javbank

Prescription Painkillers Cause Rise in Overdose Death in Women

Overdose: Painkillers a Problem?

OverdoseEach day, 42 women die of a drug overdose, and, unfortunately, nearly 50 percent of those overdoses are from prescription painkillers.[1] In fact, since 1999, the number of prescription drug overdoses in women has increased by over 400 percent—a percentage that is nearly double the increase in deaths of men.1 In 2010, more than 6,600 women died from prescription painkiller overdoses.1 This is four times as many deaths as from cocaine and heroin overdose combined.1

Proportional to the increasingly high number of painkiller prescriptions in the past decade, it can be said that 70 percent of these overdoses were unintentional.1 Every three minutes, a woman is admitted to the emergency room for prescription painkiller overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.1 Frequently, these women are between the ages of 25 and 54; however, those women between the ages of 45 and 54 have the highest risk of dying.1

Biological Gender Differences and Overdose

Research states that women are more likely than men to have chronic pain, which often leads to a prescription for painkillers.1 Women are also given higher doses over a longer period of time, which takes a toll on their smaller bodies.1 President of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, Dr. Andrew Kolodny, states that women with chronic non-cancer pain are frequently being overprescribed prescription opioids.[2] There is no need for the amount of prescription opioids being prescribed to these women, which leads to addiction, medical complications, and possible overdose.2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Thomas Frieden stated, “Mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters are dying from overdoses at rates we have never seen before.”2

In 2010, suicides from prescription painkillers accounted for 34 percent of all suicides among women and more than 940,000 women were seen in emergency rooms for drug abuse or misuse.2 This major public health concern is growing every year.2

Women often become dependent upon these drugs faster than men and have been found to engage in “doctor shopping” to obtain a prescription from several doctors.2 These highly addictive painkillers lead to irresponsible behavior.2

Increased Education Regarding Overdose Risk Needed

Kolodny agrees that increased education for physicians and patients is needed, as well as a better monitored program for prescription opioids.1 He states: “Stopping this epidemic in women is everybody’s business. Doctors need to be cautious about prescribing and patients about using these drugs. Together, we can turn this epidemic around.”1

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that women should use prescriptions only as directed by a doctor, and they should have the medicine destroyed properly as soon as treatment is finished, as to not keep them around for “just-in-case” moments.2 Prescription drugs should not be shared, either.2

Doctors need to adhere to the strict guidelines when prescribing narcotic painkillers.2 State drug monitoring programs should be used to identify people who are misusing these drugs.2 Too many women are losing their lives for unnecessary reasons.2



[1] Kounang, N. (2013, July 2). Women’s Prescription Overdose Deaths Skyrocket. CNN.com. Retrieved September 30, 2013, from thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2013/07/02/womens-prescription-overdose-deaths-skyrocket/

[2] Reinberg, S. (2013, July 2). Sharp Rise in Drug Overdoses Among U.S. Women. HeathDay. Retrieved September 30, 2013, from http://consumer.healthday.com/general-health-information-16/drug-abuse-news-210/sharp-rise-in-drug-overdoses-among-u-s-women-cdc-677964.html

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

We are the only facility in Florida owned and operated by an addiction psychiatrist involved in all treatment decisions. Learn more
Hello. Add your message here.