Skyrocketing Overdose Death Rates Among Women

Overdose Deaths Among Women

One thing that doesn’t change when it comes to drug addiction is the fact that it doesn’t discriminate.  Anyone, regardless of age, ethnicity, financial status, or gender can succumb to the effects of an addictive substance.  However, since the turn of the century, the number of overdose deaths among women has skyrocketed.

Although overdose deaths continue to rise among both genders, the overall drug overdose death rates associated with synthetic opioid abuse among women climbed 830 percent from 1999 to 2017.

Let’s look at a few more statistics provided by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) to get a better idea of the scope of the problem among women in these age groups:

  • 30 to 64 –  A 260% increase from 6.7 deaths in 1999 to 24.3 in 2017.
  • 55 to 64 –  Since 1999, a 500% increase in drug mortality.
  • 30 to 34/50 to 54 – An increase of 350% in drug-related deaths.
  • 43 to 48 – The average age at death caused by overdose between 1999 and 2017.
  • 55 to 64 –  Deaths from prescription opioids rose more than 1,000% between 1999 and 2017.

The CDC report also shows that overall, some drugs that are used together that contributed to the death rates.  For instance, the intentional or unintentional use of fentanyl in combination with heroin, cocaine, or opiates is not uncommon.

What is Being Done to Reduce Opioid Misuse and Overdose Deaths Among Women?

In recent years, public health efforts to reduce opioid abuse or misuse among women have increased.  The CDC calls for a multifaceted approach to curb overdose deaths among women.

Research shows that each woman experiences changes throughout life that affect the effectiveness of a substance used or abused for treating pain.  For that reason, physicians who treat women for depression, anxiety, or pain must consider gender-responsive treatment.

Women are also cautioned about the dangers of opioid use during pregnancy which can result in neonatal abstinence syndrome.  According to SAMHSA, about 5.4 percent of pregnant women aged 18 to 44 used alcohol during their first trimester of pregnancy.  Also, about 4.8 percent used alcohol in their second trimester, and 2.4 percent in the last trimester.

Are Women More Likely to Become Addicts Than Men?

Research shows that men are more likely than women to use illicit drugs and have higher rates of abuse or dependence on illicit substances than women.  However, women may be more likely than men to experience cravings and relapse.

Studies also show that women who use drugs may have contributing factors that put them at higher risk for drug abuse or addiction.

  • Issues related to the menstrual cycle, hormones, fertility, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause are unique reasons why a woman uses or abuses drugs.
  • The hormonal fluctuations can cause women to be more sensitive to the effects of some drugs.
  • Women who use drugs experience different brain changes than men who use the same drug.
  • Women are more likely to need treatment for an overdose on certain substances.
  • Females are more likely to experience anxiety, panic attacks, or depression with certain substances.
  • Women’s substance use progresses more quickly from first use to addiction.
  • Withdrawal symptoms may be more intense for women.

Because of the above issues, the NIH and other agencies are pushing for clinical researchers to include women in the studies.  In the past, the studies were based on male subjects only. This can cause significant health risks for women. For instance, the dosage amount for Ambien has been cut in half for women due to the number of females who developed addictions or overdoses while taking this drug.

Should Rehabs Offer Treatment Programs Specifically Designed for Women?

Many women find it difficult to seek help for addiction during pregnancy, while others find it hard to find childcare so they can attend treatment.  Also, what works for men in an addiction treatment program may not be effective for women. Experts agree that treatment should include considerations for the specific needs of women in treating substance abuse or gender-specific treatment.

Overdose deaths among women have skyrocketed, but that trend can be stopped, and lives can be saved with the right treatment approach. Learn more about addiction treatment for women by calling our toll-free number today.


cdc.govOpioid Overdose

samhsa.gov18 Percent of Pregnant Women Drink Alcohol During Early Pregnancy

drugabuse.govSex and Gender Differences in Substance Use

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