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Drug Overdose Deaths, ER Visits Up for Women Since 1999

Five-fold increase in deaths, more than doubling of ER visits related to opioid pain relievers

WEDNESDAY, July 3 (HealthDay News) -- Drug-related deaths and emergency department visits have increased among women since 1999, according to research published in the July 2 early-release issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Karin A. Mack, Ph.D., from the CDC in Atlanta, and colleagues used data from the National Vital Statistics System (1999 to 2010) and the Drug Abuse Warning Network (2004 to 2010) to examine the rates of fatal drug overdoses and drug misuse- or abuse-related emergency department visits among women.

The researchers found that there were 15,323 deaths attributed to drug overdose among women in 2010, a rate of 9.8 per 100,000. From 1999 to 2010, there was a five-fold increase in deaths from opioid pain relievers for women, and a 3.6-fold increase among men. Women recorded a total of 943,365 emergency department visits for drug misuse or abuse in 2010. The highest rates of emergency department visits were for cocaine or heroin, benzodiazepines, and opioid pain relievers (147.2, 134.6, and 129.6 per 100,000, respectively). From 2004 to 2010, the number of emergency department visits related to misuse or abuse of opioid pain relievers among women more than doubled.

"Although more men die from drug overdoses than women, the percentage increase in deaths since 1999 is greater among women," the authors write. "Deaths and emergency department visits related to opioid pain relievers continue to increase among women. The prominent involvement of psychotherapeutic drugs, such as benzodiazepines, among overdoses provides insight for prevention opportunities."

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