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Prescription Painkiller Overdose Deaths Up Sharply

1:03 PM, Jul 2, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA9) - According to statistics from the CDC, it's estimated 18 women will likely die each day from prescription painkiller drug overdose. That is more than the number of women who will die in motor vehicle accidents.

While many believe that men are more likely to die of painkiller overdose, the facts show since 1999,  women had a 400% increase of death by prescription painkiller overdose compared to men at 265%. Over the last decade, between 1999 and 2010, nearly 48,000 women died as a result of prescription painkiller overdose.

The chilling statistics suggests that doctors may need to be more cautious when prescribing these types of drugs to patients. This is especially true in women because women become dependent on the drugs more quickly than men. They are also more likely to go "doctor shopping" to accumulate different types of prescriptions.

Doctor Tom Frieden Director of the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention tells CBS News, "They shouldn't be used lightly, where they are essential, necessary, something like severe cancer pain, they are important tools. But all too often, the risks are way higher than the benefits."

The CDC has alerted health care providers to take several steps before prescribing addictive drugs. Doctors are told to follow guidelines for opioid prescribing such as monitoring for substance abuse and mental health problems. They must use their state's prescription drug monitoring program which can help to identify patients abusing the use of opoids. Doctors should also discuss alternative treatment options that do not include painkilling drugs. The risks and benefits of taking prescription painkillers should definitely be covered in doctor visits, especially to pregnant women. Lastly, doctors should avoid prescribing combinations of painkillers.

Women also need to take steps toward their own safety.

Dr. Tod Bania, emergency room toxicologist at Roosevelt Hospital tells CBS News that one should "Use it only as indicated on the bottle and when you finish taking the prescription pain medications, get rid of the prescription pain medications. Do not save them for another time."

Women should also inform their doctors about other drugs they are taking or plans on becoming pregnant. Most importantly women should not sell, share, or use other people's prescription drugs.