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Mar 12, 2012

Sex Differences in Long-term Opioid Use: Cautionary Notes for Prescribing in Women

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Division of Pain Medicine, Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland.

Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(5):431-432. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2011.1741

Opioid therapy for chronic noncancer pain has been the topic of debate, including who is an appropriate candidate for prescription, what are correct dosages, and how to prevent opioid-related accidental death. One overlooked aspect of this debate is attention to the sex differences related to the use of opioids and the specific risks for women. Epidemiological studies of pharmacy claims in the United States show that opioids are more likely to be prescribed to women than men and that women are more likely to be taking higher doses of opioids.1 In recent years, opioid prescription has increased among both sexes, but the temporal slope for opioid prescription is greater for women than for men, suggesting that this sex disparity is widening over time.2

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