Prescription drug overdoses spike among women - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Prescription drug overdoses spike among women

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Prescription overdoses among women are on the rise in the united states. Between 1999 and 2010, the number of women dying of prescription drugs rose 400 percent.

It has to do with real pain, physical and emotional, for many women. As for a cure, that's going to take a lot more coordination than the medical community has now.

"I was 24 and I started taking lortab and percocet," said Lauren Cirel.

It started as a toothache, a visit to the dentist, and a prescription for pain medicine. Cirel never suspected that would lead to a three-year addiction.

"I took that and I knew that I liked them. And then later on when I took them for non pain purposes I enjoyed them much better," said Cirel.

She entered the drug rehab program at The Foundry and is now drug free. Ironically, she's now a dental assistant.

She believes she would have died before age forty had she not received help. According the CDC, the rate for drug overdose is highest among women between the ages of 45 and 54.

Dr. Mark Stafford, the associate director of medical services as Bradford Health Services, feels most of the women struggling with addiction started using drugs to handle stress.

"You've probably heard of the sandwich generation where you're taking care of your children. You're also taking care of your parents. And we see that more and more,"said Stafford.

Stafford says he began to notice a trend five years ago.

"Doctors started prescribing more and more opiates, and as that has occurred you could almost predict that this was going to happen," he said.

With more doctors willing to prescribe pain killers, the CDC says women are more likely to "shop around" until they get a prescription.

"We do know that women go see the doctor more often and they're more vocal about what they want," said Stafford.

The CDC also says women are prescribed pain killers for longer periods of time. Dr. Stafford says what's really happening is more than one doctor is handing out prescriptions.  

"We have a lot of sub-specialists. So it's not uncommon for the patients to go see their rheumatologist or arthritis specialist. He gives them to lortab, then they go see their orthopedic doctor and he gives them lortab, and then their primary care physician and he gives them lortab and they don't talk to each other," he said.

In 2010, drug overdoses among women were attributed to more than 15,000 deaths, many of which were considered intentional. In the same year 34 percent of women who committed suicide used pain killers to do so.

"I think in the bigger picture we're going to have to have more data bases. I think on a more fundamental level we need to address the patients' needs. They're in emotional pain. And they're in spiritual pain," said Stafford.

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