We live in a day and age that prioritizes instant gratification and results over long-term solutions, which may take longer but yield better results. This pattern is reflected in the Western perspective on medicine and treatments, particularly in the use of antibiotics. Antibiotics have wrongfully earned a reputation as the be-all and end-all of treatments for common illnesses, and patients will often press their physicians to supply them with antibiotics, even when such measures are not necessary or harmful.
Beyond reflecting a cultural preference of instant gratification, this issue highlights widespread disregard for other treatment options and the medical training of doctors, as well as a misunderstanding of illnesses.
In a study conducted by Dr. Kathryn A. Martinez, patients rated themselves happiest when a doctor prescribed antibiotic treatment for respiratory tract infections like the common cold, whether or not the drug was necessary to treat the ailment. Such an outlook can have negative consequences because it encourages doctors to prescribe antibiotics when unnecessary to increase ratings. Most sicknesses like the common cold are viral and can’t be improved through antibiotics; however, should a patient express dissatisfaction with a doctor’s judgment not to prescribe antibiotics, the doctor might feel inclined to prescribe them anyway.
The impacts of such a perspective on antibiotics reach beyond social consequences among doctors. Overuse of antibiotics can have negative side-effects like diarrhea and irritating gut flora. It can also lead to greater resistance of bacteria to the antibiotics, leading to the need for more potent antibiotics to treat bacterial ailments. Plenty of research has confirmed that bacteria can evolve to be more resistant to antibiotics and, in extreme cases of antibiotic overuse, can negate any preferable treatment options.
The overuse of antibiotics is not only biologically unsustainable. It’s financially unsustainable. As this market for more aggressive antibiotic treatments grows, so do prices. According to the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics, the average patient facing an antibiotic resistant ailment accrued a medical bill of between $18,588 and $29,069.
In this fast paced day and age, it can be tempting to find the quickest solution to any roadblock in one’s life, so as to not fall behind the rest of the world. However, some roadblocks require momentary hiatus. Individuals that choose to treat a condition in the healthiest or most natural way shouldn’t be penalized for their commitment to their long-term well-being.
Many teachers uphold policies that penalize students for missing class. As a result, students often sacrifice personal well-being to stay on top of studies at all costs. Throwing back a few Emergen-Cs or unnecessarily prescribed antibiotics to keep up with class work is an unacceptable solution to sickness and will only work toward the detriment of student health in the long run.
Patients should work to be more knowledgeable about antibiotics and when they’re needed. At the same time, institutions should be more lenient, if not explicitly supportive, of individuals seeking the best form of treatment for their specific ailments.