TUESDAY, July 2 (HealthDay News) -- The rate of fatal overdoses
of prescription painkillers and other drugs among U.S. women
quadrupled between 1999 and 2010, federal officials reported
Long thought of as primarily a male problem, drug addiction is
increasingly affecting women, and the new study from the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 42 women in the
United States die each day from prescription drug overdoses.
"Prescription drug overdose deaths have skyrocketed in women," CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said during a noon press conference. "Mothers, wives, sisters and daughters are dying from overdoses at rates we have never seen before."
The CDC said that nearly 48,000 women died of overdoses from any
form of prescribed drug between 1999 and 2010. The annual death
rate for women from drug overdoses now surpasses that of car crash
deaths, the agency said.
Emergency room visits for abuse or overdose have also increased
dramatically, Frieden added.
Much of this increase is due to the widespread abuse of
prescription opioid painkillers such as Oxycontin or Vicodin, which
have been more frequently prescribed in the past decade.
"The increase in opioid overdoses and opioid overdose deaths is directly proportional to the increase in prescribing," Frieden said.
These drugs should be reserved for treating severe pain, as
occurs with debilitating illnesses such as cancer. "But in many
other situations, the risks [to patients] far outweigh the
benefits," he said. "Prescribing an opioid may be condemning a
patient to lifelong addiction and life-threatening
Although men are still more likely to die from painkiller
overdoses, since 1999 the percentage increase in deaths was greater
among women -- 400 percent in women compared with 265 percent in
men, the CDC said.
Other statistics, based on 2010 data:
Research has found that women are more likely to suffer chronic
pain, use prescription painkillers at higher doses and use them for
longer periods of time than men, according to the CDC.
In addition, women may become dependent on these drugs faster
than men and may engage in "doctor shopping" -- getting
prescriptions from several doctors, the agency said.
CDC experts said women can take steps to make sure they don't
become part of these statistics. These steps include using
prescriptions only as directed by a doctor, discussing medication
use carefully with the physician, and throwing out medications as
soon as treatment is finished and not keeping them around "just in
People who feel they need help for any substance abuse issue can
reach out to 1-800-662-HELP or call Poison Help (1-800-222-1222)
with questions about medicines.
Individuals can also prevent drug misuse and abuse by not
selling or sharing their prescription drugs and never taking
someone else's prescription painkillers, the agency said.
Doctors play a key role, too, and need to adhere to guidelines
when prescribing narcotic painkillers. They should also use state
drug monitoring programs to identify people misusing these drugs,
the CDC advised.
Doctors can also suggest other treatment options for patients
that do not include prescription drugs, the CDC said.
For more on prescription painkillers, visit the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
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