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Why Are More Women Overdosing On Painkillers?

By Judy Foreman
Guest Contributor

Overdose deaths linked to prescription pain relievers have increased dramatically among women in recent years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced yesterday.

And nobody really knows why.

Part of the increase may be due simply to a higher prevalence of chronic pain conditions in women, the CDC said, adding that “some of the most common forms of pain are more prevalent among women,” including abdominal pain, migraine and musculoskeletal pain.

Indeed, one of the more puzzling findings from the latest CDC figures is that the opioid-related overdose death rate was not highest among younger women, but among women aged 45 to 54.

painchartDr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, suggested in an interview with The New York Times that this may in part reflect the fact that older women are appropriately prescribed pain relievers because they have more chronic pain. If death rates were driven purely by abuse, she said, then one would expect the death rates to be highest among younger women who are more likely to be abusers.

In addition, women on average weigh less than men – a fact that doctors may not sufficiently take into account – and therefore, at the same dose, may suffer more adverse effects. Continue reading