Women Fastest Growing Demographic in Prescription Overdose Deaths

Study Finds that Women, Especially Middle Aged Women, Account for Growing Number of Preshutterstock_72761914scription Overdose Deaths

A new federal study shows that women, especially middle aged women, account for the fastest-growing demographic in prescription overdose deaths – and their drug of choice is painkillers.

“It’s a serious health problem and it’s getting worse rapidly,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which compiled the data. The report focused on pain medications like Vicodin, OxyContin, methadone, generic opioid pain medications, and a strong new pain management drug called Opana.

The new study showed that between 1999 and 2010, the number of prescription overdose deaths among women increased fivefold, especially related to painkiller addiction. Although more men still suffer painkiller addiction and prescription overdose deaths, the rates at which men overdosed on painkillers in the same period only tripled.

The CDC also found that the rates of women’s visits to the painkiller-related visits to the emergency room more than doubled between 2004 and 2010.

Reportedly, more women die from prescription overdose than from cervical cancer or car accidents, and in the last decade, four times as many died from prescription overdose than from homicides.

“It’s a big problem among women,” Dr. Frieden said. “It’s underrecognized.” Frieden referred to the rising painkiller overdose problem among women a “sleeper problem,” which means it is difficult for medical professionals to recognize the problem and intervene.

The rates of prescription overdose deaths were highest among women 45 to 64, according to the CDC’s report. In 2010, 15,323 women died of prescription overdoses, compared to 23,006 men. Among both men and women, the highest rates of death were among Native Americans and whites.

Experts offered various theories for the rise in prescription overdose deaths among women. Because women have lower body mass than men, the difference between a normal dose and too much of a painkiller was much smaller. Some studies have found that women tend to suffer chronic pain more often than men. Other patterns are less well understood – for example, women are more likely, rather than less likely, to be prescribed higher doses of painkillers, and they are more likely to use them longer. Some women interviewed about the study said that the stressors of being a single mother – both parent and sole bread winner for a family – increased their likelihood of craving the “numbness” that prescription pain medication offered. Other research suggests that women are more likely than men to “doctor shop,” leading to multiple prescriptions for pain medication.

Men suffer higher rates of painkiller addiction and prescription drug overdose in general because, statistically, men take more risks with drugs, and are more likely to suffer workplace injuries that require pain medication than women.

The CDC’s report calls for a “mindset change” among doctors, so they can more quickly recognize painkiller addiction and potential prescription overdose behavior in women. They should also be mindful of dosing sizes or female patients.

The Strom Law Firm Can Help with Prescription Overdose and Abuse Charges

If you have received criminal drug abuse charges, or are suspected of abusing prescription drugs, you are not automatically guilty, and you do not give up any of your rights. The attorneys at the Strom Law Firm can help defend you. We offer free, confidential consultations to discuss the facts of your case. Do not let criminal drug charges such as trafficking or possession ruin your reputation and career prospects.Contact us today. 803.252.4800.