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The Effects of Opioid Abuse on Women

effects of painkiller abuse on women

March 8 is International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate women’s achievements and raise awareness about gender issues, including issues common among women living with addiction and possible co-occurring mental health disorders. Among these issues is the effects of painkiller abuse on women.

While the diseases of alcoholism and substance use disorder do not discriminate, a specific set of circumstances appears to place women at greater risk for developing a painkiller addiction than men. The reasons for this greater risk are varied, and worth exploring. After all, knowing the risk factors involved in developing an addiction to painkillers can lead to seeking and finding help for a painkiller addiction.

Types of Painkillers

As their name implies, painkillers are medications designed to alleviate pain, providing relief to people experiencing discomfort for various reasons: injury, surgery, or symptoms of chronic medical conditions. Painkillers work by blocking or interfering with pain signals being sent to the brain.

Painkillers are classified in different ways, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), acetaminophen, and opioids.

NSAIDs like ibuprofen and aspirin target inflammation and can be effective in alleviating mild or moderate pain. Acetaminophens like Tylenol and Sudafed act on the central nervous system to reduce pain and fever. 

Opioids—including oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, heroin, codeine, and fentanyl—are powerful painkillers that can be prescribed to alleviate severe pain. However, opioids come with a significant risk of dependency and addiction. They also have consequential, sometimes dangerous side effects, making opioid addiction treatment necessary.

Are Women More Likely to Abuse Opioids?

According to a 2019 report by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), “Women and Pain Medicines,” women report more pain than men. Also, cases of chronic pain like regular migraines and ongoing back pain appear to be more common for women.

According to data collected by the NIH, men are more likely than women to use illicit opioids like heroin, while women are more likely than men to use other opioids, such as prescription painkillers.

The same data also suggests that women tend to progress from opioid use to opioid dependence more quickly than men. Women also tend to suffer more severe emotional and physical consequences of their drug use as compared to men. However, women were more likely to not seek treatment or underutilize treatment for their opioid dependency than men.

Women and Painkillers: Some Statistics

In recent years, as the ongoing opioid epidemic has taken countless lives across the U.S. Many studies have suggested that the inherent differences between men and women influence the use of painkillers, particularly opioids. Among the findings particular to women and painkillers:

Symptoms of Opioid Addiction

Certain symptoms accompany an opioid addiction, also known as opioid use disorder (OUD). These include:

  • An inability to stop misusing painkillers on your own
  • A tendency to deny or ignore the physical and mental damage of addiction
  • Creation of a daily routine that puts painkiller use in the forefront
  • Withdrawal symptoms that push you toward further painkiller misuse
  • Loss of interest in activities that don’t include taking painkillers

The reduction of symptoms is one of the main objectives of treating an addiction to painkillers. Once these and other symptoms are reduced, the patient’s more long-term recovery goals are addressed.

Reach Out Today to Learn More About Painkiller Addiction and Treatment

Want to know more about prescription drug addiction, like whether you’ve developed an addiction? The professionals at Northpoint Recovery can help you deepen your understanding of the significance of the problem. We can also help you take the next steps if it turns out you need treatment. Just call us today at 208.225.8667. You can also reach us online by completing our brief message form.