CDC: Fatal drug overdoses soaring among middle-aged women

Drug overdose deaths among American women have more than tripled since 1999

And there are plenty reasons why women are particularly vulnerable to drug overdose.

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

THURSDAY, Jan. 10, 2019 (HealthDay News) - The rate at which middle-aged American women die from overdoses involving opioids and other drugs almost quadrupled between 1999 and 2017, new government data shows. As a result, the average age of death due to a drug overdose rose from 43.5 to 46.5. In other words, the rate increased "from 6.7 deaths per 100,000 population (4,314 total drug overdose deaths) in 1999 to 24.3 (18,110) in 2017", the health agency said in the report. The largest increase was for deaths involving synthetic opioids such as fentanyl (a rise of 1,643 percent), followed by heroin (915 percent) and prescription opioids (485 percent).

These troubling trends starkly illustrate the opioid crisis gripping the United States and also punctuate that it is far from a problem just affecting younger Americans. During that time, deaths from drug overdoses of all types increased 260% among women in that same age group.

He said that while men tend to have higher rates of drug abuse than women, women can be especially vulnerable.

The report concludes that overdose deaths continue to be "unacceptably high" and more targeted efforts are needed "to reduce the number of deaths in this evolving epidemic of middle-aged women". The data came from the National Vital Statistics System, which is based on information from death certificates. Overdoses that included use of antidepressants were up 176 percent and overdoses that involved drugs like Xanax and Valium were up 830 percent.

The rise in deaths also varied by age and drug categories in the data.

Men may be more likely than women to use nearly all types of illicit drugs, but women are just as likely as men to develop a substance use disorder, and women may be more susceptible to craving and relapse - key phases of the addiction cycle, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

As to why middle-aged women appear to be hit the worst by the drug abuse crisis. addiction specialist Harshal Kirane, from Staten Island University Hospital in New York City, pointed at women's access to care.

"Data indicates that women run a higher risk of drug craving and relapse, which are important stages in the addiction cycle", Glatter said.

"Persons with untreated or under-treated depression or anxiety are at higher risk for substance abuse, placing middle-aged women in this demographic at higher risk for opiate as well as benzodiazepine abuse", Glatter noted.

Women who are victims of domestic abuse are also at increased risk for substance abuse. "We must expand the entire infrastructure for addiction care in our country, and address the comprehensive needs for women struggling with opioid-related issues".

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on opioid addiction.

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