Are Women More at Risk for Prescription Drug Abuse?

Are Women More at Risk for Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription painkillers are prescribed to alleviate and minimize discomfort; however, the abuse of such substances has resulted in a tragic prescription drug addiction epidemic in this country. Despite the rising number of overdoses and the countless medical professionals facing legal consequences, the rates of prescription drug abuse continue to increase. Surprisingly, prescription drug abuse is becoming more prevalent among women. Research indicates that women are more likely to abuse prescription medication and have a higher percentage of developing a substance addiction disorder than men.  

The CDC reports, women are dying from prescription painkiller overdoses at rates never seen before. Prescription painkiller overdoses killed nearly 48,000 women between 1999 and 2010.  Taking prescription medications in a non-prescribed manner is just as dangerous as using illicit substances. Prescription drugs often contain ingredients that can cause toxic reactions in the body that result in major health problems.  

Pain and Prescription Drug Abuse

Many contributing factors are linked to the increase of women abusing prescription medication. Studies support women are more likely to visit a doctor and report chronic pain than men. Due to the fact that women are more likely to suffer from chronic pain, women are more often prescribed painkillers and for longer duration of time than men. This could explain why women ages 45 to 54 had the most dramatic increases in drug overdose deaths in the CDC study. In fact, women are 50 percent more likely to leave their doctor’s office with a prescription than men are, even if they have the same condition. 

Women and prescription drug abuse

Negative Consequences of Prescription Drug Abuse

Statistics indicate more than 18 million women, ages 26 and older, reported abusing prescription medications in 2008, which was a million more than reported in 2007.  Prescription drug abuse can cause severe physical, mental, and emotional problems, but consequences of prescription drug addiction is increased among women. Drug abuse develops into addiction more quickly in women than it does in men, even when using the same (or smaller) dose. The medical research specifies women are more vulnerable to addiction because of physiological differences.  

For example, women have slower metabolisms and ratio of fat to water in the body. These differences cause the female body to hold on to drugs and alcohol longer, increasing the danger of health complications. According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Women who abuse prescription drugs may experience more physical effects on their heart and blood vessels than men and are more susceptible to using prescription medication in combination with other drugs; hence the high overdose rates. 

Drug Treatment for Women

Prescription drug addiction often occurs when the potency and/or frequency of dosages are utilized beyond the medical recommendation. Once a person becomes addicted to prescription drugs, the dependency of the drug can cause inconsistent behavior. If prescription medication becomes scarce, an individual may grow increasingly panicked and become obsessed with replenishing their supply. The fascination to acquire new prescriptions often lead to users faking injuries to receive prescriptions and/or stealing from loved ones.   

Many people, especially women, are reluctant to seek help because of stigma; however, it is imperative to receive clinical and medical treatment. Recovery from prescription drug abuse can be a long and difficult journey. An individual will first face a painful physical withdrawal process before confronting mental and emotional factors that led to dependency.

Rehabilitation centers are reporting utilizing individualized treatment approached for female clients as addiction to alcohol and other drugs impact women differently than men. Gender-specific treatment programs provide a safe, supportive place for women to address sensitive issues. Clinicians and medical professionals work collaboratively utilizing modalities such as experiential therapy and Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) in combination with family and group counseling and begin the healing process.  

At Get Treatment, we can help you find a comprehensive and individualized drug addiction treatment program. If you or someone you love is abusing prescription medication, call 855-638-9268 to get started.

Additional Sources:

Erica Loret de Mola

Erica Loret de Mola is a communications major who has been writing about addiction treatment for approximately three years. As content manager and editor in chief of Get Treatment, she strives to provide the most accurate and current information available to our clients.


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