Overdose deaths in United States hit record high in 2017

Smartphone app could help doctors detect opioid overdoses

CDC reported Thursday that the death rate from drug overdoses among women aged 30-64 years increased 260% from 1999 to 2017.

"While prescription opioids are still the main driver of the current opioid epidemic, it's important to acknowledge the sharp rise of fentanyl-laced heroin for the increased numbers of deaths, driven by cheap, illicitly manufactured fentanyl from China and Southeast Asia making its way onto the streets in the USA", he told CBS News.

The rates of opioid overdose deaths among women ages 30 to 64 increased by 492 percent, from 2.6 deaths per 100,000 women in 1999 to 15.5 deaths per 100,000 women in 2017, according to the report.

From 1999 to 2017, drug overdose death rates increased about 200% among women ages 35 to 39 and 45 to 49; 350% among those 30 to 34 and 50 to 54; and almost 500% among those 55 to 64, the researchers found. Women's deaths attributed to these drugs - including fentanyl and tramadol - grew 16-fold in the 18 years leading up to 2017. The sharpest increases in the average age of women dying from overdoses were with antidepressants (just over 4 years), prescription opioids (4.5 years), and cocaine (close to 5 years).

A report published a year ago by the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics found that, overall, the synthetic opioid fentanyl was the most frequently mentioned drug in overdose death data in 2016 that included both men and women. "Withdrawal can also be more intense for women, and they may also respond differently than men to specific medical treatments".

Drug overdose death rates increased for other drugs as well, including cocaine, benzodiazepines and antidepressants.

For the study, researchers used a national database based on information from all death certificates filed in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Often, overdoses involved multiple drugs.

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Why are women in middle age being hit especially hard by the opioid abuse crisis?

"Part of the solution is for people to become more aware of this and for people who are prescribing medications to do a much better job of - particularly when prescribing for women - talking about the risks and the relative risk of addiction", he said.

"People with untreated or undertreated depression or anxiety are at higher risk for substance abuse, with middle-aged women in this demographic at higher risk for opiate as well as benzodiazepine abuse", Glatter said.

Both Glatter and Kirane say this starts with increased access to addiction care. "Women who are victims of domestic violence are also at higher risk of substance abuse".

There are some possible ways to reduce the rising number of drug overdose deaths in the opioid epidemic plaguing the United States, but they can be challenging, Benjamin said.

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on opioid addiction. "We must expand the entire infrastructure for addiction care in our country, and address the comprehensive needs for women struggling with opioid-related issues".

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