Background: Overdose deaths have increased steadily over the past decade. This report describes drug-related deaths and emergency department (ED) visits among women.
Methods: CDC analyzed rates of fatal drug overdoses and drug misuse- or abuse-related ED visits among women using data from the National Vital Statistics System (1999-2010) and the Drug Abuse Warning Network (2004-2010).
Results: In 2010, a total of 15,323 deaths among women were attributed to drug overdose, a rate of 9.8 per 100,000 population. Deaths from opioid pain relievers (OPRs) increased fivefold between 1999 and 2010 for women; OPR deaths among men increased 3.6 times. In 2010, there were 943,365 ED visits by women for drug misuse or abuse. The highest ED visit rates were for cocaine or heroin (147.2 per 100,000 population), benzodiazepines (134.6), and OPR (129.6). ED visits related to misuse or abuse of OPR among women more than doubled between 2004 and 2010.
Conclusions: Although more men die from drug overdoses than women, the percentage increase in deaths since 1999 is greater among women. More women have died each year from drug overdoses than from motor vehicle-related injuries since 2007. Deaths and ED visits related to OPR continue to increase among women. The prominent involvement of psychotherapeutic drugs, such as benzodiazepines, among overdoses provides insight for prevention opportunities.
Implications for public health practice: Health-care providers should follow guidelines for responsible prescribing, including screening and monitoring for substance abuse and mental health problems, when prescribing OPR. Health-care providers who treat women for pain should use their state's prescription drug monitoring program and regularly screen patients for psychological disorders and use of psychotherapeutic drugs, with or without a prescription.