Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to site content Skip directly to page options
CDC Home

New CDC Vital Signs: Prescription Painkiller Epidemic Among Women

Women are dying from prescription painkiller overdoses at rates never seen before, according to a new CDC Vital Signs. While men are more likely to die of a prescription painkiller overdose, the percentage increase in deaths since 1999 was greater among women (400 percent in women compared to 265 percent in men). Prescription painkiller overdoses killed nearly 48,000 women between 1999 and 2010.

  • About 42 women die every day from a drug overdose (including those from prescription painkillers). Since 2007, more women have died from drug overdoses than from motor vehicle crashes. More than 940,000 women were seen in emergency departments for drug misuse or abuse in 2010.
  • Prescription painkillers have been a major contributor to increases in drug overdose deaths among women. More than 6,600 women died from a prescription painkiller overdose in 2010. This is about 18 women a day; which accounts for nearly half of all drug overdoses that happen each day among women. In 2010, there were more than 200,000 emergency department visits for opioid misuse or abuse among women; about one every three minutes.
  • Health care providers and women can take steps to protect against prescription painkiller overdoses. It is important that health care providers follow guidelines for responsible opioid prescribing (including screening and monitoring for substance abuse and mental health problems). They should also discuss all pain treatment options with their patients (including ones that do not involve prescription drugs). Women should only use prescription drugs as directed by a health care provider and should dispose of medications properly as soon as the course of treatment is done.

Prevent misuse and abuse by never selling or sharing prescription drugs. Get help for substance abuse problems (1-800-662-HELP) and call Poison Help (1-800-222-1222) with questions about medicines. For more information about prescription drug overdoses, please visit CDC's Injury Center.

Graphics / Images

  • Woman holding pill bottle

    Use prescription drugs only as directed by a health care provider, and store them in a secure place.

    Use prescription drugs only as directed by a health care provider, and store them in a secure place.

  •  Vital Signs RX Painkiller

    Dispose of medications properly, as soon as the course of treatment is done. Do not keep prescription medications around "just in case."

    Dispose of medications properly, as soon as the course of treatment is done. Do not keep prescription medications around "just in case."

  •  Vital Signs RX Painkiller

    Prescription painkiller overdoses killed 5 times as many women in 2010 as in 1999.

    Prescription painkiller overdoses killed 5 times as many women in 2010 as in 1999.

  • Dr. Karen Mack

    Every 3 minutes, a woman gets to the emergency department for prescrption painkiller misuse or abuse.

    Every 3 minutes, a woman gets to the emergency department for prescrption painkiller misuse or abuse.

  • Prescription Pain Killers

    For every woman who dies of a prescription painkiller overdose, 30 go to the emergency department for painkiller misuse or abuse.

    For every woman who dies of a prescription painkiller overdose, 30 go to the emergency department for painkiller misuse or abuse.

  • Prescription Pain Killers

    Deaths from prescription painkiller overdoses among women have increased more than 400%, compared to 265% among men (1999-2010).

    Deaths from prescription painkiller overdoses among women have increased more than 400%, compared to 265% among men (1999-2010).

Contact Information

CDC Media Relations
(404) 639-3286
media@cdc.gov

Spokespersons

Tom Frieden, MD, MPH

Biography

Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH

Prescription painkiller deaths have skyrocketed in women (6,600 in 2010), four times as many as died from cocaine and heroin combined. Stopping this epidemic in women – and men – is everyone’s business. Doctors need to be cautious about prescribing and patients about using these drugs.

Tom Frieden, MD, MPH - Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Karin Mack, Ph.D.

Biography

Karin Mack, Ph.D.

Health care providers can play an important role in curbing this epidemic by improving the way painkillers are prescribed among women. We can all work together to ensure that women have access to safe and effective pain treatment." Karin Mack, PhD, CDC's Injury Center.

Karin Mack, PhD -Senior Behavioral Scientist, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, CDC

 
CDC 24/7 – Saving Lives. Protecting People. Saving Money Through Prevention. Learn More About How CDC Works For You…
Contact Us:
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    1600 Clifton Rd
    Atlanta, GA 30333
  • 800-CDC-INFO
    (800-232-4636)
    TTY: (888) 232-6348
  • Contact CDC-INFO
USA.gov: The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   1600 Clifton Rd. Atlanta, GA 30333, USA
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: (888) 232-6348 - Contact CDC–INFO
A-Z Index
  1. A
  2. B
  3. C
  4. D
  5. E
  6. F
  7. G
  8. H
  9. I
  10. J
  11. K
  12. L
  13. M
  14. N
  15. O
  16. P
  17. Q
  18. R
  19. S
  20. T
  21. U
  22. V
  23. W
  24. X
  25. Y
  26. Z
  27. #