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Opioid Overdose Rates Up Nearly 500% for Women 30-64, CDC Reports

12 January 2019

And there are plenty reasons why women are particularly vulnerable to drug overdose. And a staggering spike in opioid-related deaths is largely driving this trend.

The drug overdose death rate among women in the US has greatly increased, according to data released this week in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's morbidity and mortality report.

There are startling numbers in our nation's battle against the opioid epidemic as a new report finds a rapid rise in drug overdoses among women - and very often the medications are coming from doctors. Overdose drug deaths hit a record high in 2017, killing more than 70,000 men and women. The sharpest increases in the average age of women dying from overdoses were with antidepressants (just over 4 years), prescription opioids (4.5 years), and cocaine (close to 5 years).

In 1999, the average age of a fatal OD in middle-aged women was 43.5 years, but by 2017 it had risen to 46.3 years, Mack's team reported.

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During the same time period, the CDC also noted that the number and rate of deaths associated with antidepressants, benzodiazepines, cocaine, heroin and synthetic opioids (excluding methadone) also increased. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that drug overdose deaths among females aged 30 to 64 have skyrocketed in recent years. Women's deaths attributed to these drugs - including fentanyl and tramadol - grew 16-fold in the 18 years leading up to 2017.

"Overdose deaths continue to be unacceptably high, and targeted efforts are needed to reduce the number of deaths in this evolving epidemic among middle-aged women", the researchers wrote. "Withdrawal can also be more intense for women, and they may also respond differently than men to specific medical treatments".

The CDC analyzed death certificates from all 50 states in their report.

The drug overdose death rates also increased for all drug categories, with notable surges in rates of deaths involving synthetic opioids, at 1,643%; heroin, at 915%; and benzodiazepines, at 830%, the researchers found.

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"Middle-aged women are often prevented from accessing care due to family responsibilities, child care considerations and financial disparities", said Kirane, who directs addiction services at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City. Addiction specialist Dr. Harshal Kirane had some theories.

"People with untreated or undertreated depression or anxiety are at higher risk for substance abuse, with middle-aged women in this demographic at higher risk for opiate as well as benzodiazepine abuse", Glatter said.

Women who are victims of domestic abuse are also at increased risk for substance abuse.

"Most crucially, only 1 in 10 Americans that could benefit from addiction treatment now access it", Kirane said.

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As a country, "we've been ignoring this for a while", Benjamin said.

Opioid Overdose Rates Up Nearly 500% for Women 30-64, CDC Reports