Prescription Overdoses Are Alarmingly High Among Women
July 3, 2013

CDC Reports Five-Fold Increase In Prescription Painkiller Deaths Amongst Women

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

The number of women dying as a result of prescription painkiller overdoses increased by over 400 percent between 1999 and 2010, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed Tuesday.

In their July 2013 Vital Signs report, the American public health agency revealed that nearly 48,000 women died after overdosing on prescription opioid or narcotic pain relievers such as Vicodin, OxyContin or methadone over that 11-year period.

That's a rate of approximately 18 women every day, and for every one that dies as a result of a prescription painkiller overdose, 30 more are forced to seek treatment at emergency rooms for misuse or abuse of the drugs. About 12 percent of the deaths were suicides, CDC officials told USA Today's Fatimah Waseem.

"Since 2007, more women have died from overdosing on prescription painkillers than in motor vehicle accidents. And death rates from opioid abuse in women are more than four times higher than death by cocaine and heroin use combined," ABC News reporter Liz Neporent said, adding that prescription drug abuse amongst females doubled between 2004 and 2010, when 6,600 women died as a result of overdoses.

According to AFP reports, CDC Director Tom Frieden told reporters the statistics were "really troubling" and the death rate among women was "skyrocketing... at rates we have never seen before."

Over the same period, prescription painkiller overdose-related deaths among men increased 265 percent, the CDC reported. Overall, male patients are still more likely than their female counterparts to die as a result of overdosing on painkillers - more than 10,000 deaths were recorded among male patients in 2010 alone - but the agency reports the gap between men and women is closing.

"I find these numbers extremely troubling, though not especially surprising," said Susan Foster, vice president and director of policy research and analysis for New York-based substance abuse think-tank CASA Columbia. "We live in a pill for every ill society, and prescription drugs are just one aspect of the overall addiction problem we have in this country."

"Previous research has shown that women are more likely to have chronic pain, be prescribed prescription painkillers, be given higher doses, and use them for longer time periods than men," the CDC said. "Studies have also shown that women may become dependent on prescription painkillers more quickly than men and may be more likely than men to engage in 'doctor shopping' (obtaining prescriptions from multiple prescribers)."

The organization advises women to keep safe by only using prescription drugs as directed by a health care provider, to discuss all medications (including over-the-counter drugs) with their doctors, and to dispose of medications properly as soon as the course of treatment is done. Furthermore, the CDC said they should discuss pregnancy plans with medical professionals before taking prescription painkillers.