The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in 2013 that almost 48,000 women in the United States died due to a prescription drug overdose between 1999 and 2010. It also stated that there was a 400 percent increase in fatalities compared to 265 percent among men. Unfortunately, every day, 18 women are estimated to die due to a prescription painkiller overdose.
Though men use way more drugs than women, prescription drugs are more likely to be prescribed to women, even in high doses, as they complain of pain more often, visit doctors frequently and are at greater risk of being afflicted with chronic pain. The gap between male and female prescription drug consumption is now negligible. More alarming is the fact that women are consuming drugs at the same age as men because of the ease with which they can acquire prescription medicines.
Common prescription drugs abused by women
It is not uncommon for women to use tranquilizers or sedatives. Way back in the 1960s and 70s, women were known to use Valium to cope with myriad problems in their day-to-day life especially motherhood. Currently, the three classes of prescription drugs most commonly abused by both men and women as reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) include:
- Opioids (hydrocodone, oxycodone)
- Central nervous system (CNS) depressants like benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, Ativan, Klonopin)
- Stimulants like amphetamine (Adderall) or methylphenidate(Concerta, Daytrana, Methylin, Ritalin)
It has been noticed that in most incidents of mortality a secondary addiction to either alcohol or sedatives is involved. In the last couple of years, celebrities like Whitney Houston and model Anna Nicole Smith have tragically succumbed to their overdose of prescription drugs.
Side effects of prescription drugs
Women are more likely to get addicted to prescription drugs. But that is not the end of story, they are also more likely to suffer a relapse too. That apart, the ills of overuse strike women harder — the body ages faster and the decay in organs happens quickly when compared to men. The fact that women have more fat than men means that toxins will be retained in the body for longer and their risk of developing an addiction will be higher.
Opioids: Women are more likely to develop an opioid addiction as they are prescribed for chronic pain, which women suffer more often. Common opioids include OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet. Opioids, if used in conjunction with benzodiazepines, can increase the risk of mortality.
Benzodiazepines: Xanax, Klonopin and Valium come in the class of minor tranquilizers. These act by suppressing the central nervous system. It is seen that just as many women consume tranquilizers as men, 11.3 percent usage in men as opposed to 17.9 percent in women, as highlighted in the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). Xanax is the most common depressant used. Addiction is a common occurrence and withdrawal can be life-threatening for some users.
Stimulants: The desire to lose weight without having to work it out is the primary reason for abuse of stimulants. Cocaine, methamphetamine and Adderall work by giving the person a sense of high and by decreasing cravings for food. Long term use rapidly spirals into an addiction.
Seek help for addiction problems at the earliest
It is essential to first realize that prescription drug addiction is similar to any addiction that requires medical intervention. They may be prescribed by the doctor but their overuse for a longer period may stimulate the brain pathways in a manner similar to any substance use addiction. It could induce cravings that can cause relapse and even death. Women because of their physiological differences are more prone to be affected than men.
A suitable therapy and detoxification can help women come to terms with their addiction. Group counseling and positive reinforcement are highly effective in helping women live a sober life. If you or a loved one is struggling with any form of substance abuse, it is imperative that you seek professional help at the earliest. The Texas Substance Abuse Helpline offers the best evidence-based intervention plans. Call our 24/7 helpline number (866) 971-2658 to connect with one of the best substance abuse treatment centers in Texas. You can also chat online with our medical representatives to know more about substance abuse treatment programs in Texas.