New research indicates that people throughout the United States—especially in the Southeast— heavily overuse antibiotic drugs, which may accelerate the rate at which the drugs become useless as bacteria develop resistance to the medications.
The research, conducted by Extending the Cure, found that between 1997 and 2007 the number of antibiotics prescribed on the whole actually fell by about 12 percent, but the number of people who misguidedly take too many rounds of antibiotics rose. The overconsumption of antibiotic drugs is “alarmingly” higher in the Southeast when compared to States in the Pacific Northwest, the research says.
Among States with the highest antibiotic use in the Nation are West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana and Alabama. Extending the Cure contends that the high usage rates stem from patients demanding antibiotics from their doctors for illnesses caused by viruses, like cold and flu, which are not eliminated by antibiotics.
According to the research, the consequences of antibiotic overuse create a destructive cycle. Antibiotic resistance among bacteria increases—the drugs are already about seven times less effective against E. coli—so doctors prescribe more powerful antibiotics. The cycle accelerates until the drugs, no matter how powerful, might ultimately become completely ineffective against the resistant “superbugs” that the World Health Organization says these pharmaceuticals will help to create.