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Drug overdose deaths among women - have QUINTUPLED since 1999

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
July 4th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In what is seen as an alarming wake-up call, prescription drug overdose deaths among women in the United States have QUINTUPLED - or have become five times as common since 1999. According to the analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdose deaths are hitting white women harder than black women, and older women harder than younger ones.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Prescription pain pill addiction in the U.S. became a national epidemic among workers doing backbreaking labor in the coal mines and factories of Appalachia. Today, the typical death from prescription drugs in the U.S. is women who are abusing pain medications. Deaths from such overdoses have now overtaken cervical cancer and murder as a cause of death in U.S. women. 

Some women are blaming the changing nature of American society. The rise of the single-parent household has thrust immense responsibilities on women, who are not only mothers but the primary breadwinners.

Some women described feeling overwhelmed by their responsibilities that they craved the numbness that drugs bring.

"I thought I was supermom," one 42-year-old recovering addict. "I took one kid to football, the other to baseball. I went to work. I washed the car. I cleaned the house. I didn't even know I had a problem."

For years, drug overdose deaths in the U.S. were seen as mostly an urban problem that hit blacks the hardest. Opioid abuse, which exploded in the 1990s and 2000s and included drugs like OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet, has been worst among whites, often in rural places.

The Centers for Disease Control analysis found that the overdose death rate for blacks in 2010, the most recent year for which there was final data, was less than half the rate for whites. Asians and Hispanics had the lowest rates.

One surprising statistic found was the while younger women in their 20s and 30s tend to have the highest rates of opioid abuse, the overdose death rate was highest among women ages 45 to 54, a finding that surprised clinicians.

Findings indicate that at least some portion of the drugs may have been prescribed appropriately for pain, Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, says. If death rates were driven purely by abuse, then one would expect the death rates to be highest among younger women who are the biggest abusers.

C.D.C. Director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden said the problem had gone virtually unrecognized. The study offered several theories for the increase. Women are more likely than men to be prescribed pain drugs, to abuse them chronically as well as get prescriptions for higher doses.

The study's authors hypothesized that it might be because the most common forms of chronic pain, like fibromyalgia, are more common in women. A woman typically also has less body mass than a man, making it easier to overdose.

In addition, women are also more likely to be given prescriptions of psychotherapeutic drugs, like antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, Volkow says. That is significant because people who overdose are much more likely to have been taking a combination of those drugs and pain medication.

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