Drug Overdose Deaths Among Women Has Increased by 260%: Report
Sat, April 10, 2021

Drug Overdose Deaths Among Women Has Increased by 260%: Report

hen drugs are abused or taken in large amounts, an overdose becomes a risk. While we seldom hear of this kind of news, there are several cases of this happening every day / Photo by: dolgachov via 123RF

 

When drugs are abused or taken in large amounts, an overdose becomes a risk. While we seldom hear of this kind of news, there are several cases of this happening every day. In London, police are recently investing four potential drug-related deaths that happened in a single day. The London Free Press, a daily newspaper based in Canada, reported that individuals take drugs mixed with fentanyl, which is highly addictive and 100 times more powerful than morphine.

America’s Health Rankings, a United Health Foundation that aims to provide a wide variety of health and health-related information, reported that more than 70,200 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017 alone. Drug overdose deaths have increased steadily in the US for the past 20 years. In fact, it has become a leading cause of injury death. Of these drug overdose deaths, 68% involved opioids, 20% involved cocaine, and 14.7 percent involved psychostimulants.

While a person who overdoses generally recovers completely and without lasting physical disability, some serious drug overdoses can be fatal. In some cases, it can cause severe damage to certain organ systems. The liver and the kidneys are two organs at high risk. Aside from that, overdosing can result in brain damage caused by suppression of lung and heart functions. 

Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that a person who managed to survive an overdose will not do it again. Often, they remain at risk for repetitive drug overdoses if the mental health problems that led to an intentional overdose are not addressed. Multiple overdoses can have a lasting impact on their organ systems and even lead to injury and organ failure. Sometimes, the effects are not recognized until later in the person’s life. 

Drug Addiction in Women

AHR reported that populations of women are affected by high rates of drug overdose deaths. Women ages 25 to 54 are most likely to go to the emergency department because of prescription opioid misuse or abuse compared with other age groups. However, drug addiction in women that can lead to overdose has not been well-studied in past decades. In those studies, researchers only got men as their participants, reflecting a medical bias that affects some issues women have faced in addiction.

This all changed during the 1990s. According to Addiction Center, an informational web guide for those who are struggling with substance use disorders and co-occurring behavioral and mental health disorders, several US organizations have required the inclusion of women as study participants. It was later discovered that there are differences in addiction between men and women. The significant differences in addiction center around “susceptibility, recovery, and risk of relapse.

“Typically, men are more likely to abuse illicit drugs and alcohol—11.5% of males over 12 have a substance use disorder compared to 6.4% in females. However, women are more likely to go to the emergency room or fatally overdose due to substance abuse,” the report said. 

A 2019 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that women can become addicted faster compared to men despite using fewer drugs. The researchers showed that the reason behind this is that sex hormones can make women more sensitive to the effects of certain drugs. They also tend to intake a smaller amount of drugs for a shorter period before developing drug cravings and becoming addicted. Also, women are more likely to relapse after treatment.

AHR reported that populations of women are affected by high rates of drug overdose deaths. Women ages 25 to 54 are most likely to go to the emergency department because of prescription opioid misuse or abuse compared with other age groups / Photo by: Thitikorn Suksao via 123RF

 

Drug Overdose in Women

The same study by the CDC also revealed that drug overdose death rates in the US have increased by 260% in the past two decades. The researchers studied the overdose death rates among American women ages 30 to 64 from 1999 to 2017. In 2017, the rate increased to 24.3 overdose deaths per 100,000 women from only 6.7 deaths per 100,000 women. This is equivalent to 18,110 total overdose deaths from only 4,314. 

According to Live Science, a science news website that features groundbreaking developments in science, space, technology, health, the environment, our culture, and history, the authors said, "Overdose deaths continue to be unacceptably high, and targeted efforts are needed to reduce the number of deaths in this evolving epidemic among middle-aged women."

The report also revealed that the rates of opioid overdose deaths women ages 30 to 64 increased from 2.6 deaths per 100,000 women in 1999 to 15.5 deaths per 100,000 women in 2017. This is equivalent to an overall increase of 492%. Synthetic opioids were attributed to the largest rise of deaths, which includes fentanyl (1,643%), heroin (915%), and prescription opioids (485 %). 

While men are more likely to use almost all types of illicit drugs compared to women, women are just as likely as men to develop a substance use disorder. They are even more susceptible to craving and relapse. Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, stated that the report is not that surprising because the US has been ignoring the problem for a while. 

According to CNN, an American news-based pay television channel owned by AT&T's WarnerMedia, Benjamin stated that there are some possible ways to reduce the rising number of drug overdose deaths among women but they can be challenging. "Part of the solution is for people to become more aware of this and for people who are prescribing medications to do a much better job of—particularly when prescribing for women—talking about the risks and the relative risk of addiction," he said.

The study showed that the increase in drug overdose deaths among women not only tackles the addiction of women on drugs but also how the US is not paying attention to this problem.