Fatal prescription painkiller overdoses among women have increased 400 percent since 1999. In 2010, about 15,300 women have died from overdoses of all kinds, more than from car accidents or cervical cancer, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC’s director, Dr. Tom Friedan, characterized the prescription drug overdose epidemic for what it is: “Mothers, wives, sisters and daughters are dying at rates that we have never seen before.”
Frieden said doctors are prescribing painkillers too often and too soon, leading to high rates of overdoses — especially in women, according to the L.A. Times.
The women with the highest risk of overdose are white and aged 45 to 54, although women in their 20s and 30s tend to have the highest rates of opioid abuse.
Women are more susceptible, the report’s authors reasoned, because they are more likely to have chronic pain diseases, such as fibromyalgia, and they also have a lower body mass. One doctor said they’re more likely to be prescribed psychotherapeutic drugs, which can be fatal when combined with opiates.
While women are increasingly becoming addicted to and overdosing on prescribed painkillers, the epidemic has had a general negative effect on the United States in the last couple decades. Frieden told the L.A. Times that unless there are severe cases, like cancer patients, other modes of treatment should be explored.
Furthermore, prescription pill abuse has become such a problem in the U.S. that law enforcement officials are trying to figure out creative ways to curb the epidemic. In New York City, for example, officials implanted GPS chips into painkiller bottles in order to track the ones stolen.
Kirsten Gibson is an intern for ThinkProgress.