Why I don’t use drugs

Some of you probably already know this, but here’s the truth: I’ve never used a medical drug in my life, except for anaesthesia during operations. Among other things, this means that I do not take antibiotics when I become ill.

One justification for my decision is that antibiotics are slowly becoming useless. What this means is that when you need antibiotics the most, they’re not going to be there to help you, but I’ll be fine because I’m used to fighting off diseases without the aid of antibiotics. If more people were like me, and antibiotics were reserved for life-threatening situations, then antibiotics would work better, and we wouldn’t have as much drug-resistant bacteria. Moral of the story: don’t use antibiotics unless your life is in danger, and maybe we’ll all live to fight another day.

Actually, there’s a less moralistic moral to the story: ban the use of antibiotics in feed for livestock, as suggested in the Slashdot comments. Bruce Sterling explains one way that bacteria get their drug resistance:

The runoff of tainted feedlot manure, containing millions of pounds of diluted antibiotics, enters rivers and watersheds where the world’s free bacteria dwell. In cities, municipal sewage systems are giant petri-dishes of diluted antibiotics and human-dwelling bacteria. Bacteria are restless. They will try again, every twenty minutes. And they never sleep.

Scary, and ewwwww.

25 thoughts on “Why I don’t use drugs

  1. I agree that antibiotics are overused and as principle would never use them to fight off a cold or something. But I do think they’re necessary in some instances.

    And other medicines are necessary sometimes, too, though I understand the sentiment of not wanting to be on drugs at all. 🙂

    • OK, to be honest, I got a tube of Neosporin recently (a “first aid antibiotic ointment”), because I had a nasty fall which removed a large chunk of skin from my pinkie, and I wanted to make sure it healed properly. I have also used the Neosporin for a few other minor cuts. My usual practice, however, is to douse the cut with hydrogen peroxide and then slap a band-aid on it, without any other anti-biotics (if hydrogen peroxide is an anti-biotic).

      • H2O2 is more an anti-everything. It works by killing damn near everything (except you) in the area, and stings like a bitch in the process.

        • Actually, are you sure it doesn’t do in your own cells as well? If it doesn’t, why not? I know it’s an oxidizer, so perhaps the improved oxygen flow offsets the death-dealing?

          • Hm, it may kill your cells too. Oxygen delivered inside the cell membrane kills most anything. Our bodies can only use Oxygen in certain ways.

          • Your usage of hydrogren peroxide shouldn’t be too harmful, because the foaming actually also helps clear out specks of dirt so you’re less prone to be infected, but if you use it more than once you’re setting yourself up for a delayed healing and damage to new cell growth.

      • It’s not an antibiotic. Antibiotics only target bacteria, in very specific ways — that’s why it’s possible for bacteria to evolve resistances to them. Hydrogen peroxide, on the other hand, is directly corrosive to all cells.

        It’s not that bad for you, though, because humans produce catalase, an enzyme in the blood that’s designed to safely break down peroxide into water and oxygen, since peroxide is a toxic waste product that a lot of living things make. Which means that it’s not going to be that effective at disinfecting your wound, either, since your body is actively breaking it down to protect itself — peroxide is much better for disinfecting inorganic surfaces and things than for putting on cuts.

  2. I agree with all the things; preventative versus surgical medical care, anyone?

    Normally by the time I go to the doctor with some raging infection, they’re annoyed at how long I waited to go get antibiotics. And half the time I don’t even fulfill the prescription then. If alcohol can feasibly be applied, I use that for killing the stuff. It works just as well, and it’s much cheaper.

    I hate taking most drugs in general. Part of that is “why should I depend on drugs?”, as well as “the more I use them, the less effective”, as well as a bad experiment with OTC stuff when I was young and foolish.

    Sleep cures many things, in my opinion, lol.

      • I normally sleep through my concussions, lol!!

        But sleep, synonymous with rest, is a standard recommendation for just abut every illness, neh?

      • Actually, that’s an old wives’ tale. You can probably look the details up somewhere online, but I believe what I read was that the stuff about going to sleep and not waking up isn’t true, and in fact, that’s a time when all you want to do is rest, but it’s hard to monitor a person’s condition and tell if they’re heading into really dangerous territory if they’re already sleeping.

    • Part of the problem of drug resistance is caused by people not taking the whole course of antibiotics… Taking only part tends to leave the bacteria with partial (though not yet total) resistance behind, which then go on to be fruitful and multiply.

      I agree with the whole drug-averseness thing, but…just saying.

      • I’m aware of the ‘viva la resistance’ bacteria. But why promote the wide use of antibiotics which will be dangerously MISused just as widely?

    • The thing is that allowing bacteria to breed is *in general* a bad thing. Allowing bacteria to breed through adverse conditions will produce hardier bacteria, but allowing bacteria to breed in less adverse conditions still vastly multiplies the number and diversity of bacteria in your area and the chance for future infection.

      I got a big lecture from my doctor about this. No, you shouldn’t use antibiotics if you don’t need ’em, but if you go to the point of *remaining seriously ill for a very long time* because you don’t take antibiotics, you’re not only risking long-term, serious damage to your health, you’re breeding a small city of rapidly mutating bacteria that will be harder to clear from your body than they would have been had you started the pills earlier, and — most importantly — breeding strains of bacteria in your body that are likely to infect and get a foothold in your friends and family.

