Women are Dying from Prescription Pill Abuse in Greater Numbers
The beginning of July was noteworthy this year not only for the celebrations on the 4th, or the massive forest fires in the west, which also seem to be an annual occurrence, or even for the heat wave that spread across the country. No, the recent news that stood out to many people is the number of women dying of prescription pill overdoses.
Some news segments had this headline: More women dying of overdoses than car accidents. An ABC News headline cited the women’s age: Drug Overdose Deaths Spike Among Middle-Aged Women. (You might expect the news to be about younger women, those who abuse substances to a greater extent than older women.) The first article, from a Seattle news station, cites a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that calls the pill abuse an epidemic since overdoses increased 400% from 1999 to 2010, which translates to 48,000 women. This article links to a section on the CDC site that cites four steps the government is taking to tackle this scourge, as well as steps that health providers, states, and women can take. This doesn’t mean that more women are dying from overdoses than men, just that the gap is closing.
You immediately start to wonder why the numbers for women have risen, however. The second article says that men take more risks with drugs and are more likely to have workplace injuries that would lead to the need for painkillers and thus open them to abuse. Women may have more chronic pain, however, use pain pills longer than men, and be more prone to doctor shop.
That, according to the CDD, means that doctors have to pay more attention to prescription pill abuse as a unisex problem. They “should consider the possibility of addiction in female patients, think of alternative treatments for chronic pain, and consult state drug monitoring programs to find out if a patient has a worrisome history with painkillers.”
The report also mentioned a new drug, other than Vicodin and OxyContin, causing problems. It’s called Opana, or Oxymorphone. Or, sometimes the women who died had taken painkillers together with tranquilizers. But, the CDC doesn’t t think they intentionally killed themselves, but rather that the deaths were accidents.
Here are some other indications of the extent of the problem, from a New York Times article: “More women now die of overdoses from pain pills like OxyContin than from cervical cancer or homicide.” In that article, some women blamed the problem on the times: Women have more responsibility today, they’re single mothers, and they look to pain pills for relief. To add to that, the authors of the CDC study said that other contributors may be that women have a lower body mass, making it easier to overdose, and that they have “the most common forms of chronic pain,” including fibromyalgia.
On that page on the CDC website about the abuse, the group also reports that “every three minutes, a woman goes to the ER prescription painkiller misuse or abuse.” That statistic makes the problem very real.