The prescription drug epidemic has impacted the lives of thousands of men and women in America. Over the last several decades, the term overdose has been highly associated with cocaine and heroin. This is because most of cases of overdose deaths during that period were a result of the two drugs, particularly for males. However, ever since the explosion of prescription drugs on the market, that statistic is changing. Experts advise that women, and especially middle-aged women, are increasingly becoming the victims of overdose.
In fact, in 2010, two of every five overdose deaths occurring in America involved women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), middle aged women are particularly at risk. While there are still more men who die as a result of overdose from both prescription and street drugs, the gap has significantly narrowed. CDC figures for 2010 show that 15,300 women and 23,000 men overdosed on prescription painkillers.
CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden says that we are seeing the female population die at unprecedented rates and the problem is only becoming worse. During the period from 1999 to 2010 the number of men who died from painkiller overdose increased three-and-a-half times as compared to a fivefold increase for women. Surprisingly, data shows that women aged 45 to 54 and those between the ages of 55 to 64 are at greatest risk, with overdose deaths in these two age brackets having tripled from 1999 to 2010.
Experts say that women’s higher tendency to become dependent and potentially overdose is a result of increased rates of chronic pain, higher prescribed dosages, and longer duration of use. Another contributing factor is that doctors may be too quick to prescribe painkillers for women, underestimating the risk of misuse by this population. Some studies also indicate that women may tend to hop from physician to physician more than men in an effort to get additional painkillers.
If you or someone you know is living with dependency or substance addiction, help them get the care they need by contacting Family Guidance Center. Family Guidance Center can work with individuals to identify triggers and a long-term strategy for recovery.