Category Archives: Rx Drug Addiction

Prescription Painkiller Overdoses


Prescription Painkiller Overdoses

A growing epidemic, especially among women

July 2013

 VitalSigns

A woman's silhouette

Pill bottle48,000                                                                                                                     Nearly 48,000 women died of prescription painkiller* overdoses between 1999 and 2010.

Woman shape with an upward pointing arrow400% Deaths from prescription painkiller overdoses among women have increased more than 400% since 1999, compared to 265% among men.

Emergency department30                                                                                                                                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.

Problem expanded

Prescription painkiller overdoses are a serious and growing problem among women.

  • More than 5 times as many women died from prescription painkiller overdoses in 2010 as in 1999.
  • Women between the ages of 25 and 54 are more likely than other age groups to go to the emergency department from prescription painkiller misuse or abuse. Women ages 45 to 54 have the highest risk of dying from a prescription painkiller overdose.*
  • Non-Hispanic white and American Indian or Alaska Native women have the highest risk of dying from a prescription painkiller overdose.
  • Prescription painkillers are involved in 1 in 10 suicides among women.

*Death data include unintentional, suicide, and other deaths. Emergency department visits only include suicide attempts if an illicit drug was involved in the attempt.

The prescription painkiller problem affects women in different ways than men.

  • Women are more likely to have chronic pain, be prescribed prescription painkillers, be given higher doses, and use them for longer time periods than men.
  • Women may become dependent on prescription painkillers more quickly than men.
  • Women may be more likely than men to engage in “doctor shopping” (obtaining prescriptions from multiple prescribers).
  • Abuse of prescription painkillers by pregnant women can put an infant at risk. Cases of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS)—which is a group of problems that can occur in newborns exposed to prescription painkillers or other drugs while in the womb—grew by almost 300% in the US between 2000 and 2009.

If you take mental health drugs and prescription painkillers, discuss the combination with your health care provider.

Prescription painkiller overdose deaths are a growing problem among women.

SOURCE: National Vital Statistics System, 1999-2010 (deaths include suicides)

Drug overdose deaths among women, by select drug class, United States, 2004-2010. Data from National Vital Statistics System.

opioids benzodiazepines antidepressants heroin cocaine
Year
1999 1287 420 926 306 850
2000 1534 480 984 279 843
2001 1969 614 1009 313 957
2002 2761 763 1318 359 1143
2003 3173 885 1384 358 1322
2004 3758 1079 1549 341 1405
2005 4188 1209 1575 389 1620
2006 5058 1472 1819 344 1860
2007 5630 1894 1958 399 1665
2008 5733 2046 2047 551 1322
2009 6213 2281 2133 577 1141
2010 6631 2579 2204 584 113

Every 3 minutes, a woman goes to the emergency department for prescription painkiller misuse or abuse.

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.

In 2010:

  • 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.

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