      The rule is that you should just try to prevent the multiplication of bacteria as much as you can, because antibiotic-resistant strains — particularly the scary multi-drug kind — actually arise from *random chance* through long-term bacterial mutation, and improper use of antibiotics is just what selects for them and gives them a foothold. The *worst* thing you can do is partly treat the disease with some antibiotics and then go off them quickly, but, for raging and virulent bacterial infections, not using antibiotics at all can be just as bad.

      Or, to put it another way, if you’ve got a raging case of pinkeye and you’re anywhere near me I think I have the right to demand that you get the infection cured as soon as possible before *I* get it, because the longer you’ve had it when you pass it to me, the more likely it is I get a crazy mutant strain that *I* can’t treat with antibiotics.

      • Also

        The use of antibiotics to cure a serious infection is different from the prophylactic use of antibiotics on a recent wound. Yeah, I’d buy that, unless you’ve been handling human feces or something, there’s nothing really to be lost by using rubbing alcohol rather than Neosporin on an open wound. But that’s a completely different story from having an infection and letting it go untreated. (And the antibiotics they use in Neosporin and antibacterial soaps and things aren’t the high-powered kind that create superbugs anyway.)

  3. I think Bruce Sterling is unfairly imagining that “antibiotics” are this big mass and that a strain of bacteria can possibly get “resistant to antibiotics” in general.

    In reality, antibiotics are diverse, since, after all, they’re just toxins that kill bacteria. Physicians use different antibiotics for different types of bacteria in the body. The bacteria used for cattle are, if I’m not totally mistaken, not generally used by physicians. Any resistance a strain has to those antibiotics is going to be of minimal effect on its resistance to ones that you take.

    I’ll also point out that there are times when physicians can’t yet tell if something is life-threatening. Part of why doctors prescribe antibiotics is to make sure that it isn’t something far worse than what it seems: if it clears up, it’s not serious, if it doesn’t, you should go to the hospital. This means that taking antibiotics can help doctors diagnose you quicker if you’ve got something really dangerous, or prevent something incredibly dangerous (like cerebral meningitis, which often starts as a regular bacterial infection) from happening in the first place.

    Moreover the worst offenders in creating drug-resistant bacteria are patients who don’t take the full course of antibiotics and instead stop taking them before they’re supposed to. That and doctors who prescribe antibiotics very indiscriminately.

    I agree that doctors don’t really focus enough on how to use the human immune system and keep it in tune, though.

    • Yeah, all of this is true. And it’s also true that some people can get away with not taking antibiotics, but some of us will actually stay sick more or less indefinitely once infected.

  4. I’m going to have to give my version of that story:

    I had my wisdom teeth removed without being knocked out. I had local anesthetics, but that’s it. All four of them were impacted, and they all came out at once, in a two-hour-long ideal. I’m going to leave out the details to avoid squicking people, but I’m pretty convinced that was damned hardcore.

    I did use some very mild painkillers during the healing process, though.

  5. i think the best motto is “always in moderation.” yes, on some level, this means, don’t use that drug unless you need to.
    most of the recreational drugs i’m opposed to, as a matter of fact, are hard to use in moderation because of their addictive qualities. which is why i’d never start popping pills or snort something or smoke anything other than.. well… you know. i’m bad enough with caffeine, and ought to moderate my consumption of that as well. other vices, like gambling and drinking, can be added to that list.

    unless something is outright lethal, it won’t kill you unless you go overboard. if you use antibiotics for that cold when you’re a kid, especially if it’s determined that your immune system is impaired, they won’t kill you, and it probably won’t affect you much later on in life when you need them for another, larger, life-threatening infection. but if you’re popping antibiotics for every sinus infection possible, well, duh.

    the problem with modern society, and america in general, is our lack of self control. that’s all we really need.

  6. ewwwww, the use of antibiotics in livestock is a whole nother can of worms! most of the time the cows aren’t even sick, the farmers just use the medicine to keep them from getting sick from sitting around in their own sh*t all day. and of course they become resistant, and it backfires, but what can we say, it’s the american way…

    you would like My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki, and (to a lesser extent- about food, vegetarianism, biodiversity, genmod etc) All Over Creation.

    happy almost b-day!

    • I was knocked out, but with laughing gas, which — at least for me — gave me a weird semi-conscious dreamlike haze thing rather than absolute unconsciousness.

      At the very least, I have extremely clear, tactile memories of them squeezing and hammering with various tools on my teeth to jar them loose and yank them out, but of having my eyes closed and being too high to care. The transition to consciousness was a smooth, slowly-becoming-more-aware one rather than suddenly waking up from something.

  7. Although usually is the one to take up this banner, I have to point out that it’s a lot easier to be against psychoactive drugs if you, personally, don’t have a really serious problem that requires them. If you choose to forgo them, that’s your choice, and more power to you if you’re capable of doing so, but if you really look at the shit some people go through when they don’t get their meds it’s hard to be unilaterally *against* them as a moral thing. This is, perhaps, especially the case with painkillers, where it’s easy to say that you’d rather be in pain than addicted if you’re not dealing with severe chronic pain.

    (My own story is that I also didn’t take painkillers after my wisdom teeth being removed, though in my case I don’t think they actually offered me any. It wasn’t so bad, even though I had my junior prom the day after — I just couldn’t eat anything or open my mouth to speak above a mumble without getting twinges of pain, but I still had fun.)

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