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.
CDC Media Relations
Karin Mack, Ph.D.
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 - Senior Behavioral Scientist, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, CDC
- Press Release: Deaths from Prescription Painkiller Overdoses Rise Sharply Among Women
- Vital Signs:Home | July 2013 Vital Signs: Prescription Drug Overdoses Among Women | Factsheet | PDF eBook | Issues
CDC Related Links
- Vital Signs Issue details: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR): Vital Signs: Risk for Overdose from methadone Used for Pain Relief–United States, 1999-2010
- Policy Impact: Prescription Painkiller Overdoses
- Unintentional Poisoning
- Home and Recreational Safety
- National Center for Injury Prevention and Control
- MedlinePlus - Prescription Drug Abuse
- MedlinePlus - Pain Relievers
- The White House - Office of National Drug Control Policy
- SAMHSA – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- Methadone Treatment for Pregnant Women
Treatment Approaches for Women
Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Addiction: Facts for Families and Friends
- Drug Enforcement Administration – Office of Diversion Control
- National Institute on Drug Abuse – Prescription Medications
- Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration - Drugs Information
- National Institute of Mental Health
- Mental health medications
PDMP Center of Excellence, Brandeis University
- Page last reviewed: July 2, 2013
- Page last updated: July 2, 2013
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