United States: Women Bear Greater Burden Of Opioid Epidemic
Andis Robeznieks, Senior Staff Writer at the AMA Wire®, has written an analysis of the impact of the opioid epidemic on women, pointing to the problem of gender neutral treatment and the lack of understanding how the epidemic affects women’s lives.
The face of the U.S. opioid epidemic is becoming increasingly white and increasingly female, just as it was some 135 years ago.
While the science and thinking behind addiction medicine has evolved since the 1880s when upper-class women became dependent on the laudanum tinctures prescribed by their physicians, opioid-use disorder treatment still remains mostly gender neutral—even though the impact and effects of the disease clearly are not.
The impact of the epidemic has been severe for both males and females, but statistics show greater harm occurring among women and girls. Chief among these are overdose deaths from prescription pain killers. Between 1990 and 2010, these deaths increased among men by 265 percent, while the number grew by 400 percent among women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Yet when the CDC issued its guideline on opioid-prescribing for chronic pain last year, the recommendations didn’t distinguish between males and females.”
Research shows that women are more likely to be prescribed opioids and are given higher doses, even though women more get dependent more easily and much quicker than men. Also in emergency situations, studies found, women were almost three times less likely than men to be administered naloxone by emergency medical services personnel. Naloxone is a medication used to block the effects of opioids, especially in overdose.
In his analysis Mr Robeznieks writes about a 2011 study from The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse that examined gender differences in 892 treatment-seeking, opioid-dependent adults.
‘The importance of gender with regard to substance-use disorders has gained increasing attention as evidence highlights significant gender differences in prevalence rates, health service utilization, treatment outcome and physiological consequences of alcohol and drug consumption,’ the authors of the study wrote.
‘In general, the data suggest that women progress from use to dependence more quickly than men, suffer more severe emotional and physical consequences of drug use as compared to men, yet underutilized treatment.’
‘The 2011 study also notes that ‘significant gender differences in psychiatric comorbidity were revealed,’ with the women in the study more likely to have reported past or current psychiatric disorders, including significantly higher rates of depression and anxiety.