- Women, particularly older ones, dying from drug overdoses in the United States is a growing problem. And a staggering spike in opioid-related deaths is largely driving this trend.
Over the past 20 years, the opioid overdose rate has skyrocketed among women between 30 and 64 years old, according to newanalysis released Thursday by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The rates of opioid overdose deaths among women ages 30 to 64 increased by 492 percent, from 2.6 deaths per 100,000 women in 1999 to 15.5 deaths per 100,000 women in 2017, according to the report. As a result, the average age of death due to a drug overdose rose from 43.5 to 46.5.
Among women in that age group, the drug overdose death rate increased from 6.7 deaths per 100,000 people, or 4,314 deaths total, in 1999 to 24.3 per 100,000, or 18,110 deaths total, in 2017.
During the same time period, the CDC also noted that the number and rate of deaths associated with antidepressants, benzodiazepines, cocaine, heroin and synthetic opioids (excluding methadone) also increased. According to CDC, "Interventions to address the rise in drug overdose deaths include implementing the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, reviewing records of controlled substance prescribing (e.g., prescription drug monitoring programs, health insurance programs), and developing capacity of drug use disorder treatments and linkage to care, especially for middle-aged women with drug use disorders".
The CDC did not detail exactly what's causing women to become disproportionately affected but did note "overdose deaths continue to be unacceptably high, and targeted efforts are needed to reduce the number of deaths in this evolving epidemic". "Withdrawal can also be more intense for women, and they may also respond differently than men to specific medical treatments". The data came from the National Vital Statistics System, which is based on information from death certificates.
Drug overdose death rates increased for other drugs as well, including cocaine, benzodiazepines and antidepressants. Often, overdoses involved multiple drugs.
Both Glatter and Kirane say this starts with increased access to addiction care.
"Data indicates that women run a higher risk of drug craving and relapse, which are important stages in the addiction cycle", Glatter said.
"Moreover, certain mental health issues - such as anxiety and depression - tend to occur at higher rates in women, which create profound obstacles to engagement in care", he said.
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