The opioid crisis is continuously getting worse in the United States and it is significantly affecting middle-aged women.
Illegal and prescription opioids are abused commonly as they are so addictive. These medications bind to the areas of the brain. And control emotions and pain, drive up levels of the feel-good hormone dopamine in the brain’s reward areas and produce a strong feeling of ecstasy.
As the brain becomes used to these feelings, it takes more and more of the drug to produce the same level of pain relief. Thus, leading to dependence and later addiction.
Researchers have found that no community is immune to America’s drug crisis. And new data display that it is severely affecting middle-aged women.
A Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report was published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Jan. 11. In this report, researchers found that the drug overdose death rate among women between 30- and 64-years old mounted a staggering 260% from 1999 to 2017.
Women with an age from 55 to 64 were hit the hardest, with drug overdose death rates growing by almost 500% during the 18-year period.
The researchers found an average age of overdose death for women was 46.3 years old in 2017, up 2.8 years from 1999. This average age of death increased in all drug categories except synthetic opioids. These drugs stayed the same.
To address the drug epidemic, the CDC evaluated women’s mortality data from the National Vital Statistics System. They found an increase in fatal overdoses linked to different drug categories. It included cocaine, heroin, antidepressants, benzodiazepine, prescription opioids, and synthetic opioids.
The latest report highlights that there is increased vulnerability of women dying due to an overdose as they get older. Scientists have discovered that women can also have other issues related to hormones, pregnancy, breastfeeding, menstrual cycle, fertility, and menopause.
Relatively, a report from the CDC in November 2018 analyzed the overdose deaths of both women and men. They found that the rates scaled the highest for individuals of all genders aged 24 to 54. But the data for just women, those who were 55- to 64-years old, fared worse.
Why are these deaths increasing?
According to the researchers of the study, the simple answer to this question just doesn’t exist. They added that the trend may be associated with women’s varying roles in society.
As there is much more expected of women in the work and at home. They feel like they have to do all things to all people. It is not astounding that mental health problems like addiction are increasing among women. This can be due to the current societal customs and additional stressors they face.
One of the scientists noted that drug overdose deaths are more common in men than women and to younger people. As such, the health community may have missed warning indications in women aged 55 to 64. Thus, leaving them more susceptible to overdoses over the last 18 years.
And this group might be ignored. Because it’s not the typical demographic doctors would imagine having a problem with substances.
Other doctors blame the skyrocketing deaths are due to overdose on the over-prescribing of drugs, particularly opioids, and the likelihood that women are mixing medicines they have been given over the years.
They believe that someone who dies from a drug overdose didn’t certainly suffer from an addiction. And people may end up unintentionally overdosing on prescription medicines.
It is the human state to try to take control of a painful condition if they feel like they are not being treated. And maybe they end up taking a melting pot of medicines. This can lead to a drug interaction with negative consequences.
Moreover, suicide rates for women also increased in an overlapping age group (45 to 64)from 1999 to 2017, rising from 6 to 9.7 per 100,000 individuals. There’s an association between this trend and the increase in death rates from drug overdose among women.
One of the researchers noted that when you are suffering from a substance use disorder, it worsens everything else in your life, including your physical strength and social issues. It is one of the biggest risk factors for suicide.
How we can stop fatal overdoses
Experts may have different concepts about the basis of the rising rates of drug overdose deaths in middle-aged women. Most of them agree that prevention and treatment plans must be started to target this specific demographic.
This increase in fatal overdoses can be reduced by asking all patients, not just those in certain demographics, about their substance-use habits when they go to the clinician.
It cannot be assumed that somebody’s not going to have any problem with substances just because of gender or age. The authors of the CDC report also highlight the status of providing access to substance use disorder treatment services which concentrate on the particular women needs.
They noted that evidence-based treatment is needed which feel comfortable to women. But it can be tough to find treatment centers focused on women’s physical and mental health issues. They added that increasing the accessibility of medicines which can reverse a sedatives overdose is vital to saving lives.
Naloxone kits are being sold across the country to those who are at risk. But at times we might have ignored giving them to other groups, like middle-aged women. Taking another look at their prescriptions
The report comments that providers deliberate following the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain.
One of the researchers noted that to control drug-related health difficulties, her healthcare network already follows guidelines of opioid prescription based on CDC, and it’s working on applying similar trials for suggesting benzodiazepine.
There are doctors who look at the dosages they’re proposing, the extent the drugs are prescribed for, the strength of the drugs, and to interpret all of the risks to their patients.
But it will require a lot of different modalities, from prevention and screening to treatment programs, and it will take time.
These findings of this report will bring an awareness and understanding of the drug widespread and who it effects.