Blog | Monday, July 8, 2013

QD: News Every Day--Opioid overdoses taking more of a toll among women than men

Deaths from prescription painkiller overdoses among women have increased more than 400% since 1999, compared to 265% among men, reported the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For each of the more than 15,000 painkiller-related deaths that happened in 2010, 30 more women went to the emergency department.

The CDC analyzed rates of fatal drug overdoses and drug misuse- or abuse-related ED visits among women using data from the National Vital Statistics System (1999-2010) and the Drug Abuse Warning Network (2004-2010).

When including illegal opiates, there were more than 943,00 emergency visits by women for drug misuse or abuse in 2010, mostly for cocaine or heroin, benzodiazepines and opioid pain relievers.

Although more men die from drug overdoses than women, the percentage increase in deaths since 1999 is greater among women. More women have died each year from drug overdoses than from motor vehicle-related injuries since 2007.

The prominent involvement of psychotherapeutic drugs, such as benzodiazepines, prompted the CDC to advise health-care providers to follow guidelines for responsible prescribing, including screening and monitoring for substance abuse and mental health problems, when prescribing opioids.

Health-care providers who treat women for pain should use their state's prescription drug monitoring program and regularly screen patients for psychological disorders and use of psychotherapeutic drugs, with or without a prescription.