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!


How Women can be More Aware of Harmful Drugs

Women are targeted with dangerous drug advertisements

Drug advertisements often exploit and target women’s vulnerabilities and insecurities in the roles they play as mother, wife and friend. Through the years, breakthroughs in science and medicine have helped women deal with their specific health concerns. Some of these concerns include, but are not limited to:

  • Menstrual discomfort
  • Menopause
  • Contraception
  • Beauty and diet
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

The drugs and medical devices that have emerged often times have not delivered what they had promised. Even worse, they have injured and killed women.

Hormone Replacement Therapy

In 1942, hormone replacement therapy reared its head and became big business. It promised to help women suffering with the negative effects of menopause, telling husbands that their wives would be much more “pleasant” when they returned home from a long day at the office. By 1975, the link was made between estrogen therapy and uterine cancer, and by 1989, breast cancer.

This didn’t slow pharmaceutical manufacturers from attempting to cash in again, however. Wyeth introduced a combination of estrogen and progesterone in 1996, calling the new drug Prempro. It was later discovered that this company paid ghostwriters to publish scientific papers that played down the risks of taking hormones. Profits rose to $2 billion in 2001, and nearly 70 million prescriptions were filled.

In 2002, the tide turned when a huge federal study was stopped after researchers discovered an increased risk of invasive breast cancer, heart disease and stroke. Sales dropped dramatically, but they did continue despite the dangers that were discovered. Pfizer now owns Wyeth, and they announced in 2012 that they will pay up to $1.2 billion to settle 10,000 Prempro patient lawsuits.

Be Aware and be Skeptical

The list could continue on for all of the problem drugs and medical devices that have endangered the lives of women. Here are some ways to make sure you are more aware, and that you are protecting yourself properly:

  1. Every prescription drug comes with risks, many of them are long-term. We cannot view every drug as a “silver bullet”, as though it magically will cure what ails us. The potential benefits are often not worth the larger risks. Before beginning any prescription drug, research it well with the huge amount of information available at your fingertips via the internet. 
  1. Be most cautious of newer drugs. We know about the side effects of many drugs that have been on the market for a while only because they have been used by millions of people. Many of these people suffered injury, and even death, from the side effects of dangerous drugs. They paid the price for the knowledge we have. Many newer drugs or devices may have only been tested in limited studies sponsored by the manufacturer whose first interest is making money from them, not keeping you safe from harm. Often, women are underrepresented in these tests as well. 
  1. Be especially skeptical of any drug that is heavily advertised. Drug companies are spending billions on advertising to doctors and to the public. Much of this advertising is often cited as manipulative or misleading, especially those targeting women. 
  1. Find trusted sources of information. Make sure that the data you research is not funded by the pharmaceutical manufacturer or related organizations. This includes doctors. Compare what your doctor tells you with information you research. Sometimes doctors are not fully aware of the dangers of the drugs they prescribe. Here are some trusted sources to begin with: 
  • [email protected] – official information about FDA-approved brand-name and generic drugs and therapeutic products (see the listing of adverse events associated with drugs)
  • – look up more than 24,000 prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines and natural products
  • MedlinePlus – tracks drugs and supplements; National Institutes of Health’s website for patient safety
  • – safety alerts, error reporting and other resources from the Institute of Safe Medication Practices
  • Dollars for Docs – public database showing payments to doctors by pharmaceutical companies to represent their products

You are your best line of defense for protecting your health, so learn all you can and be preventative and cautious with the drugs you put in your body. Follow my blog to continually receive news and tips that will help you stay on top of your health. be sure to grab my free resource, 10 Secrets the Pharmaceutical Industry Does Not Want You to Know, to keep as a valuable resource for your protection.