07/06/2013 09:12 am ET Updated Sep 05, 2013

Skyrocketing Epidemic Among Women: Prescription Painkiller Overdoses


prescription painkiller deaths

It's an increasingly common story. On March 11, the Tulsa World reported on a 51-year-old woman found in her home, dead of a prescription drug overdose. She suffered from back pain and was taking painkillers prescribed by her doctor but took them along with other prescriptions, including anti-anxiety medicine.

She was only one of the almost 7,000 women who will die from prescription painkiller overdoses this year.

Prescription opioid deaths among women have skyrocketed -- increasing fivefold since 1999. Our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters are dying from these overdoses at rates never seen before. Every three minutes, a woman visits an emergency department for opioid misuse or abuse. That accounts for more than 200,000 emergency department visits a year.

Stopping this epidemic is everyone's business, and it can be done. CDC is here to support those efforts.

Health care providers can follow guidelines for responsible painkiller prescribing and talk with their patients about the risks and benefits of taking prescription painkillers. Using prescription drug monitoring programs is an important step in identifying patients who may be improperly using prescription painkillers.

Women should use pain medication only as directed and talk with their doctor about all drugs they're taking, including over-the-counter medications. Store prescription drugs in a secure place and properly dispose of them as soon as treatment is over. And never share prescription drugs with anyone else.

Together we can reduce the risk of overdose among women, and men, while making sure patients have access to safe, effective pain treatment.