The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on a growing epidemic among women in their July 2013 Vital Signs. In this newly released research, the CDC reports that the number of women dying from prescription drug overdoses has increased by more than 400% since 1999 – nearly double the 265% increase in deaths of men.
Everyday 42 women die from a drug overdose and nearly one half are from prescription painkillers. CDC director, Dr. Tom Frieden, stated that “in 2010, more than 6600 women died from prescription painkillers, four times as many died due to prescription painkillers than from cocaine and heroin combined”. “The overwhelming number of these deaths more than 70% was unintentional.” In fact women were admitted to the emergency room for prescription drug overdose or misuse every 3 minutes. While women between the ages of 25 -54 were the ones most likely to go to the ER, it was women between the ages of 45 and 54 who had the highest risk of dying from a prescription painkiller overdose. Statistically for every woman who dies of prescription painkillers overdose, 30 go to the emergency department for painkiller misuse or abuse.
WHY? Women are more likely to have chronic pain and be prescribed painkillers. Also women often are given higher doses and use painkillers for longer periods of time. As women are smaller than men the higher doses have a larger impact. Women more quickly become dependent on the painkillers and will have a tendency to engage in “doctor shopping” (obtaining painkillers from multiple prescribers). In addition, women have a higher risk due to combining medications. Often found are antidepressants or other medications for mental health concerns. Mental health drugs can be especially dangerous when mixed with prescription painkillers and/or alcohol. Nearly 14 million women binge drink about three times a month.
Stress may actually be creating much of the pain felt by women today. Fifty percent of women complain about unmanageable stress. Causes include: work, finances, child and elder care, and household responsibilities. Women are feeling lonely and unsure of where to turn or who to reach out to for help. This awful epidemic must stop.
Let’s be quite clear about this issue. There are many people who need painkillers to live a quality life. Painkillers are not the enemy here rather a lack of education and support to help people effectively deal with both their physical and emotional pain. Please be willing to education yourself, to talk with your medical professionals and to reach out to family, friends and counselors for additional support in managing your pain.
“The secret of success is learning how to use pain and pleasure instead of having pain and pleasure use you. If you do that, you’re in control of your life. If you don’t, life controls you.” – Tony Robbins