The opioid epidemic is a national public health emergency, with more than 130 Americans dying each day. According to a recent study in the American Journal of Public Health, without intervention, the death toll may reach more than half a million between 2016 and 2025. While the opioid epidemic has received widespread attention, its impact on women has been understudied.
Men are currently more likely to die of an opioid-related overdose, but rates of prescription opioid overdose deaths for women are increasing at an alarming pace. According to data from the National Center on Health Statistics, between 1999 and 2017, the number of prescription opioid-related deaths increased by 600 percent for women, compared to 308 percent for men.
Women face unique challenges that put them at high risk for addiction.
“We know that women are more likely to experience chronic pain, which is one of the primary reasons that opioids are prescribed. Studies have shown that a prescription for as little as five days increases risk for long-term dependence, and there is evidence to suggest women become addicted faster than men,”said Dr. Melissa Ward-Peterson, postdoctoral associate with the Community Based Research Institute at FIU. “Added to that, women are approximately twice as likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder, a known risk factor for addiction, and 80 percent of women seeking treatment for addiction have experienced some sort of physical or sexual assault in their lifetimes.
“When you combine all of these issues, it becomes easier to understand how this epidemic may be uniquely impacting women.”
Current research isn’t telling the full story.Friday Letter Submission, Publish on September 27