The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vital Signs report released on July 2, 2013 revealed that more than five times as many women died of prescription painkiller overdoses in 2010 than in 1999. This accounted for about 48,000 women dying from painkiller overdoses, an increase of 400 percent over the decade. In 2010, 18 women died every day; about half of all women’s overdose deaths were due to prescription painkillers. Prescription painkillers include opioid or narcotic pain relievers, including drugs like Vicodin, OxyContin, Opana, and methadone.
Statistics on Women’s Painkiller Deaths
- Since 2007, more women have died from drug overdoses than motor vehicle crashes.
- Women aged 45 to 54 years are at the highest risk of dying from a painkiller overdose.
- About 10 percent of women who commit suicide use prescription painkillers.
- Women between 25 and 54 years of age are more likely than any other age group to have to go to the emergency room due to prescription painkiller misuse or abuse.
- For every woman who died of a prescription painkiller overdose, 30 more visited the emergency room for misuse or abuse.
- In 2010, one woman visited the ER every ten minutes related to prescription pain medication.
General Population Painkiller Statistics
- Drug overdose deaths rose for the 11th straight year in 2010; 60 percent of these fatalities involved prescription painkillers.
- Opioid deaths were involved in 75 percent of medication-related deaths.
- Men are still more likely to die from painkiller overdoses than women but the gap between the two genders is closing.
- 70 percent of Americans take prescription drugs at one time or another.
- More kids are being poisoned by prescription drugs as medication prescribing rates increase.
- The FDA has banned the generic version of original OxyContin.
- Experts believe that increased painkiller prescription rates may be behind the rising numbers of prescription painkiller addictions and overdoses as there is a parallel between increased prescription rates and overdoses and deaths over the last decade.
Painkiller Issues Particular to Women
It is important to understand that women are more susceptible to chronic pain and are therefore prescribed higher doses of painkillers over longer periods of time compared to men. Women have also shown higher rates of addiction to prescription painkillers and are more likely to go from doctor to doctor seeking pain medication.
Women are more susceptible to drug overdoses from medication prescribed for mental health issues such as anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, and sleep-aids which could be due to women being more likely to seek help for mental health issues than men.
Prescription drugs taken by pregnant women can put their fetus at risk of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). NAS is a set of symptoms that appear when a newborn has been exposed to addictive illegal or prescription drugs, similar to fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), which happens when a mother abuses alcohol while pregnant. NAS symptoms vary depending on the type of drug the mother used but can include mottling (blotchy skin coloring), diarrhea, excessive or high-pitched crying, excessive sucking, fever, vomiting, seizures, and more. Symptoms typically appear one to ten days after birth.
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