Prescription drug abuse in women escalating

August 1, 2013

According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there was a 5-fold rise in deaths of women who abused prescription opioid pain medicine from 1999 to 2010 (6631 deaths in 2010, up from 1287 in 1999).

 

According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there was a 5-fold rise in deaths of women who abused prescription opioid pain medicine from 1999 to 2010 (6631 deaths in 2010, up from 1287 in 1999).

Although men still are at greater risk of death from prescription pain medicine overdose, the gap between men and women is narrowing, according to Karin Mack, PhD, of the CDC’s Injury Center.

Key findings from the report include:

• More than 940,000 women were seen in emergency departments (EDs) for drug misuse or abuse in 2010.

• More than 6600 women die of prescription opioid overdose each year.

• In 2010, there were more than 200,000 ED visits for opioid misuse or abuse by women.

Dr. Mack recommends that physicians:

• Recognize that women can be at risk of prescription drug overdose.

• Discuss all treatment options for pain, including ones that do not involve prescription drugs.

• Discuss the risks and benefits of taking prescription painkillers, especially during pregnancy.

• Talk with pregnant women who are dependent on prescription painkillers about treatment options.

The CDC report cited benzodiazepines and opiate pain relievers as the primary drugs that are misused or abused.

Most deaths from prescription opioids were among middle-aged women (in 2010, 1515 in women aged 35 to 44 and 2239 in women from 45 to 54). Yet, equally significant is that opiate abuse presents a unique issue for pregnant women who may give birth to addicted babies.

 

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