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Marrch 2023

Women, Stay Safe When Taking Prescription Pain Medicine

In recent years, the U.S. has experienced a dramatic increase in deaths caused by prescription painkillers. What’s more, overdose deaths among women have risen by more than 400% since 1999, compared with an increase of 265% among men.

According to the CDC and other health experts:

  • An average of 18 American women die every day of a prescription painkiller overdose.

  • Women are more likely than men to attempt suicide using prescription medicines.

  • Women ages 25 to 54 are most likely to visit a hospital emergency room due to painkiller misuse or abuse.

  • Since 1999, women ages 55 to 64 have had the largest increase in prescription opioid-related deaths.

Know the dangers

Prescription pain relievers decrease the feeling of pain by attaching to receptors in the brain. This can cause a user to feel euphoric and can lead to dependence or addiction. The medicines also have a sedative effect and decrease a user’s breathing rate. Death occurs when the user takes a large dose that causes them to stop breathing.

Many of the fatalities caused by prescription painkillers also involve other drugs, such as illegal manufactured fentanyl.

What you can do

Help prevent prescription drug misuse by:

  • Being honest. Tell your healthcare providers about all the prescription and over-the-counter medicines you take.

  • Following dosing instructions. Take all medicines only as directed.

  • Not saving leftover prescription painkiller medicines. If you don’t take all your pills, ask your pharmacist how to dispose of them.

  • Not selling or giving away your prescription medicines.

  • Never taking someone else’s prescription medicines.

  • Telling your provider whether you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant before filling a prescription for painkillers.

  • Letting your provider know if you have used substances in an unhealthy way before.

  • Getting help for addiction by speaking with your healthcare provider or a behavioral health professional.



Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, MSN, BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 2/2/2023
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