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Middle-Aged Women Die From Prescription Drug Overdoses

The Centers for Disease Control recently released a report that more middle-aged women are dying from prescription drug overdoses, and primarily from prescription painkillers.  The problem is so prevalent that the CDC is calling it a “health epidemic”; in fact, the number of middle-aged women who have died as a result of prescription drug overdose has increased five-fold in the last decade.

Although men are still more likely to die of drug overdose than women, the number of deaths caused by prescription painkillers is astounding among women.  The CDC report shows that the number of women dying from prescription drug overdose is four times the number that died from heroin or cocaine use combined.  So, while men have typically led the trend in prescription drug overdoses, women are catching up.

Numerous Reasons for Women’s Increasing Likelihood of Death from Prescription Drug Overdose

The CDC says that women may be more prone to prescription drug overdoses for several reasons.  First, women are more prone to chronic pain than men, and they are also more likely to be prescribed painkillers at higher doses and use them for a longer time.  Unfortunately, doctors aren’t always aware of these facts.

Although prescription painkiller use has increased astronomically for women, the rate of problems that necessitate painkillers hasn’t increased.  However, doctors seem to be prescribing more prescription painkillers for patients who might not need them.  The greatest increase in women using prescription painkillers is in the age group of 45-54, with double the number of women visiting the ER for painkiller-related overdoses.

CDC Calls for Increased Prescription Painkiller Monitoring

The CDC advocates for maximizing prescription painkiller monitoring programs, which would allow pharmacists to submit reports of patient prescriptions, dosages, the pharmaceutical that dispensed the drugs, and the doctor that prescribed the medication to the state health department.  Furthermore, health care providers can also help to stem the problem by monitoring patients with a history of mental health or substance abuse problems.  Patients can also be responsible for their use, by keeping their doctor informed of all medications they are taking, using painkillers only for the time needed, and disposing of medication after a prescription regimen is completed as recommended by their doctor.

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