Painkiller Overdoses Affecting More Women than Men

The United States consumes over 90% of the world’s supply of prescription painkillers. But Why? Does the U.S. account for over 90% of the pain in the world? The answers to why the U.S. is in the grips of a national pain killer addiction epidemic are multi-factoral and complex.

Overdose  deaths from prescription drug overdoses has surpassed deaths from illicit street drugs. New powerful painkillers are being put onto the market and the corporate healthcare  and pharmaceutical industry is making millions as a result.

Although media attention has focused a lot recently on the epidemic of prescription drug overdoses,  the problem only  continues to increase throughout the U.S. The use of prescription painkillers is on the rise and this is leading to more preventable deaths. Unfortunately, the problem is impacting women especially.

Between the years of 1999 and 2010, almost 48,000 women died as a result of painkiller overdoses. Those deaths have risen at a rate of 400 percent for women, while painkiller deaths for men have only risen by 265 percent. What this breaks down to, according to the CDC, is the tragic fact that 18 women are dying every day as a result of painkiller overdoses.

 Healthcare Providers Can Do More

Healthcare providers can certainly do more to put a stop to the problem by acknowledging it, following guidelines on prescribing painkillers, and conducting regular reviews of the patients under their care. Prescription drug monitoring programs already exist and can be critical for giving providers details about situations outside the norm that could warrant intervention.

Part of the problem stems from unscrupulous doctors prescribing drugs for reasons other than a legitimate medical problem. In addition, we have learned much about  the causes of  prescription drug abuse .  Addiction is a brain disease and it can rob the addicted person of the cognitive ability to make good choices. That is why it is even more important for health care providers to be vigilant.

Although the War on Drugs focused on other kinds of drugs in the past, the spotlight on prescription drugs is relatively recent.

Dangers and Side Effects

There are major dangers in using a drug for the wrong purpose, and many people may not be aware of these dangers. Many prescription drugs are known for having adverse effects for users. In an appropriate scenario, a physician would be watching over these side effects and providing treatment and insight to the individual. There are well known indicators to alert healthcare providers when prescription drugs are being misused. However, when there is no medical oversight,  the chances that an addicted patient will overdose or die increases greatly.

Physicians are not the only problem. When a person is self-medicating without the guidance of a doctor, he or she is more likely to make mistakes that could result in an overdose or death. Simply not understanding the risks and proper usage of such medications can really put a user at risk.

Addiction to Painkillers Happens Quickly

Drug dependence with painkillers has also been evidenced through research, showing a dangerous link between prescription drugs and overdoses.  Many of the painkillers on the market today are highly addictive. In some cases, the painkillers mimic the effects of heroin and other highly addictive drugs. In some instances, persons who have become addicted to painkillers have switched addictions and moved on to illegal drugs, such as heroin.

There are numerous steps that can be taken at the federal, state, provider, and individual level that can alleviate the negative impact of so many women overdosing on painkillers.

  • Stricter controls must  employed to make it harder to get these medications.
  • Physicians must  education  themselves about how to screen for addiction and misuse.
  • Physicians must stick to only prescribing painkillers for demonstrated medical need.
  • Patients need to be educated about the risk of addiction, overdose and death.  

Painkillers Have Their Place

Patients who are legitimately prescribed painkillers, and choose to take them properly for a certain amount of time may  benefit from them. It is very important to take them only as prescribed and to be completely honest with your doctor if you feel yourself beginning to crave the drug.

Make sure that if you have used painkillers in the past and have kept them in the home to instead find a safe way to dispose of them. This way, they won’t be stolen by an abuser or accidentally located by a child.

 In the course of my practice, I have seen far too many tragic cases. There seems to be a misperception that only bad people get addicted or die of drug overdoses, but nothing could be further from the truth. I have represented many wonderful people, whose lives were destroyed by addiction and I have litigated cases on behalf of  many fine families whose loved one accidentally overdosed and died. This problem affects everyone. PLEASE HELP US SPREAD THE WORD!


Author: Kay Van Wey

Kay Van Wey is an award-winning Board Certified Texas Personal Injury Lawyer. Learn more at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.