'Antibiotics', the cure-all?

I have a somewhat aged neighbor who believes that ‘antibiotics’ is the answer to every sniffle, cough, fever, and ache. She squirrels away prescription antibiotics – including those prescribed to other people she knows who let her have the pills. At the moment, she’s treating a cold with some kind of unlabeled pink/dark blue pill she kept stored in a glass jar.

Is there a danger in re-using prescription antibiotics? I’m going to assume that’s what the pills are; despite her not having the original bottle or name. Does it even do anything for the common cold?

Colds are caused by viruses and as such, antibiotics do precisely zero in treating one. The risks in taking unidentified medication should be obvious.

Many dangers. Including

  • antibiotics (at least tetracycline-based versions) are one of the few drugs that can actually degrade into something dangerous after their exp. date

  • she could have any number of bad interactions with any other meds she is on

  • the biggest danger is that she’s helping to breed antibiotic-resistant pathogens, like MRSA

  • and no, it will do nothing to stop viruses like the cold
    In short, she’s a dummy, and she’s endangering herself and creating dangerous strains of bacteria that can endanger thousands of others.

Antibiotics only work on bacteria, and certain ones only work on certain types of bacteria. Assuming any antibiotic will work on any microbe infection in any part of the body is not true.

If she is worried about infections, she might want to increase her levels of vitamin D, vitamin A, protein or zinc (which affect immune function) as well as take a garlic extract like allimax when she gets sick.

Antibiotics are not a cure-all (even though people treat them as such). Antibiotics only work on bacteria, they will not work on any infection caused by viruses. Also, not all antibiotics are created equal, there are many different classes of antibiotics, and not all classes will work on all bugs. Certain antibiotics only effect Gram positive bacteria, others Gram negative, and some work on both. There are also bacteria that have grown resistant to certain antibiotics, so you have to use a different (not necessarily stronger) antibiotic.

Also, by not taking a complete course of antibiotics, all it does is kill off the weaker bacteria, letting the stronger ones survive and reproduce. This is one of the major causes of resistance. You should never use someone elses antibiotics, and you should take them for the entire prescribed course. There should never be left over antibiotics.

Antibiotics are a wonderful medication, but until people start using them correctly, resistance will spread. Since there are no or few new classes of antibiotics coming out anymore, it will get to the point that antibiotics don’t work anymore. There might be a time like again like there was before the discovery of penicillin, where people die of a simple bacterial infection.

At the very least shes messing up her gut flora and will most likely have stomach upsets and digestion issues until they can rebreed.

On top of that alot of antibiotics have a short shelf-life. So she’s just giving her a placebo if its old enough.

I guess there’s a chance she could be a breeding ground for some horrible disease, but if shes just feeding them to a virus, which does nothing, then its kinda unlikely. The worst case scenario is if actually got some serious staph infection and has been half assing it with the antibiotics to make help produce a resistant strain like MRSA.

Frankly, shes just an ignorant person and other ignorant people should not be giving her their antibiotics. How the hell do they have any to spare. They should be finishing them, not giving them to hypochondriacs.

The real issue here is that lots of people are not finishing their meds. Why is this happening?

I’m probably a mix between your neighbor and “the right thing”. I keep a few spares lying around for when I get a throat infection but don’t want to sell out to the man and go to the doctor and pay for prescriptions.

Colds and the flu? No. I know better than to do that.

Now, before you all tell me that I am starting the next superbug that will make humans extinct, how many doctors out there give their patients prescriptions for antibiotics whenever they whine for them? That’s right. So, I just cut out the middle man.

If you take an incomplete course of antibiotics, you could end up wiping out your benign natural bacterial flora, leaving you more susceptible to infection (insufficient antibiotic to kill off the nasties, nothing left to compete with them for resources)

Haven’t you got this bit backwards? It’s wrong, but other people do it, so it’s right?

Do you take a full course? If so how do you get a script for them if you dont need them? Or are you simply not taking a full course ever and keeping the remainders?

It is not true that antibiotics only kill bacteria. Antibiotics can be used to kill other types of pathogens such as certain fungi and protozoans. It is true, however, that they will not kill viruses, such as those responsible for colds, flu, and many other diseases.

Furthermore, not all antibiotics kill the same types of pathogen, even all types of bacterium, equally well. That is why we have doctors, who are trained to diagnose which particular pathogen is causing your symptoms, and to know which particular antibiotic (if any) is likely to cure it.

