Prescription drug abuse and misuse is killing women in record-breaking numbers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In a study conducted from 1999 to 2010, the CDC said that almost 48,000 American women died of prescription painkiller overdoses- 6,600 of that number- or 18 women a day- died in 2010.

“Our concern is that daughters, sisters, wives, and mothers are dying at overdose rates never seen before,” said Gail Hayes, a senior CDC Injury Center representative. “Women do so much to take care of their families and keep them healthy- but they also need to keep themselves healthy.”

According to Hayes, part of the issue arises from the fact that women are more likely than men to be prescribed painkillers by physicians—and they are being told to take these medicines at higher doses for longer periods of time.

Hayes also told the AFRO that every doctor needs to actively screen and monitor patients for possible prescription painkiller abuse or misuse, and that “states can help by increasing access substance abuse programs.”

Conversing in detail about medications already prescribed, medical history, and pregnancy plans is a must, too.

“Physicians need to talk with their patients about the risks and the benefits of taking prescription pain killers,” she said. “especially if they have a patient that is pregnant or thinking about having children.”

Hayes added that another issue coming into play is the fact that Americans hold on to drugs they no longer need for possible later use or, even worse, for sharing with family or friends.

According to Maryland Poison Control, 74 percent of calls about overdoses and poisonings in 2011 were drug related. Of that figure, cardiovascular prescriptions accounted for 5.2 percent of poisonings or overdoses, with antidepressants making up 5.9 percent. Antipsychotics, hypnotics, and sedatives made up 10.4 percent of all the calls in Maryland for that same year. 


Alexis Taylor

AFRO Staff Writer