Significant Increase In Womens’ Deaths From Painkiller Overdoses

July 25, 2013 by Mark Siesel

A recent report in the New York Times focuses on the increasing problem of women dying from an overdose of prescription painkillers such as OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin. The report highlighted a study that was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and concluded with data from 2010.

The article examined the painkiller abuse in the city of Portsmouth, Ohio, which is located on the edge of Appalachia in Scioto County. Prescription painkiller addiction was originally more of a problem with men, who would be given opoids such as Vicodin for back pain from working in the coal mines and factories. However, the CDC notes that since 1999, the death rate among women from prescription painkiller overdoses has quintupled.

Women are now more likely to dies from overdoses of OxyContin than from homicide or cervical cancer. The study reveals that white women are much more likely to suffer a fatal overdose than African American women, and older women (defined by the CDC as the age group of 45-51) are dying in greater numbers than younger women, even though abuse of these opoids is seen more frequently in younger women.

The CDC analysis noted that Asians and Hispanics had the lowest fatality rates from prescription painkiller overdose. In 2010, 6631 women died from painkiller overdoses. One of the major contributing factors in the increase in female deaths appears to be that women are more likely to also be on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications, which can be a lethal combination in conjunction with opoids. Another contributing factor according to the CDC is that chronic pain syndromes such as fibromyalgia are more commonly seen in women than men. Further, the CDC indicates that statistics show that women are more likely to obtain prescriptions of OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet, to get higher doses, and to use these drugs more frequently.

The article also discusses other factors contributing to the problem, such as financial distress, single mothers with little support from the fathers of their children, and a family history of child abuse and alcohol abuse.

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