Painkiller drug deaths rising among young women

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Fatal opioid drug overdoses and emergency department visits appear to be rising among women, according to information published in Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report.

According to government researchers, there was a 415 percent increase in painkiller-related deaths among women between 1999 and 2010. In total, 48,000 women died during that time period because of opioid drugs.

Rates for emergency department visits for these overdoses were highest in young women between the ages of 25 and 34, while actual death rates were highest among women in their 40s and 50s.

"Prescription painkiller drug deaths have skyrocketed in women," Thomas Frieden, MD, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a press briefing. "It's not only deaths, but there is also a great increase in the number of emergency department visits for misuse and abuse ... of opioid painkillers."

In 2010 alone, 6,631 deaths out of 15,323 fatal drug overdoses were attributed to opioids, Medscape reports.

Reasons for the increase

Frieden reports that the increase might have to do with the fact that women tend to report chronic pain more often than men – but it still not does explain why women are receiving higher doses of these drugs than men.

"On average they should be getting lower doses," Frieden said.

He also noted that opioids show no clear indication for conditions other than cancer pain, and that they are "risky drugs" to be prescribed for conditions that might be treatable through other methods, such as physical therapy, exercise or cognitive therapy.

Greater clinician adherence to "responsible opiod" prescribing is necessary, he concluded, noting that states should implement prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) to prevent substance abuse or doctor shopping – the practice of trying to elicit care and prescriptions from multiple doctors.

Source: Medscape

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