Deaths attributed to prescription opioid overdose rose fivefold among women between 1999 and 2010, according to an MMWR article. The increase among men was lower, at 3.5-fold, although men remained more likely to overdose than women.
Analyzing two national databases, CDC researchers also found that in 2010, more than 15,000 drug overdose deaths occurred among women. Since 2007, more women have died from drug overdoses than vehicle accidents. Prescription drugs were involved in 85% of overdose cases with drug-specific information; of these, opioids were implicated in 71%. In addition, women had nearly 950,000 emergency department visits for drug abuse or misuse, most often for cocaine/heroin, benzodiazepines, and prescription opioids.
MMWR‘s editors urge providers to screen and monitor patients for substance abuse and mental health issues when prescribing opioids. They also emphasize the risks posed by opioid abuse during pregnancy, advising clinicians to discuss pregnancy plans with patients who are using the drugs for medical and nonmedical reasons.