Prescription Painkillers: a Gateway to Addiction for More than 50 Percent of Women

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The New York Times asserts “Experts in addiction say that the use of medications like Vicodin, OxyContin and oxycodone—all opiates like heroin—has altered the landscape of addiction and relapse, in ways that affect both current users and former ones.” One of the biggest changes has been the link between non-medical—use without a prescription, use for purposes other than for what they were prescribed, or use simply for the experience or feeling the drug can cause—use of prescription painkillers and heroin use. This is especially the case among women.

What follows are a number of facts from respected agencies. They may be overwhelming, but they speak to the very real crisis facing women. If you are a woman and you feel that you already have a troubled relationship with prescription painkillers, please contact Narcotics.com at (800) 407-7195 and speak to a specialist. We are waiting to help.

Painkiller and Heroin Facts:

  • A National Institute on Drug Abuse presentation estimated “between 26.4 million and 36 million people abuse opioids worldwide, with an estimated 2.1 million people in the United States suffering from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers in 2012 and an estimated 467,000 addicted to heroin … the number of unintentional overdose deaths from prescription pain relievers has soared in the United States, more than quadrupling since 1999.”
  • According to the CDC, people who are addicted to prescription opioid painkillers are 40 times more likely to become addicted to heroin.
  • A National Institute on Drug Abuse infographic shows 1 in 15 people who take non-medical prescription pain relievers will try heroin within 10 years.
  • The CDC reports when compared to heroin use among women between 2002 and 2004, the number of users doubled between 2011 and 2013.

Women and Prescription Painkiller Overdose

Women are prescribed painkillers more often than men.

Women are prescribed painkillers more often than men.

According to the CDC:

  • Nearly 48,000 women died of prescription painkiller overdoses between 1999 and 2010.
  • For every woman who dies of a prescription painkiller overdose, 30 go to the emergency department for painkiller misuse or abuse.
  • More than 5 times as many women died from prescription painkiller overdoses in 2010 as in 1999.
  • Women between the ages of 25 and 54 are more likely than other age groups to go to the emergency department from prescription painkiller misuse or abuse. Women ages 45 to 54 have the highest risk of dying from a prescription painkiller overdose.
  • Non-Hispanic white and American Indian or Alaska Native women have the highest risk of dying from a prescription painkiller overdose.
  • Prescription painkillers are involved in 1 in 10 suicides among women.

Women v. Men

The CDC reports:

  • Deaths from prescription painkiller overdoses among women have increased more than 400% since 1999, compared to 265% among men.
  • 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.
  • Women may become dependent on prescription painkillers more quickly than men.
  • Women may be more likely than men to engage in “doctor shopping” (obtaining prescriptions from multiple prescribers).
  • Abuse of prescription painkillers by pregnant women can put an infant at risk. Cases of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS)—which is a group of problems that can occur in newborns exposed to prescription painkillers or other drugs while in the womb—grew by almost 300% in the US between 2000 and 2009.

What You Can Do

To help combat these startling statistics, discuss all medications you are taking (including over-the-counter) with your health care provider and use prescription drugs only as directed by a health care provider. Be sure to dispose of medications properly, as soon as the course of treatment is done. Do not keep prescription medications around “just in case.” They shouldn’t be an option.

If you have already begun non-medical use of prescription drugs, call Narcotics.com at (800) 407-7195 and speak to someone who can help you to overcome narcotics.

the Take-Away

The New York Times asserts “Experts in addiction say that the use of medications like Vicodin, OxyContin and oxycodone—all opiates like heroin—has altered the landscape of addiction and relapse, in ways that affect both current users and former ones.” One of the biggest changes has been the link between non-medical—use without a prescription, use for …