Prescription Painkiller Overdose Deaths Increases by 400 Percent Among Women: CDC

First Posted: Jul 03, 2013 09:26 AM EDT

A latest report released by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention reveals that the number of deaths due to prescription painkiller overdose soared fivefold among women between 1999-2010.

Men are more likely to die of a prescription painkiller overdose, but the report states that since 1999, the  percentage of deaths due to prescription painkiller overdose in women jumped.

The number of deaths in men was 265 percent and in women it was 400 percent. Between 1999-2010, nearly 48,000 women died due to prescription painkiller overdose.

"Prescription painkiller deaths have skyrocketed in women (6,600 in 2010), four times as many as died from cocaine and heroin combined," said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. "Stopping this epidemic in women  and men  is everyone's business. Doctors need to be cautious about prescribing and patients about using these drugs."

The study also includes other statistics of deaths related to drug misuse/abuse and overdose. The study states that every day 42 women died from drug overuse. More women have died due to drug overdose since 2007 than motor vehicle crashes. Almost 34 percent of suicides among women were due to drug overdoses whereas in men it was 8 percent in 2010.

In 2010, 940,000 women visited the emergency departments for drug misuse.

CDC produced this report based on analyzing data from the National Vital Statistics System (1999-2010) and the Drug Abuse Warning Network public use file (2004-2010).

Prior to this, studies have revealed that women suffer with chronic pain and are prescribed painkillers in higher doses and when compared to men they use the painkillers for extended time periods. They are more likely to be dependent on the prescription painkiller quickly than men.

"The prescription painkiller problem affects women in different ways than men and all health care providers treating women should be aware of this," said Linda C. Degutis, Dr.P.H., M.S.N., director of CDC′s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. "Health care providers can help improve the way painkillers are prescribed while making sure women have access to safe and effective pain treatment."

Deaths due to overdose of prescription painkillers can be lowered if women use prescribed drugs as directed by health care provider. They should discuss about the medications they are taking with their health care provider. 

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