Drug Overdose Death Rates in US Women Rise 260% in 2 Decades

Drug Overdose Death Rates in US Women Rise 260% in 2 Decades

News cited numbers from the Centers For Disease Control that said women between the ages of 30 and 64 are falling victim to addiction.

The drug overdose death rates also increased for all drug categories, with notable surges in rates of deaths involving synthetic opioids, at 1,643%; heroin, at 915%; and benzodiazepines, at 830%, the researchers found.

Along with rising death rates of alcohol-related diseases among women, fatal overdoses are sometimes referred to as "deaths of despair".

THURSDAY, Jan. 10, 2019 (HealthDay News) - The rate at which middle-aged American women die from overdoses involving opioids and other drugs almost quadrupled between 1999 and 2017, new government data shows.

Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, offered some explanations why women are particularly vulnerable to drug overdose.

Men may be more likely than women to use nearly all types of illicit drugs, but women are just as likely as men to develop a substance use disorder, and women may be more susceptible to craving and relapse - key phases of the addiction cycle, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Glatter was not involved in the CDC report.

He said that while men tend to have higher rates of drug abuse than women, women can be especially vulnerable.

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In 1999, the average age of a fatal OD in middle-aged women was 43.5 years, but by 2017 it had risen to 46.3 years, Mack's team reported. "Women who are victims of domestic violence are also at higher risk of substance abuse".

In 1999, the US women at greatest risk of a fatal drug overdose were between the ages of 40 and 44. But back then, the risk of dying from an overdose dropped off sharply after a woman's 50th birthday. In other words, the rate increased "from 6.7 deaths per 100,000 population (4,314 total drug overdose deaths) in 1999 to 24.3 (18,110) in 2017", the health agency said in the report.

Overdoses among American women "continue to be unacceptably high", the authors of the new report wrote.

He added that women's sex hormones make them more sensitive to the effects of some drugs such as opiates and benzodiazepines. What's more, certain overdose deaths may be the result of the combination of drugs used, the researchers noted.

So while the size of the rise in drug overdose deaths among women may come as a shock, the fact that women are being affected in America's drug epidemic should not be as surprising, said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, who was not involved in the new CDC report.

Doctors stress the importance of treating anxiety, depression and chronic pain and talking openly with doctors about treatment options. And insurance programs that serve older women, including Medicare, may need to sharpen their focus on older women's needs for more careful prescribing, more focused counseling, and better access to treatment for substance dependence than they have done in the past.

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