Prescription Painkiller Overdoses
A growing epidemic, especially among women
48,000 Nearly 48,000 women died of prescription painkiller* overdoses between 1999 and 2010.
400% Deaths from prescription painkiller overdoses among women have increased more than 400% since 1999, compared to 265% among men.
30 For every woman who dies of a prescription painkiller overdose, 30 go to the emergency department for painkiller misuse or abuse.
About 18 women die every day of a prescription painkiller overdose in the US, more than 6,600 deaths in 2010. Prescription painkiller overdoses are an under-recognized and growing problem for women.
Although men are still more likely to die of prescription painkiller overdoses (more than 10,000 deaths in 2010), the gap between men and women is closing. Deaths from prescription painkiller overdose among women have risen more sharply than among men; since 1999 the percentage increase in deaths was more than 400% among women compared to 265% in men. This rise relates closely to increased prescribing of these drugs during the past decade. Health care providers can help improve the way painkillers are prescribed while making sure women have access to safe, effective pain treatment.
When prescribing painkillers, health care providers can
- Recognize that women are at risk of prescription painkiller overdose.
- Follow guidelines for responsible prescribing, including screening and monitoring for substance abuse and mental health problems.
- Use prescription drug monitoring programs to identify patients who may be improperly obtaining or using prescription painkillers and other drugs.
*”Prescription painkillers” refers to opioid or narcotic pain relievers, including drugs such as Vicodin (hydrocodone), OxyContin (oxycodone), Opana (oxymorphone), and methadone. Now, Zohydro.
Every 3 minutes, a woman goes to the emergency department for prescription painkiller misuse or abuse.
Women between the ages of 25 and 54 are most likely to go to the emergency department because of prescription painkiller misuse or abuse.
- Women younger than 18 years old, had 5,351 emergency department visits per 100,000 persons
- Women 18-24 years old had 30,719 emergency department visits per 100,000 persons
- Women 25-34 years old had 47,246 emergency department visits per 100,000 persons
- Women 35-44 years old had 41,558 emergency department visits per 100,000 persons
- Women 45-54 years old had 43,860 emergency department visits per 100,000 persons
- Women 55-64 years old had 19,761 emergency department visits per 100,000 persons
- Women 65 years and older had 14,922 emergency department visits per 100,000 persons
The data come from the Drug Abuse Warning Network.