Why You Shouldn’t Take Antibiotics That Aren’t Prescribed to You

Most of us have been there – you’ve been sick for a few days then you wake up with serious ear pain, a severe sore throat or sinus pressure so intense you feel like your head is going to explode. You know you have an ear infection, strep throatsinus infection, etc., and you don’t want to take time out of your day to go to the healthcare provider. Your friend has some leftover antibiotics so you’ll just take them. Problem solved.

An assortment of colored pills on a white surface
Rafe Swan / Cultura / Getty Images

Not so fast.

Have you ever heard that you shouldn’t take medications that aren’t prescribed for you? You might think it only applies to painkillers or some other type of medication but there are very important reasons why it includes antibiotics as well.

You May Not Need Antibiotics

First, the illness you have or the pain you are feeling may not be caused by a bacteria at all. Many ear infections, sore throats and even lingering coughs like bronchitis are caused by viruses.1 Antibiotics don’t kill viruses. Taking another person’s antibiotics may not help you and taking antibiotics when you don’t need them leads to antibiotic resistance.2

Only your healthcare provider can determine if your illness is caused by a bacteria. Depending on your symptoms and certain tests, if your healthcare provider feels strongly that antibiotics are necessary, then you should take them. But just because your best friend had similar symptoms and was given antibiotics doesn’t mean you do too. And it certainly doesn’t mean you should take hers.

You Might Need Different Antibiotics

Not all antibiotics are the same.3 They don’t all kill the same germs. Certain medications are best used for certain infections. If the specific bacteria causing the infection has been identified, your healthcare provider can figure out which antibiotic is best to treat it. Even if they don’t know the exact bacteria, healthcare providers are trained to know how to figure out which antibiotics are most appropriate for specific infections.3

The antibiotic that your friend has may not be the one you need to treat the infection you have. Even if it’s the same type, you may need a different dose or to take it more or less frequently than the person it was prescribed for.

You Could Be Endangering Your Own Health

If you take any other medications, herbal supplements or have any chronic health conditions, you should not take additional medications (especially prescriptions – antibiotics or others) without discussing it with your healthcare provider. They could interact with other medications you are taking, causing dangerous reactions or side effects.4

They may not be safe if you have certain medical conditions. Don’t put yourself at risk by taking antibiotics that weren’t prescribed for you by a healthcare provider that knows your medical history.

There Isn’t Enough Left

Even if your friend had the exact antibiotic you need, you have a real bacterial infection that could be treated by that antibiotic and you have no other concerns about interactions or chronic medical conditions, you still shouldn’t take your friend’s leftover antibiotics because there won’t be enough.

If someone stops taking their antibiotics once they feel better instead of taking the entire amount that was prescribed, they may have some leftover. But that isn’t enough to adequately treat an infection. Taking less than the full amount prescribed means that you may not completely treat the infection, increasing the chances that the bacteria develop resistance to that antibiotic.5

As you can see, there are many reasons not to take another person’s antibiotics. If you think you have an illness that requires antibiotic treatment, take the time to see a healthcare provider so it can be treated fully and correctly without contributing to the very real threat of antibiotic resistance.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Be antibiotics aware: smart use, best care.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Antibiotic Resistant Threats in the United States.
  3. Cleveland Clinic. 4 important facts you need to know about antibiotics.
  4. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Drug interactions: what you should know.
  5. World Health Organization. Does stopping a course of antibiotics early lead to antibiotic resistance?

Additional Reading:

  • The Danger of Antibiotic Overuse“. Kids Health. The Nemours Foundation.
  • Antibiotics“. MedlinePlus. US National Library of Medicine. US Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health.

Important Notice: This article was originally published at www.theepochtimes.com by Emma Suttie D.AC, AP where all credits are due.


The watching, interacting, and participation of any kind with anything on this page does not constitute or initiate a doctor-patient relationship with Dr. Farrah™. None of the statements here have been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The products of Dr. Farrah™ are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information being provided should only be considered for education and entertainment purposes only. If you feel that anything you see or hear may be of value to you on this page or on any other medium of any kind associated with, showing, or quoting anything relating to Dr. Farrah™ in any way at any time, you are encouraged to and agree to consult with a licensed healthcare professional in your area to discuss it. If you feel that you’re having a healthcare emergency, seek medical attention immediately. The views expressed here are simply either the views and opinions of Dr. Farrah™ or others appearing and are protected under the first amendment.

Dr. Farrah™ is a highly experienced Licensed Medical Doctor certified in evidence-based clinical nutrition, not some enthusiast, formulator, or medium promoting the wild and unrestrained use of nutrition products for health issues without clinical experience and scientific evidence of therapeutic benefit. Dr. Farrah™ has personally and keenly studied everything she recommends, and more importantly, she’s closely observed the reactions and results in a clinical setting countless times over the course of her career involving the treatment of over 150,000 patients.

Dr. Farrah™ promotes evidence-based natural approaches to health, which means integrating her individual scientific and clinical expertise with the best available external clinical evidence from systematic research. By individual clinical expertise, I refer to the proficiency and judgment that individual clinicians acquire through clinical experience and clinical practice.

Dr. Farrah™ does not make any representation or warranties with respect to the accuracy, applicability, fitness, or completeness of any multimedia content provided. Dr. Farrah™ does not warrant the performance, effectiveness, or applicability of any sites listed, linked, or referenced to, in, or by any multimedia content.

To be clear, the multimedia content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen in any website, video, image, or media of any kind. Dr. Farrah™ hereby disclaims any and all liability to any party for any direct, indirect, implied, punitive, special, incidental, or other consequential damages arising directly or indirectly from any use of the content, which is provided as is, and without warranties.