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

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And a staggering spike in opioid-related deaths is largely driving this trend.

CDC reported Thursday that the death rate from drug overdoses among women aged 30-64 years increased 260% from 1999 to 2017. But the death rate shot up 1,643 percent for synthetic opioid overdoses, 915 percent for heroin, and 830 percent from benzodiazepines.

A report published past year by the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics found that, overall, the synthetic opioid fentanyl was the most frequently mentioned drug in overdose death data in 2016 that included both men and women. By 2017, that rate had risen to 24.3 deaths per 100,000 women, meaning 18,110 women in the selected age group died from an overdose that year.

The largest increase in overdose death rates over the study period was found among women ages 55 to 64, where rates rose by almost 500 percent from 1999 to 2017. Researchers said the number and rate of deaths involving antidepressants, benzodiazepines, cocaine, heroin, and synthetic opioids each increased during this time frame.

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. According to CDC, "Interventions to address the rise in drug overdose deaths include implementing the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, reviewing records of controlled substance prescribing (e.g., prescription drug monitoring programs, health insurance programs), and developing capacity of drug use disorder treatments and linkage to care, especially for middle-aged women with drug use disorders".

"Women's substance use tends to progress more rapidly from first-time use until addiction develops", Glatter said.

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".

Some of the steepest increases in fatality rates have been seen in women who may not fit the public's expectations of drug abusers. The data came from the National Vital Statistics System, which is based on information from death certificates.

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The researchers also noted that estimates of the drugs involved in overdose deaths can be affected by how each death was investigated.

America's drug crisis is taking a deadly toll on a group you might not expect: middle-aged women.

"Part of the solution is for people to become more aware of this and for people who are prescribing medications to do a much better job of - particularly when prescribing for women - talking about the risks and the relative risk of addiction", he said. Addiction specialist Dr. Harshal Kirane had some theories.

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

Women who are victims of domestic abuse are also at increased risk for substance abuse.

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

As a country, "we've been ignoring this for a while", Benjamin said.

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