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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Is the internet killing us?

24 July 2019

We all know about fake news - it's annoying but did you know that it can also be fatal?

What am I talking about?

Well this morning I read this release published on the Science Daily website.

No, I'm not accusing SD of publishing fake news -- we all know that they're really just a press-release publisher that post pretty much anything you send them by way of a piece of PR. It's a great business model... they get free content and the PR department of many companies get free publicity. However, since there's no peer review process or even the slightest bit of fact-checking, the "stories" published here have to be taken with a healthy degree of skepticsm.

But let's talk about the "low dose Aspirin" situation.

For years we were told that a low daily dose of Aspirin had been proven to reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke in studies which involved those who were at higher than normal risk of such events.

Aspirin, as well as being an effective analgesic, also reduces the tendency for blood to clot and that's why it reduces the chances of medical events which are precipitated by clotting.

Some articles even recommended that people over the age of 65 should consider low-dosing as a preventative measure and others added a link between regular Aspirin intake and a lower risk of some forms of cancer.

Woohoo... Aspirin, the new miracle drug?

Well it seems that the dangers of low-dosing with Aspirin may outweigh the benefits, hence this latest piece published by SD.

The problem seems to be that Aspirin's tendency to "thin the blood" (ie: reduce clotting) can also lead to afflictions such as gastro-intestinal ulcers and internal bleeding.

When taken without proper medical supervision and advice, the cure can be worse than the complaint that's trying to be mitigated.

So, how many people acted on those earlier pro-Aspirin reports and self-medicated, only to end up with life-threatening consequences?

Those figures don't seem to have been collected but several recent artcles have suggested that the number, although small, is not insignificant.

The next story on SD today also points out the dangers of self-medication in an era where almost any medication can be purchased online without prescription.

According to the American College of Physicians, Using antibiotics without a prescription is a prevalent public health problem -- which I am sure will surprise nobody reading this column. Smart people are already very much aware of the consequences of antibiotic over-use and the growing number of "resistant" bacteria that have evolved as a result.

Sadly however, there are still plenty of ill-informed folk out there who think that antibiotics will cure a cold or who think that they can stop taking such medication as soon as symptoms subside.

With the cost of seeing a doctor rising at an alarming rate, there are growing numbers of folk who use Google and their doctor and online pharmacies (just check your spam folder) to source whatever medication they think they need. Not only are the results dangerous to the person concerned but also to the wider population as resistant strains continue to spread and proliferate.

Hang on a moment... (bells ringing in the old memory centres of the brain)

What is the traditional wisdom for antibiotic use?

Take ALL the pills -- usually a 7-10 day course?

This was apparently because if the infection was not totally destroyed by the antibiotics, those remaining could evolve a resistance to the weaker environment as the level of the drugs dropped off after the patient stopped taking them. Sounds logical.

However, now things are changing and shorter courses are being recommended so as to do less harm to the body's natural flora. (cite).

Once again... who are you going to believe? The traditional wisdom or newer, somewhat more revolutionary assertions.

The great thing about the internet is that both sides of the story are there for you to enjoy -- but obviously, one is right and one is wrong. Sadly, there is no way to know which one is correct and which could make you sicker.

As I said... fake news on the internet could kill you... or at least make you sicker.

Now where's my grain of salt?

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