Drug Abuse and the Gender Gap

Usage rates for prescription drugs continue to rise with nearly 3 in 5 Americans taking prescription drugs including antidepressants and opioids.

In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that prescription drug usage among people 20 and older had risen to 59 percent from 51 percent just a dozen years earlier and it was rising at a faster rate than ever before. During the same period, the percentage of people taking five or more prescription drugs nearly doubled, to 15 percent from 8 percent.

Effects of Gender on Addiction

It is no surprise then that the non-medical use of prescription drugs including painkillers, tranquilizers, and sedatives continue to be a growing problem in the United States. Statistics show men abuse prescription drugs at a higher rate than women, however, the gap between the genders is narrowing. Females age 12 to 17 are less likely to take abuse prescription drug and abuse and distribution is much higher in males of the same age range, according to a recent government study on Gender Medicine. The same report shows that young adult females show a higher percentage rate of addiction to cocaine and prescription drugs even though males in that age group abuse those drugs more frequently and take them in larger amounts.

Disturbingly, more recent statistics show that overdose deaths among young women are increasing, especially those who become addicted to opioids. The CDC Vital Signs reported that deaths from opioid overdose among women have increased 400 percent since 1999. By comparison, young men of the same age group suffered fatal opioid overdoses by approximately 265 percent in that same time frame. The CDC has estimated that as many as 18 women in the United States die every day from an opioid drug overdose, most of which were obtained by prescription.

To continue the disturbing downtrend of drug abuse according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, women are less likely to receive adequate treatment for substance abuse than men. Studies show that women are less likely than men to be placed in a specialized but are often treated by primary care providers or through mental health programs instead. Women also face more obstacles that are an impediment to their treatment, such as lower incomes, the possibility of pregnancy, and the need for childcare. In addition, women show more of a tendency to hide their substance abuse for a variety of reason including fear of social stigma, loss of child custody, or repercussions from a partner or spouse.

In the past, studies in drug addiction was from a male perspective for both males and females and drug abuse prevention programs and rehab facilities were designed with an emphasis on the needs of males. In comparison, outreach campaigns, preventive education, and drug rehab today is tailored to address the needs of both men and women as the scientific and medical community become more informed about how and why these addiction patterns occur in both men and women.

With gender roles playing a role in addiction, Gender-specific treatment programs provide a respite from the social stressors of everyday life. Patients can focus on their recovery without the distraction of the opposite sex. Studies show that both men and women feel more comfortable communicating about issues like sexuality, social prejudice, and domestic abuse with members of their own gender.

Both men and women suffering from opiod addiction, both can benefit from comprehensive rehabilitation programs that focus on the full range of care required to be free from addiction. These programs take a patient from detox to residential treatment, partial hospitalization, outpatient services, and transitional living. Effective treatment therapies include:

Fitness training
Experimental and holistic modalities
Follow up programs
Family or marriage counseling
Nutritional counceling

Having the support of a highly trained, multidisciplinary staff can help individuals of both genders recover from the disease of addiction and regain hope for the future.

Prescription Drug Abuse and Ways to Tackle It

In an anti-drug event in Charleston, West Virginia, in October this year, President Obama spoke about the dangers of drug overdose and prescription drug abuse. The president said, “It could happen to any of us… 120 Americans die every day from drug overdoses, most involving legal prescription drugs – that’s more than from car crashes.”

President Obama also expressed his concerns about prescription drugs becoming a “gateway to heroin.” Fighting this menace will require a lot of effort from all political parties, organizations and individuals from every family. The sale of painkillers in the U.S. has skyrocketed in recent years, which is a clear indication of their abuse by people.

According to a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United States is in the throes of an unprecedented drug overdose epidemic. The report states: “By 2009, drug overdose deaths outnumbered deaths due to motor vehicle crashes for the first time in the U.S. Opioid analgesics, have been increasingly involved in drug overdose deaths. Opioid analgesics were involved in 30 percent of drug overdose deaths where a drug was specified in 1999, compared to nearly 60 percent in 2010.”

This is alarming, and adequate steps should be taken to curb this rising epidemic. One important step in this direction could be setting up of a helpline in every neighborhood to help out people and also spread the awareness.

Preventing prescription drug abuse

It is pragmatic to prevent it in the first place rather than focus on its cure after its onset. It is a cost-effective option that paves the way for longer life span, improved quality of life and academic performance and healthy interpersonal relationships.

In the CDC study, scientists also came up with several remedies to prevent this. According to them, “The most effective drug abuse prevention programs are those that help individuals to develop the intentions and skills to act in a healthy manner, and those that create an environment that supports healthy behaviors.”

“A brief universal prevention interventions conducted during middle school can lead to reductions in prescription drug misuse during adolescence and young adulthood,” the study says. These findings can be instrumental in supporting educational institutions to stop drug abuse among students and help them grow into healthy individuals.

Educating the patient and public

Creating awareness about it among people is one of the most important steps to prevent and reduce it. A public education campaign – Use Only as Directed – held in Utah resulted in a significant reduction in drug overdose deaths in the state.

Although people are watchful about purchasing illicit drugs from dealers, they often believe that prescription drugs are less harmful and non-addictive. This false notion has contributed to a substantial rise in the number of prescription drug abuse cases in the recent past.

Educating healthcare providers