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Opioid Use in Women

a woman thinks about the dangers of using opioids

Several years ago, the Department of Health and Human Services declared the opioid crisis as a state of emergency. While this has gone a long way in creating awareness, the U.S. is still dealing with the worst drug crisis ever seen.

However, what is even more shocking is the growing opioid epidemic among women over the last ten years. To bring things into perspective, here is a look at some sobering facts:

  • Between 1999 and 2016, deaths from prescription drug overdose increased 596% for women and 312% for men.
  • Women between the ages of 40 and 59 are prescribed opioids more than any other age group and receive twice as many opioid prescriptions as their male counterparts.
  • A woman goes to the ER for prescription drug misuse every 3 minutes.
  • Between 2005 and 2014, hospitalization due to opioid drugs went up 75% for females and 55% for males.

When you look closely at these statistics, it’s clear that women’s opioid use cannot be ignored. Determining the cause of opioid addiction in women and developing gender-based treatment plans is the only way to solve this crisis. The gender-specific addiction treatment programs at Rockland Recovery are specifically designed to help women overcome their dependence on opioids or other substances with opioid addiction treatment programs.

Women Are More Likely to Experience Chronic Pain

Scientifically, women are more sensitive to pain and are likely to suffer from chronic pain than their male counterparts. For that reason, women are prescribed higher doses and use pain-relieving drugs for an extended period. Research also shows that women self-medicate with opioids for many reasons ranging from weight control, mental health issues, back pain, and even exhaustion. As you would expect, women ages forty to sixty are more vulnerable to pain and consequently receive twice as many opioids than males in the same age group.

Top on the list of prescription drugs abused most by women include:

  • Oxycodone
  • Codeine
  • Morphine
  • Buprenorphine
  • Fentanyl

Women Are More Prone to Opioid Addiction

Why are more women addicted to prescription drugs than men? The truth is that women are more sensitive to drugs and will get addicted much quicker than men and with minimal drug use. The reasons for this range from sex hormones to the physical and mental makeup of a female body.

It’s also interesting to note that some reasons women will misuse opioids include unresolved trauma from:

  • Domestic violence
  • Divorce
  • Loss of a child
    Death of a partner

While their male counterparts run to alcohol, gambling, and illicit behavior, women choose more conservative ways to numb the pain.

Because of how the drugs affect a woman’s brain, they are more prone to craving the drugs and relapsing. The brain will often associate the drugs with feeling good and being pain-free, causing the women to give in to their addiction and look for the drugs again. In fact, research shows that women will likely go back to rehab multiple times for opioid treatment than their male counterparts.

The Need for Gender-based Treatment

Given that opioid addiction seems to affect more women than men, it’s only right that treatment is gender-specific. Some treatments and therapies work better for women. For example, dealing with the real cause of opioid misuse could work better than the medicinal treatment used in men. It’s also crucial to factor in child care, relationships, and mental issues when coming up with a woman’s treatment plan. The treatment should aim at protecting the woman from future relapse and causing more harm to them, such as losing custody of their children.

Rockland Recovery Can Help to End Your Opioid Addiction

Rockland Recovery Treatment Centers in Massachusetts provide premier treatment and sober living programs to help you overcome your addiction safely. If you or a loved one are fighting opioid use disorder, reach out to us at 855.732.4842 and learn more about various gender-based programs that can help you.

Medical Reviewer Kate Perfetti, LADC II

Medically Reviewed by Kate Perfetti, LADC II

Kate is a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor who has worked in the field of substance abuse for the last nine years. At Rockland Recovery, Kate works to provide resources to the local community and engage and progress Rockland Recovery’s alumni program.


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