The use of abusable prescription drugs: the role of gender

J Womens Health Gend Based Med. 2000 Apr;9(3):289-97. doi: 10.1089/152460900318470.


It is well documented that women face greater medical exposure to psychotropic drugs than do men, but little research examines whether women also have increased use of prescription drugs with abuse potential. The objectives were to examine gender differences in the use of abusable prescription drugs and to assess how use varies by gender and if patterns of use vary across therapeutic drug classes. With data from the 1987 National Medical Expenditures Survey (NMES), logistic regression analysis is used to model the influence of gender and other sociodemographic and diagnostic variables on the probability of drug use. Women are 48% more likely than men to use any abusable prescription drug, controlling for demographics, health status, economic status, and diagnosis. Additional analyses reveal that being female is a statistically significant predictor of anxiolytic and narcotic analgesic use but not of sedative-hypnotic or stimulant use. Marital status, age, urbanicity, employment status, and having a regular source of care explain gender differences in the use of abusable prescription drugs. Both healthcare and substance abuse treatment providers should be cognizant that women may have greater exposure to these potent prescription medicines.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / adverse effects
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / adverse effects
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / adverse effects
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Social Class
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / physiopathology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / prevention & control


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives