bacteria, called superbugs, have mutated and become resistant to antibiotics.
And it’s become such a looming threat to the health of every person on Earth that the United Nations has decided to step in.
Fight the Resistance
According to the CDC, over 2 million Americans suffer from antibiotic-resistant infections every year, and tens of thousands of these cases result in death.
One reason for these alarming stats is because it’s becoming increasingly difficult to treat common infections like pneumonia and urinary tract infections. Not to mention, more and more superbugs are becoming resistant to last-resort medications.
Globally, antibiotic resistance is killing over 700,000 people every year. Many experts believe this number may be much larger, but many cases go unreported because there is no global reporting system in place to monitor antibiotic resistance deaths.
These astronomical numbers have created a global health threat like no other.
And last week, the United Nations declared they are going to fight it.
This declaration requires countries to design a two-year plan that will impede the proliferation of antibiotic resistant bacteria and ensure the potency of antibiotics. This includes ways to monitor antibiotic use in medicine and agriculture. It’s also requires countries to start creating antibiotics that work and controlling the use of the use of existing drugs.
Each country’s plan will be checked by the U.N.’s general secretary after two years to ensure progress.
The U.N. has only had high-level meetings about three other health topics in the past: HIV/AIDS, Ebola and noncommunicable diseases.
Unlike with Ebola and HIV/AIDS, the U.N. is taking measures to curtail the antibiotic resistance problem before it gets out of hand. Though this new plan does not have any hard targets, which leaves a weak spot in the plan.
While the world waits to see if this new plan works, there is one thing you can do to protect yourself from taking unnecessary antibiotics — ask questions.
If your doctor prescribes you an antibiotic, ask them specific questions:
- What illness are you prescribing this for?
- Are you prescribing this for a viral infection? (viral infections cannot be treated with antibiotics)
- How greatly will this drug increase my chances of recovery?
- Are there ways for me to recover from this illness without antibiotics?
Most importantly, tell you doctor you’re concerned about antibiotic resistance and are only interested in taking drugs that will target the specific bacteria that’s making you sick.
Managing editor, Living Well Daily