By Jim Hightower on January 14, 2014

Can antibiotic medicines, long hailed as miracle drugs, be too much of a good thing? Yes.

Two factors are at work here. First, bacteria (one of the earliest forms of life on Earth) are miracles in their own right, with a stunning ability to outsmart the antibiotic drugs through rapid evolution. Second is the rather dull inclination of us supposedly-superior humans to overuse and misuse antibiotic medicines. Every time we take an antibiotic to kill some bad bacteria that is infecting our bodies, a few of the infectious germs are naturally resistant to the drug, so they survive, multiply, and become a colony of Superbugs that antibiotics can't touch.

Multiply this colony by the jillions of doses prescribed for everything from deadly staph infections to the common cold, and we get the "antibiotic paradox:" The more we use them, the less effective they become, for they're creating a spreading epidemic of immune Superbugs.

A big cause of this is the push by drug companies to get patients and doctors to reach for antibiotics as a cure all. For example, millions of doses a year are prescribed for children and adults who have common colds, flu, sore throats, etc. Nearly all these infections are caused by viruses -- which cannot (repeat: CANNOT) be cured with antibiotics. Taking an antibiotic for a cold is as useless as taking a heart drug for heartburn. The antibiotics will do nothing for your cold, but it will help establish drug-resistant Superbugs in your body. That's not a smart trade off.

In fact, it's incomprehensibly stupid. Antibiotics are invaluable medicines we need for serious, life-threatening illnesses, but squandering them on sore throats has already brought us to the brink of Superbugs that are resistant to everything. That's the nightmare of all nightmares.

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Photo: "Little girl with a surgical mask," via Shutterstock.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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