Overdose Deaths Rising Among Middle-Aged Women

The “pill generation” is dying at record rates from opiates and opiod abuse.

Painkiller deaths are now described by the CDC as “epidemic” as addicted women are beating the men for deaths directly related to to prescription opioid painkillers, according to government researchers.

There was a 415% increase in opioid painkiller-related deaths among women between 1999 and 2010 compared with a 265% increase among men, according to Karin Mack, PhD, of the CDC, and colleagues.

48,000 women died of prescription painkiller overdoses between 1999 and 2010, they reported in a Vital Signs report in Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report. These are indeed staggering numbers.

“Prescription painkiller drug deaths have skyrocketed in women,” Thomas Frieden, MD, director of the CDC, told reporters during a press briefing. “It’s not only deaths, but there is also a great increase in the number of emergency department visits for misuse and abuse of opioid painkillers.”

In 2010, the 15,323 deaths among women that were drug overdoses, 6,631 deaths – 71% – were directly because of prescription opioids.

Emergency Room visits related to prescription opioid abuse “more than doubled” among women between 2004 and 2010, the study showed. Rates were highest among women ages 25 to 34, reaching nearly 50,000 ED visits for opioid painkillers in 2010.

Frieden said the increases in deaths and ED visits among women has tracked along with increased prescribing of opioid painkillers. Those prescriptions have risen “to an extent that we could not have anticipated, and which could not possibly have been clinically indicated,” Frieden said.

In 2010, the 15,323 deaths among women that were drug overdoses, 6,631 deaths – 71% – were directly because of prescription opioids.

The research revealed that women often receive greater doses of these drugs than men receive.

“We don’t understand why [women] are getting higher doses, when on average they should be getting lower doses” than men, Frieden said during the briefing.

Frieden added that clinicians “need to recognize women at risk”. A lot of healthcare providers currently think just men are at greater risk of death from opioid overdose.

“There’s no clear indication of these drugs for other conditions [besides cancer pain],” Frieden said, noting a lack of evidence for opioids in chronic back or body pain, an indication for which they are commonly used. “We really want to emphasize the risks and benefit. These are risky drugs, and often there are other therapies such as physical therapy, exercise, and cognitive therapies that can be important in addressing chronic pain.”

SignatureMD doctors employ many pain relieving techniques and alternative ways to alleviate different kinds of pain. Always ask your doctor for all the possible ways you can safely administer pain relief.


I. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
II. Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report Mack KA, et al “Vital Signs: Overdoses of prescription opioid pain relievers and other drugs among women — United States, 1999-2010” MMWR 2013; 62.

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