The number of prescription painkiller overdose deaths increased five fold among women between 1999 and 2010, according to a Vital Signs report released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While men are more likely to die of a prescription painkiller overdose, since 1999 the percentage increase in deaths 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."Prescription painkiller deaths have skyrocketed in women (6,600 in 2010), four times as many as died from cocaine and heroin combined," said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. "Stopping this epidemic in women – and men – is everyone's business. Doctors need to be cautious about prescribing and patients about using these drugs."
The study includes emergency department visits and deaths related to drug misuse/abuse and overdose, as well as analyses specific to prescription painkillers. The key findings include:
- About 42 women die every day from a drug overdose.
-Since 2007, more women have died from drug overdoses than from motor vehicle crashes.
- Prescription painkillers have been a major contributor to increases in drug overdose deaths among women.
-More than 6,600 women, or 18 women every day, died from a prescription painkiller overdose in 2010.
-There were four times more deaths among women from prescription painkiller overdose than for cocaine and heroin deaths combined in 2010.
-In 2010, there were more than 200,000 emergency department visits for opioid misuse or abuse among women; about one every three minutes.
For the Vital Signs report, CDC analyzed data from the National Vital Statistics System (1999-2010) and the Drug Abuse Warning Network public use file (2004-2010).
Previous research has shown that women are more likely to have chronic pain, be prescribed prescription painkillers, be given higher doses, and use them for longer time periods than men. Studies have also shown that women may become dependent on prescription painkillers more quickly than men and may be more likely than men to engage in "doctor shopping" (obtaining prescriptions from multiple prescribers).
For more information about prescription drug overdoses, please visit www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Poisoning.