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News From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
August 28, 2013

Sharp Increase in Women’s Deaths From Rx Painkiller Overdoses

JAMA. 2013;310(8):789. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.194488

Women are dying from prescription painkiller overdoses at unprecedented rates, reflecting soaring US sales of opioid pain relievers and complex differences in how and why women use the drugs compared with men.

A recent analysis in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report showed that overall, 15 323 women died of drug overdoses in 2010, a 5-fold increase since 1999. In nearly 11 000 of those deaths, a specific drug was identified, including about 9000 deaths in which at least 1 prescription drug was involved. Opioid pain relievers were involved in about 6600 of the prescription drug overdose deaths among women in 2010—the equivalent of about 18 women dying each day. In fact, the death rate from opioid painkillers among women was 4 times higher than that of cocaine and heroin deaths combined.

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