Posts Tagged ‘prescription drug abuse’

Antibiotic Resistance…why should we care?

| April 13th, 2011 | No Comments »

MRSA bacteria

I know that I am always happy, intellectually, to have my doctor seriously look at my symptoms and bring up their own knowledge of what bugs are circulating (“…we are seeing a lot of viral infections right now…your symptoms look like that”) when I go in to see about the sore throat, achy body and fever I am suffering. I am delighted that the doctor is taking a stand and trying to be thoughtful about applying the right ‘cure’ and I will not be contributing to the next MRSA infection. Emotionally, I am less happy that I have to suffer when virus is the answer. An article in the April 2-8 edition of The Economist about superbugs, antibiotic resistant bacteria, kick started that intellectual part of me. The article focuses on the ways in which resistance evolves, the costs and risks of super-bugs, and our options for dealing with them – and whether they are palatable. One surprise for me was finding out that Alexander Fleming, the man responsible for identifying the Penicillium mold and its ability to kill bacteria, predicted this risk in his Nobel prize speech in 1945. The article also provided a very pointed reminder about the role economics and human nature play in the medical system and its problems.

The emotional dismay at having to put my life on hold and feel yucky often overwhelms my intellectual knowledge, and I am not alone in that. We know antibiotics exist so we want them to fix all our sore throats and runny noses. Antibiotics are not miracles, we and our doctors know this, but we do not like it.   Doctors lack, even today, the ability to do rapid screening of infection sources that would ensure they never give someone with a virus an antibiotic. This also mean they lack a test result to toss in the face of our emotionalism and make us accept that our aching throat is simply going to be around for 7-10 days and we need to endure.

This is one of the main options examined in “The spread of superbugs”, in The Economist. Patients need to accept that not all infections respond to antibiotics and that using them, necessarily or unnecessarily, creates resistance in bacteria.   The benefit of curing the bacterial infection does outweigh the risk of creating resistant bacteria that can, at least in the case of streptocci bacteria,

streptoccus pyrogenes

endure for up to a year. The same risk/benefit analysis does not apply to treating viral infections with antibiotics. This also ignores the possibility for yeast infections resulting from the depletion of our enterobacteria and the co-occurring impacts the depletion on our digestion and the health of our intestinal tract.

A second issue is the lack of new antibiotics, especially those to treat drug-resistant bacteria, being brought to the market.   Here is where economics start to come in.   Unlike anti-depressants or blood pressure medications antibiotics are a self-eliminating drug. Once you take it you should not need to take it again for some time. The other aspect that cuts into profit, especially for the super-bugs antibiotics, is that the majority of infections occur in poor countries. We tend to hear about outbreaks in hospitals and care facilities, which are the primary hotspots here in Canada, but in poorer countries the problem can be more widespread. Where lack of education about antibiotics and the sale of poor quality and strength drugs are problems, the development of resistant bacterial stains is more common. The same lacks which allow these practices to flourish impede the ability to afford the more expensive treatment needed to treat infections.

Another issue that will directly impact our quality of life here in the first world is the elimination of many non-vital but life improving and functionally beneficial operations. I had never thought of what the potential consequence of an increase in frequency in antibiotic resistant infections in our hospitals might be in terms of our medical care beyond the increased costs. Tummy-tucks and eye lifts are not the procedures I am talking about. I mean cataract surgeries and what the article calls “orthopaedic surgeries”, which I suspect include knee arthroscopies and joint replacements. In a world with an ageing population that has come to expect a level of physical function into their golden years this is daunting prospect.

MRSA - what it looks like to you....




A Viagra Parfait?!?!?!?!

| June 2nd, 2010 | No Comments »

PLEASE NOTE: First published November 15/10 on “Your Body.  Yourself?” – my old blog

I heard the most ridiculous thing on the radio a few minutes ago – and I have four kids so I hear a lot of ridiculous things. Some chefs have whipped up a passion fruit dessert laced with Viagra. They wanted to “reinterpret” the medication into a new kind of aphrodisiac apparently.

Immediately I am trying to figure out how this could work. After all, Viagra is a prescription medication so how can it be sold in food? Is this a BYOBP (bring your own blue pill) deal? Do you have to bring your prescription and show some ID to be served? Do you have to promise that you won’t share a spoon full? I mean come on, if this if supposed to be an aphrodisiac isn’t it almost imperative to share?

Are there chefs out there running renegade from the pharmaceutical boards of the world? Is there about to be an outbreak of tented napkins in finer restaurants everywhere? Is someone going to have heart failure from sampling there neighbours dessert? In a word – NO.

Having heard this ridiculous little tidbit I did what any reasonably tech savvy woman with an interest in wellness would do – I “googled”. I discovered that the dessert in question was prepared for the Gastronomy 2009 fair in Bogota Columbia. How…anti-climatic. Due to the fact that Viagra does require a prescription this little treat will not be publicly available – though I am going to keep “googling” to see how long it takes them to post a recipe.

Ultimately, what I am realizing from this bit of absurdity is my own underlying assumption about prescription medication. The baseline belief that people will do dumb things with medicine. That someone somewhere would be willing to distribute a restricted substance in a gag dessert wasn’t an impossibility for me. I was outraged and could see all kinds of legal issues but I did not immediately assume that this wasn’t something that would happen. What a frightening realization. That we as a culture have become so accepting of the idea that people will abuse prescriptions that I didn’t first question that part of the equation. How sad.

All over the world we have issues with people abusing prescription drugs ranging from narcotic painkillers through to our children’s drugs. Perhaps the pain medication is the most obvious candidate for abuse either by the person to whom it has been given or by someone around them. But psychoactive drugs are also a major issue, from tranquilizers to the Ritalin, a drug most commonly given to children to decrease hyperactivity but abused by others for the speed-like affects it can give those not dealing with AD(H)D.

There are stats and research galore about the problem of prescription drug abuse. The links below will lead you to explore some interesting and informative articles. LINKS: Hamilton, ON statistics – check out the table on page two for a quick summary, a slide show of commonly abused presscription drugs, a local Victoria researcher comments about our attitudes towards pharmacauticals. Of course for those into less empirical research just pick up a copy of People, US, or some other weekly gossip magazine and you can read which celebrity is checking into rehab for vicodin abuse or whatever the current drug of choice might be – for the first, or the fourth time.

I am not a fan of drug taking for every problem, modern pharmaceuticals are an amazing tool in the wellness arsenal. Pharmacology provides us with tools to battle acute illness, to control symptoms, to ward of illness, to manage and slow the progression of long term illness. What a wonderful tool. How tragic that we choose to abuse and overuse this tool. We need to view pharmaceuticals with respect and as the potent tool they are in our quest to live long, healthy lives.