According to a recent Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports, the drug overdose death rate among middle-aged women (aged 30-64 years of age) has increased by more than 260% between 1999 to 2017. Perhaps surprisingly, the death rate is highest among 50-54-year-old women, and the overdose rate went up by nearly 500% for those 55 and older. But why is this happening? What is causing the spike?

There Are 3 Key Reasons.

  1. Women are more likely to go to the doctor.
  2. Women are more likely to have a complaint of chronic pain.
  3. Women are more likely to be given opioid prescriptions for chronic pain.

In Georgia, 8 million Opioid Prescriptions Were Dispensed To 2 Million Patients, And 1.3 Million Of Those Patients Were Women. Alcohol abuse is also growing, with one study showing an 85% increase in deaths related to alcohol. Alcohol is often linked to other drug addictions and when mixed with opioids increases the likelihood of an overdose death.

Somewhat Like In Cases With Heart Attacks, There Is A Gender Discrepancy With First Responders And How They Treat Women. While in heart attacks there is a noted difference in presentation between genders, in the case of overdoses, there is no difference in presentation, first responders just do not consider overdoses as their first potential cause for women. In fact, women are 3 times less likely than men to receive Naloxone (the drug that reverses an opioid overdose). First responders assume women are merely intoxicated and not experiencing an overdose.

Men Are The Standard Of Care For Medical Officials. This links back to the earlier heart attack example. Thus, even doctors sometimes forget that some women process substances differently than men. Due to different body chemistry, estrogen can alter the metabolism of substances like alcohol and opioids. Pharmaceuticals do not always test pain medications on women at all, because of hormonal concerns.

Women Have Greater Difficulty Accessing Treatment If They Become Addicted To Substances, due to childcare concerns or other family obligations that are still more commonly an issue for women rather than men. The society also places more blame on women, possibly partially because they are supposed to inhabit “caretaker” roles and addiction places them in a position where they take up more societal space than allotted for them.