A rapidly increasing number of middle-aged white women are dying from prescription opiate overdoses. According to the CDC, the number of these deaths shot up by nearly 400 percent between 1999 and 2014, and more than half of all overdose deaths in the United States today involve prescription painkillers.
During an analyses of the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the Washington Post noted that middle-aged white women are five times more likely to be prescribed both anti-anxiety drugs and opiates than middle-aged white men, a statistic that may help to explain why their overdose rates are so high.
In an attempt to address this overdose epidemic, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now requiring “boxed warnings” on nearly 400 benzodiazepines, anti-depressants that, when combined with opiates, can lead to respiratory depression, extreme sleepiness, coma, and death. According to the FDA, 2.5 million patients were prescribed both opiates and benzodiazepines by their doctors between 2002 and 2014.
Robert Califf, the FDA Commissioner, released a statement where he said:
“It is nothing short of a public health crisis when you see a substantial increase of avoidable overdose and death related to two widely used drug classes being taken together. We implore health care professionals to heed these new warnings and more carefully and thoroughly evaluate, on a patient-by-patient basis, whether the benefits of using opioids and benzodiazepines — or CNS depressants more generally — together outweigh these serious risks.”
Stories of overdoses claiming the lives of people are everywhere. As many as 18 overdose deaths are tied to the Seattle Pain Centers alone, where nearly two dozen medical professionals have been suspended over improperly monitoring the prescription of opiates to patients.
The Washington Post touched on several of these stories, including the story of Cheryl Moore who committed suicide in February of 2015. She began taking opiates after breaking her ankle a year and a half before her death, and started taking stronger painkillers after her husband died of liver cancer – his leftover pills were far more potent. Eugene Frey, Moore’s brother, understood his sister’s plight, despite the fact that she had treatment options available.
“There is an expectation for them to keep it together. People think, ‘Hey, you are white. You are privileged. So why do you have so many problems? Maybe you are the problem.’ There isn’t a lot of space for them to be vulnerable.”
Addiction to prescription opiates can be an all-consuming and terrifying thing. As difficult as the fight for sobriety may seem, it’s never too late to start fighting to take your life back. At Schick Shadel Hospital, our counter conditioning treatment has been helping patients overcome their struggles for more than 80 years, and continues to help people every day. You can send us a confidential message through the form on our website, or call us at (800) 272-8464 for more information about what services we can offer to help you or a loved one overcome their addiction.