New findings from the federal government show a picture of increasing abuse of the prescription drugs. And that abuse can sometimes lead to death. The news is that more women are becoming abusers and fatalities.
In the past, men working at hard labor tasks, such as mining, used the drugs to counter work-related pain. Researchers say that women beset by low-wage jobs and single parenthood are turning to the drugs, called opioids, to counter their stress.
Women also have more chronic pain conditions. They weigh less and therefore more easily overdose. They more often use painkillers along with anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications.
According to the report, 6,631 women died of opioid overdoses in 2010, compared with 10,020 men.
While younger women in their 20s and 30s have the highest rates of opioid abuse, the overdose death rate was highest among women ages 45 to 54 living in rural areas.
A drug counselor said her female patients are poor. They get little help from families. They feel inadequate. They do not believe they are doing a good job of raising their children. She said, “Poverty is depression, it is failure, it is sadness, it is low self-esteem.”
Programs to treat painkiller abuse are spreading. They include talks by recovering addicts at schools. They also include making it harder to get the pills.
Social scientists see the abuse as one more example of stress. They say it is stress from the weak economy and the pressure on single-parent families.