Death From Prescription Drugs on the Rise Among Women

Prescriptions Drugs and WomenAccording to a new study released by the CDC, deaths from prescription drug overdoses rose sharply in women over the period between 1999 and 2010, costing a total 48,000 lives. The Vital Signs report noted that while men are still more likely to die as a result of a prescription drug overdose, the total percentage increase was higher among women than men during the reported timeline.

According to CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., MPH, “Prescription painkiller deaths have skyrocketed in women (6,600 in 2010), four times as many as died from cocaine and heroin combined. Stopping this epidemic in women – and men – is everyone’s business. Doctors need to be cautious about prescribing and patients about using these drugs.”

Key Findings from the Study

The CDC study sites emergency room visits and deaths related to drug misuse/abuse and overdose, and includes analyses specific to prescription painkillers. The key findings include:

About 42 women die each day as a result of a drug overdose.

  • Since 2007, drug overdoses have cost the lives of more women than have motor vehicle accidents.
  • Suicides by drug overdose accounted for 34 percent of all suicides among women (compared with 8 percent among men) in 2010.
  • More than 940,000 women were seen in emergency rooms for drug misuse or abuse in 2010.

Prescription painkillers in particular have contributed significantly to increases in drug overdose deaths among women.

  • In 2010 alone, more than 6,600 women died from a prescription painkiller overdose.
  • There were four times more deaths among women from prescription painkiller overdose than for cocaine and heroin deaths combined in 2010.
  • In 2010, there were more than 200,000 emergency room visits for opioid misuse or abuse among women – that’s about one every three minutes.

What Puts Women at Risk?

There are a number of factors that could increase a woman’s risk for dying as a result of a prescription drug overdose. For one, studies have shown that women are more likely to experience chronic pain, and are therefore are more likely to be prescribed prescription painkillers. In addition, they may be given higher doses and use them for longer time periods than men.
Research also suggests that women may become dependent on prescription painkillers more readily than men, and in some cases may be more likely than men to shop around in an attempt to obtain prescriptions from multiple subscribers.

“The prescription painkiller problem affects women in different ways than men and all health care providers treating women should be aware of this,” said Linda C. Degutis, Dr.P.H., M.S.N., director of CDC′s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. “Health care providers can help improve the way painkillers are prescribed while making sure women have access to safe and effective pain treatment.”

What Can Women Do To Minimize Their Risk?

There are a number of things women can do ensure they’re using prescription drugs safely:

  • Using any prescription drugs only as directed by their doctor.
  • Discussing all medications they are taking with their health care provider, including over-the-counter medications (including allergy medicine, pain relievers, etc.).
  • Talking to their doctors if they are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant.
  • Disposing of medications properly and as soon as the course of treatment is through (many people tend to keep medications around “just in case”, which can lead to dangerous scenarios).
  • Not selling or sharing prescription drugs.
  • Getting help for substance abuse problems (1-800-662-HELP) and calling Poison Help (1-800-222-1222) with questions about medicines.

What Can Health Care Providers Do To Help?

Health care providers do have a certain responsibility to ensure prescribed drugs are taken responsibly.

  • Follow guidelines for responsible opioid prescription, including appropriate screening and monitoring for substance abuse and mental health problems.
  • Use your states’ prescription drug monitoring program to help identify patients who may be improperly using opioids and other drugs.
  • Discuss pain treatment options with patients. If possible, refer them to options that don’t require the use of medication.
  • Discuss the risks and benefits of prescription painkillers, including when painkillers are taken for chronic conditions, and especially during pregnancy.
  • Avoiding prescribing combinations of prescription painkillers and benzodiazepines unless there is a specific medical indication.

While prescription drugs are certainly a viable option for those suffering from chronic pain, they’re not the only option. At Southwest Spine and Sports, we utilize a variety of nonsurgical, drug free treatment methods to help people throughout the state of Arizona manage and eliminate their pain.

To schedule a consultation, contact us or call (480) 860-8998 today.