Deaths from prescription painkiller overdose among women in the United States have risen sharply in recent years, said a report released Tuesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Between 1999 and 2010, the death toll from painkiller overdose increased more than 400 percent among U.S. women, compared to 265 percent in U.S. men, the report said.
A total of 48,000 U.S. women died from these drugs during that period, it said.
“Prescription painkiller deaths have skyrocketed in women,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement. “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 included emergency department visits and deaths related to drug misuse/abuse and overdose, as well as analyses specific to prescription painkillers.
It found that more than 6,600 U.S. women died from prescription painkillers in 2010, which is four times as many as died from cocaine and heroin combined. The death rate was highest among women ages 45 to 54.
There were also more than 200,000 emergency department visits for opioid misuse or abuse among women during that year, said the CDC.
Research suggests 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, the agency said.
Women may also become dependent on prescription painkillers more quickly than men, it said.
“The prescription painkiller problem affects women in different ways than men and all health care providers treating women should be aware of this,” said Linda Degutis, director of CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
“Health care providers can help improve the way painkillers are prescribed while making sure women have access to safe and effective pain treatment,” Degutis said.