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Overuse of antibiotics in Japan: A threat to public health and the environment

The increase in drug-resistant bacteria due to the misuse of antibiotics has become a serious threat to health. Antibiotics are known to cause abnormal changes in the body, inflammation of organs, and various discomforts and illnesses. It has also been shown to increase the risk of delirium in the elderly, brain diseases, and allergies in children.


Every year, over 700,000 people die from infections caused by drug-resistant bacteria due to the misuse of antibiotics, and it is predicted to reach over 10 million by 2050. This problem is a serious global threat and may also affect the delicate ecological balance of rivers and streams.


In Japan, the misuse of antibiotics is serious, with only 18% of people having correct knowledge about antibiotics, and 60% misunderstanding that "antibiotics are effective against viruses." However, antibiotics are ineffective against viruses and only effective against bacteria. In Japan, antibiotics have long been prescribed for viral colds, and the usage rate is extremely high, with the highest amount of antibiotic administration to children in the world. The effects of antibiotics received during fetal and infancy periods are said to persist throughout life, potentially damaging our health.


Multiple surveys and reports on the excessive prescription and use of antibiotics in Japan have been conducted by domestic and international organizations. For example, in 2009, the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare of Japan formulated the "Initiative for the Promotion of Proper Use of Antibacterial Agents" aimed at reducing the amount of antibiotics used. The World Health Organization (WHO), an international organization, also pointed out the excessive use of antibiotics in many countries, including Japan.


Furthermore, a survey conducted by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology of Japan in 2021 showed that about 40% of elementary school children have been prescribed antibiotics at least once, suggesting that the amount of antibiotic administration to children is high.


Based on such surveys and reports, it is suggested that antibiotics have been excessively used in Japan for a long time, even for viral diseases, and the amount of antibiotic administration to children is the highest in the world.


In the United States, according to statistics from 2018, antibiotics were prescribed to 835 people per 1,000 individuals. Compared to the US data, Japan is prescribing antibiotics to over 1,700 people per 1,000 individuals, more than twice the frequency. However, even in the US, antibiotic misuse and excessive prescription are issues that require attention.


The following are specific actions that individuals and society as a whole can take to address the misuse and overprescription of antibiotics:


  • Be aware that antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections, and should not be used for viral infections such as colds and influenza.

  • Use antibiotics appropriately according to the instructions of doctors and pharmacists.

  • Prevent infections by actively taking preventive measures such as hand washing, wearing masks, and getting vaccinations.

  • Consider natural therapies such as traditional Chinese medicine and probiotics as alternatives to antibiotics.

  • It is necessary to implement policies and awareness-raising activities throughout society to properly regulate the use of antibiotics.


By taking these measures, we can reduce the misuse and overprescription of antibiotics and live a healthy lifestyle.



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