Antibiotics are, in general, poisons (hence the name), that are almost certainly harming your own body when you take them. The trick is to select a poison (and a dosage and regimen) that will kill off the pathogens before it can do any significant harm to you. Most of us (basically, all of us without medical training) do not have the knowledge to do this, and if we self-medicate with antibiotics we are almost inevitably doing ourselves more harm than good.

In short, Aquilla’s neighbor, and jtagain, are fools who are endangering both themselves and others.

Thanks for all the answers!

I pretty much suspected it was a bad idea, but having other people agree helps.

Now to come up with a polite way of saying ‘Stick to DayQuil for colds’ ^^; It feels as if this is at the level of a superstition with this person. I generally don’t try to argue with superstitions, after a particularly explosive conversation as to why keeping a metal spoon inside a flour bag isn’t going to magically keep bugs away – but in this case, I think that not saying anything is doing more harm than good.

I was recently on a course of anti-biotics for a skin complaint. I was warned that excessive doses (and in some people; alergic reactions) can turn skin grey.

Does she look like a Nebari? ¬_¬

My in-laws are snowbirds who spend every winter in a trailer park in Yuma, Arizona. They go across the boarder to Mexico and buy huge jars of Amoxicillin which they gobble like vitamins, and also take back to their friends up north. They insist that antibiotics cure colds, and information to the contrary is a conspiracy by pharmaceutical companies. They insist their doctor has told them to get all the Amoxicillin they can, and take it routinely.

It’s not an issue I can discuss with them. When they talk about it, I sit and stare at a wall.

Look worried, and ask if she has “feminine itching”, or frequent yeast infections, depending on how salty she is. Antibiotics are a great tool, but they can kill off the good bacteria as well as the bad stuff. Killing off the good bacteria can cause the normal yeast organisms that are always present in the vagina to grow unchecked. This is particularly troublesome in diabetics. Every time the doctor gives me a prescription for an antibiotic, I always ask for a prescription for Diflucan (oral antiyeast medicine) as well.

Back when I was getting cellulitis on a regular basis, my doctor allowed me to keep a prescription for an antibiotic at home, as I ALWAYS seemed to come down with that shit on Friday evening, and I hated going to the ER to get two bucks’ worth of erythromycin prescribed. When I had an attack, I’d just send my husband down to the pharmacy to turn in the prescription. However, my doctor knew that I could recognize the onset of this infection, and also knew that I hated taking antibiotics if I didn’t absolutely have to.

Maybe they’re doctor got sick of arguing with them like you have, and was like “I won’t write you a script, but if you want to go to Mexico and get all you want, be my guest.”

Lord knows that’s what I’d eventually say if I was a doctor and had an idiot patient clambering for drugs they didn’t need, and at the same time wouldn’t listen to reason.

Knowing the right anti-biotic to prescribe is one of the things that they teach really smart people in med school. Taking the wrong kind of antibiotic can have no effect and give the bacteria more time to grow and give it resistance to the right kind of antibiotic when the sick moron finally gets to a real doctor. And some antibiotics turn bad. There is a reason that the law only allows doctors to practice medicine: people with lesser qualifications can do great damage. Prescription drug abuse can have deadly effects, including antibiotic abuse.
As many others have noted, antibiotics work on bacteria. There are over a thousand kinds of antibiotics and there are more bacteria than are known to science. Combine that with the fact that a “healthy human organism” has more bacteria cells than “human” cells, and you don’t want to willy nilly kill off the good bacteria. They serve all sorts of useful functions including digestion and warding off bad bacteria. They also tell me to keep posting lots.

To clarify, an antibiotics abuser is less likely to breed new strains as to be a tremendous help in spreading the ones that already exist.

Do you think that the average doctor does this complex calculation to get the right mix of “poison” that will cure you? Of course not. They see a swollen throat, and try a regimen of antibiotics first to see if it goes away.

I’m not waiting in a doctor’s office when I’m sick for him to do what I know to do.
I don’t call a plumber when I can fix the leaky faucet by myself.

And if I am a fool for doing this, what of 90% of the doctors who hand them out like chiclets? Why should I pay 80 bucks for an office visit when he is doing the same thing I am?

jtgain has not yet answered where he gets these antibiotics and whether he always takes a full course treatment of the same.