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More Women Overdosing on Drugs

By HERWriter Guide
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With all this talk of 50 being the new 40, and 40 being the new 30 (etc.), it's beginning to look like the problems of younger people are also showing up in women at an age where one might think those issues should no longer apply.

I wrote an article for EmpowHER many years ago about the rise of eating disorders in older women. One of the reasons discussed was the pressure on older women to remain youthful as long as possible, and facing more pressure than generations before. That article can be read here: https://www.empowher.com/community/share/no-longer-young-disease-eating-...

Another recent finding by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that women are overdosing on drugs more than ever, and may even catch up to the numbers of men who do the same. In fact, most of the cases of female overdoses are being seen in middle-aged women.

They are the fastest growing population of those hospitalized for overdoses. The Associated Press reported the numbers in a recent article, seen on NPR's website.

While the occurrence of male overdoses has increased by 3.5 times, the largest growth in numbers is with women. There's been a five time increase between 1999 and 2010.

As to why this may be happening, researchers believe that women may suffer from more chronic pain than men and could be prescribed medication in higher doses than men. Women may also tend to shop around for different doctors in order to get more medications and hope that nobody knows what they are doing.

Another issue may be that doctors could look on men as more likely to abuse painkillers so less focus or scrutiny is given to women. More men end up in hospital due to overdoses, compounding the notion that men are far more likely to abuse prescription drugs. So women seem to be able to slide a little more when it comes to doctor-shopping.

Of the drug overdoses that result in death, the CDC believes that up to 70 percent were accidental overdoses, as opposed to suicides or attempted suicides.

The FDA is trying to educate doctors to look more carefully for the signs of painkiller abuse. In a 2012 EmpowHER article, it was reported that the FDA was mandating that all companies who make painkillers like Oxycontin, Vicodin and other narcotics pay for educational courses for medical professionals. The goal is to teach them how to properly administer the drug, how to counsel the patients, and look for signs of abuse.

The article also stated that the FDA "requires companies to develop a one-page information sheet for people who take the painkillers that includes safety information and explains how to discard the pills."

Doctors are also looking into other ways, such as alternative medications/physical therapy, to control pain management in their patients, in order to lessen the risks of addiction. With the number of abuses rising, this is certainly something that needs to happen far sooner than later.


NPR.org. Drug Overdose Deaths Spike Among Middle-Aged Women. Web. Retrieved July 5th, 2013.

EmpowHER.com. Addictions. "US FDA focuses on training to stem painkiller abuse". Web. Retrieved July 5th, 2013.

Reviewed July 5, 2013
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment3 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

When I hit 40, almost every doctor I visited tried to give me a prescription for antidepressants, regardless of whatever physical ailment I had. Legal drug pushers!

July 6, 2013 - 3:27pm
EmpowHER Guest

I am a middle aged woman and I think I can speak to this issue. Doctors seem to be oblivious to the needs of women. When I have needed meds I have found that doctors do not listen, hell they barely look at you. They treat us like children, ignoring our concerns and overlaying their own opinion of who we are on top of what we have already said to them. We never know when we will be denied the meds we need due to the doctor deciding we are nothing more than big fat children and not trustworthy or mature enough to handle our own lives, so we stockpile to protect ourselves from the time we are denied access because we failed to wear makeup that day. Add to that the physical pain that comes with aging, the refusal of men to take on more of the domestic load, our failing bodies, society's way of making us invisible, feeling terrible due to imbalanced hormones, an improper American diet that doctors refuse to address, on top of all of that we must never get wrinkle or grey and still be alluring as hell and ready for sex. And people wonder why we are killing ourselves? Our misogynistic society is to blame, not the women. We also know what is waiting for us when we get old. We will burden the women in our family, continuing the cycle of domestic servitude, or we will be forced into what amounts to a mental institution also known as a nursing home. Nursing homes should be called old age warehouses complete with scabies, bed sores, no privacy and are dehumanizing in every way. There is no elder care system in this country because women are not valued. Period. Why put up with all that crap? Because our society refuses to value and care for us the way WE want to be cared for, we make the rational decision to take control of our own destiny. And why not, it may be the only self determining act some women will ever take in their entire lives. I will wait until my family tells me it is time to be warehoused before I take my bottle of pills. Some women just want it to be over with now. I don't blame them one bit. Want to save middle aged women? Stop treating us like punching bags. A woman asking for consideration and respect is like shoveling snow in the wind.

July 5, 2013 - 2:30pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

I have to admit, when I meet other 40-something (and over) woman not on pharmaceuticals and still in good physical shape...it is a very rare occasion. In fact, I just met my first one, the other day! I told her..."I knew there was at least one other woman in my age group who isn't on pharmaceuticals!" I won't go into speculating why so many women in their 40's have already given up keeping themselves fit, only to warn any reading this, we do have the potential to live another 40-60 years in this body, and, if you have girl children, your example is the one they will most likely follow later.

Don't get me wrong. I have an eating disorder. I believe it was societally inculcated as I spent my Junior & High School years in the 1980's version of Public Schools...So, maybe the culture does horrible things to women, but, women are giving up, too. I do not get treated like I'm a bag of dirt when I go to the doctor, but, I go in already updated...and usually self diagnosed. I also read an article at one time, a doctor's secret advice, that doctors are more likely to want to treat someone that actually takes care of themselves in the first place. I very rarely go to the doctor...so...I have to make sure I take care of myself. I've noticed most people that go to the doctor all of the time, do not for some reason. My other secret? I pretend I'm as smart as the doctor!

I wonder what the parents of these now 40+ women did to them to make them not want to care for themselves beyond another beer or cigarette or loaf of wheat bread...so...to those women who are all downtrodden, take a moment to consider why. Then, take pride in the work (whatever it is) your body has done for you, thus far, and, do something to make yourself feel better...even a simple walk around the block does wonders. I don't know what else to say, except that from my experience on routes...many a person on pharmaceuticals for long periods of time, develop second, significantly meaner personalities...I can keep up conversations with both...but the mean personality is very mean...I wonder what those totally legal drugs are doing to the brain of such an addicted person to cause them to react in such pain as to develop second personalities?

July 6, 2013 - 5:11am
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