According to a recent national health survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more women in the U.S. have died from prescription painkiller overdoses since 2007 than from motor vehicle accidents. In fact, roughly 18 American women die from painkiller overdoses every day — that’s more than four times the rate of deaths attributed to cocaine and heroin use combined.
What’s to blame for this dramatic increase in prescription painkiller overdoses amongst women? It’s a combination of factors. Many drug makers specifically target women in their advertising and the smaller size of women compared to men means that women metabolize these medications more quickly than their male counterparts. Studies have also shown that women are more likely than men to combine prescription drug use with the use of other drugs or alcohol. Furthermore, some experts claim that women are much more likely to be prescribed painkillers than men are.
In the United States, the rate of abuse of prescription drugs amongst women doubled between 2004 and 2010. While over-prescription of painkillers is part of the problem, the truth is that more than 70 percent of known abusers of prescription drugs get them from relatives or friends. No matter what the cause of the increase of female mortality from prescription painkiller overdoses, it’s clear that this is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. To start, the CDC recommends more stringent policies and tracking for prescription drugs in conjunction with better education regarding the dangers of prescription painkillers for doctors and patients, alike.