Overdose: Why Are Middle Aged Women Dying?


Drug overdose is becoming a more common tragedy and is worsening at a surprising rate among middle-aged women, reported the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Jan. 10, 2019. Overdose deaths have soared among women over 30 beginning in 1999, with the largest increase in women 45-64. Deaths from drug overdoses jumped 260 percent in women ages 30-64 between 1999-2017. The toll of drug overdose deaths from opioids increased 492 percent those 30-45.

While men die of opioid overdoses, more frequently than women. However, studies suggest that the dangers of painkiller overuse run throughout the U.S. population.

The U.S. is struggling to deal with an ever-deepening increase of deaths from opioid medication. In the last 12 months, the statistics report more than 70,000 American citizens died from overdoses. That reflects a 10 percent increase in only 365 days. Many of the death resulted from artificial opioids similar to fentanyl.

Unfortunately, facts exhibit that the majority those dying from opioids had legal prescriptions from a physician. The CDC has been advising doctors to think twice before writing a script an opioid and tells patients they should ask their physician about the medication he is prescribing.

Karin Mack and colleagues at the CDC analyzed death certificates from nationwide. They evaluated the numbers of suicides, homicides, accidental, and undetermined deaths. Moreover, noted medication found in the person’s system at the time of demise, specifically antidepressants, opioids, anti-anxiety medication, heroin, and, cocaine. Many of those that died had more than one drug in their bloodstream at the time.

“Increases in deaths involving certain drugs might be the result of increases in certain drug combinations,” according to Mack’s team. For instance, the CDC and other agencies have issued warnings about the hazards of taking opioids and anxiety medication, like Xanax or Valium, at the same time. Taken separately, they slow breathing but when taken together, users have an increased chance of total breathing cessation.

However, what stood out was the rise in deaths among women 30 and under, and those 45 and older. Prescription opioid–connected deaths increased between 1999 and 2017 in women ages 30-64 with the greatest increases of those 55-64, Mack’s team wrote in their report, published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

“Prescription opioids clearly were overutilized for more than a decade,” Dr. Michael Lynch medical director of the Pittsburgh Poison Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical center. Lynch, who was not part of the CDC study, added:

We’ve got considered universal prescribing abatement on account that 2010 to 2012, but I believe it is advisory to see that among women between the ages of 30 to 64, years old, opioid overdose deaths still represent such a large quantity.

Lynch suspects the number of suicides could greater than the coding of the loss of life statistics indicate. “Without a doubt, there are hidden suicides right here.” It will also be very problematic to determine the number with any accuracy.

However, pathologists rarely know an individual’s mindset before their death. The only exception would be if a suicide note was left. When there are multiple drugs found in a deceased person, the only accurate determination that can be made is the quantity or mixture of medicine but it is hard to know how or why. “I’m sure there’s a lot of overlap between misuse and unintentional overdose and those who intentionally overdose to kill themselves.”

Doctors treating patients for depression, for pain, for anxiety, and for other conditions need to be aware of the patients’ total medication regimen, the CDC team observed.

Significant work involving teaching women of baby­bearing age regarding the risks and benefits of medications and “particularly for the risk posed by neonatal abstinence syndrome as a result of opioid use during pregnancy.” However, with the current overdose data, the medical profession needs to address middle-aged women.

Written by Parris Winfrey
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware

NBC News: Biggest jump in drug overdoses was among middle-aged women
U.S. News: Drug Overdose Deaths Skyrocket Among Women
CBS News: Drug Overdose Deaths Skyrocket Among Middle-aged Women

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