More Middle Aged Women Dying From Drug Overdoses

The government recently reported that more middle aged women are dying from drug overdoses than ever before, and the cause is a prescription pain medication.  These women are wives, daughters, mothers and sisters, and they are dying at higher rates than ever before, Dr. Thomas Frieden, the director of the CDC has said.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put the report together.


Prescription pain medications responsible for many drug overdose deaths in women.

Prescription pain medications responsible for many drug overdose deaths in women.

Until now, the main overdose deaths in the United States were men that were killed when they took too much cocaine or heroin.  By 2010, forty percent of those overdoses were women who took prescription pain medications, and most of them were middle-aged.

The dramatic increase in female overdose deaths is closely linked to the rise in the use of pain medications that doctors prescribe.  The CDC’s new report is the first one that takes a close look on how deaths have begun climbing among women.  According to the report, prescription pain medication overdoses among middle-aged females has increased five-fold between 1999 and 2010.  Deaths among men for the same reason have gone up about 3.5 times.

In essence, more men are still dying from prescription pain medication and other drug overdoses.  In 2010, there were about 23,000 of them; there were about 15,300 female deaths of similar causes.  This is likely to the fact that men tend to be greater risk takers when it comes to drugs than women, and often experience more work place injuries that lead to them obtaining prescriptions for pain medications to begin with.

According to studies, many women likely experience more types of chronic pain, which causes higher doses of prescription pain medications to be prescribed.  Chronic pain also causes these medications to be used for longer amounts of time than men might take them.  Some studies find that women may be more likely to shop for doctors than men, and obtain pain medications from many doctors.

According to John Eadie, the director of a program that monitors prescription medication tracking efforts across the US with Brandeis University, “Many doctors may not recognize these facts about women.”  He has also said that this report suggests that doctors should begin to change the way they think about drug abuse being a “men’s” problem and that more female addictions should be considered.  He also suggests that more health care professionals begin finding alternative types of treatment for chronic pain, and be in touch with the drug monitoring programs within their state to determine if patients have troublesome pain medication history.

The new report places a focus on opioid pain medications such as OxyContin, Vicodin, and the powerful new drug Opana.  Dr. Frieden has said that all of these drugs are dangerous and should only be used in situations of severe pain such as that caused by cancer.  He has also stated that there is no pain increase that has been documented among the population of the US that offers an explanation for painkiller prescriptions over the last 15 years or so.

Researchers feel that most of the women that did die from pain medication overdose were likely introduced to the medications by their doctor to treat real pain at some point.

Written by Tony Clark

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